Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Bars1I kind of have mixed feelings toward the whole DYI craze. Cognitively I know it’s often a really good idea for the environment, for your bank account, for your health and for your sense of accomplishment to do things like make your own yogurt and can your own tomatoes and bake your own bread, but realistically it can be a little hard to put into motion. I mean, sometimes my greatest sense of accomplishment about the day comes from taking the time to rinse and recycle a peanut butter jar rather than simply throwing it away. I try. I promise I do!

Sadly, corporations are onto me and my fellow lazy busy well-intentioned members of society. Containers of pre-peeled/pre-cut veggies, packets of pre-made spice mixtures, and bags of pre-shredded cheese stare at us from grocery store aisles saying, “Buy me, buy me! Your life will be so EASY if you just BUY me!”  Basically, the fewer steps you have to do, the more expensive a product is. And the more waste and manpower go into creating it. And the more marketed it is. And the more tempting it is to toss it into your cart with a mixture of guilt and gleeful relief. Hashtag-first-world-problems.

Sometimes I manage to refrain from buying all the enticing lazy-person products out there, but sometimes I just can’t help myself. It should come as no surprise that baking aisles are already a little bit dangerous for me, especially the chocolate chip area. Who knew there were so many kinds of special delicious add-ins these days?! Things like mint-filled chocolate morsels and neapolitan marshmallows were definitely not around ten years ago. Right?Bars2

I’ve only recently become aware about the existence of wonderful little things called caramel bits, which are essentially round bits of caramel. Shocker! Whenever I do bake with caramel, I usually just use the little plastic-wrapped caramel squares, especially if I’ll be melting them down. The only problem is that it takes for-freaking-EVER to unwrap all those tiny cubes. That’s why it’s so amazing that someone came up with the fantastic idea of making caramel bits that require NO UNWRAPPING AT ALL! It’s a dream come true for nerds like me.

Naturally, I knew it wouldn’t be long before I’d have to incorporate caramel bits into a baking project. Sadly, baking projects don’t happen all that often these days due to my busy college life, but once in a while I find time to clear a space in my cluttered little kitchen and create something wonderful. Last time’s something-wonderful was Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars. Chocolate chip cookie bars are about as easy as it gets…just your standard chocolate chip cookie recipe pressed into a 9×13 pan and baked until golden-brown. Simple, standard, but always delicious!

I won’t even pretend that it’s possible for me to KEEP a recipe simple and standard, so I turned the melted butter from the recipe into browned butter (please don’t laugh, those of you aware of my obsession) and added in caramel bits along with miniature chocolate chips. It was an excellent idea, if I do say so myself. The nutty browned butter paired with chocolate and caramel was a fantastic flavor trio, especially in the form of extra-chewy cookie bars. And I didn’t even have to feel guilty for using my newfound caramel bits since I was saving a step AND saving on waste (because no plastic wrappers)! Totally economical. Totally budget-friendly. Totally healthy. Or at least we can pretend. One thing that these bars definitely WILL bring you is a sense of accomplishment. Because delicious things are always good accomplishments. Remember that!Bars5

Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Makes 24 bars

12 tablespoons (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter

1 cup brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup mini chocolate chips (increase to 1.5 cups if using standard-size)

1/2 cup caramel bits (optional)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line a 9×13″ glass pan with tin foil and spray lightly with cooking spray. Set aside.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, whisking constantly. Keep whisking as the butter foams and bubbles. When the butter becomes golden-brown and fragrant, immediately turn off the heat and pour the browned butter into a mixing bowl. Let cool for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl.

Whisk the sugars into the melted butter until smooth. Whisk in the egg and egg yolk, followed by the vanilla. Stir in the flour mixture just until incorporated. Stir in the chocolate chips and caramel bits.

Spread the mixture into the prepared pan and pat down evenly. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden-brown. Let the bars cool before cutting.

(Recipe adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod)

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“Extra-Special” Chocolate Chip Cookies

cookies1“What’s your favorite cookie?” is a question that will always get a mixed response. It seems as though there are a lot of die-hard peanut butter cookie lovers, a fair share of oatmeal-raisin fanatics, and a handful of sugar cookie devotees. Then there are those with the more unusual responses such as snickerdoodles, molasses crinkles, white chocolate-macadamia, and shortbread. And of course there is the chocolate chip cookie crowd, which may be the largest of them all.

Personally, chocolate chip cookies are several spaces down on my list of favorites, but I have lots of friends and family members who love nothing more than a “really good chocolate chip cookie.” That may mean thin and crunchy, thick and chewy, soft and cakey, or crisp-around-the-edges-chewy-in-the-middle depending on the person. Believe me, some people are pretttty darn specific when it comes to their cookies.cookies2

After my last class on Friday, as I stared out the window at sheets of rain, I deemed it the perfect afternoon to bake cookies. Knowing that many of my friends love good ole’ chocolate chip cookies, I set out to make just those. But then…stuff happened. It’s becoming clear to me that I am basically incapable of baking “good ole’ chocolate chip cookies” with no bells and whistles. I certainly have nothing against regular (delicious!) chocolate chip cookies, but because this is a baking blog and because I like to experiment, I had to add in my own little touches. And so commenced these “Extra-Special” Chocolate Chip Cookies.”

First of all, I found a recipe that used browned butter as the base. My obsession with browned butter is becoming somewhat comical–I honestly can’t remember the last time I made a recipe with regular butter. It’s just so easy to make browned butter, and the flavor is so phenomenal! Since browned butter+cinnamon=amazing, I spiced things up even further with a pinch of cinnamon. (<–Pun alert! Spice…cinnamon…ha.ha.ha?) And finally, instead of using normal chocolate chips like semisweet or milk chocolate, I pulled out the big guns, aka Milk Chocolate Morsels with Caramel Filling. Browned butter and cinnamon is fantastic enough, but adding caramel to the mix? Gah.cookies5

I was also quite impressed with the recipe I used for the base of these cookies. The extra egg yolk, extra vanilla, high brown sugar:white sugar ratio, and precise amount of flour made for super-thick, super-chewy cookies. I chose to make them a bit larger than your average cookie (think in between bakery-sized and mom-made sized) which was a good life decision. They ended up with that great crisp-around-the-edges-chewy-in-the-middle texture that seems to please almost everyone. The trick is to take the cookies out of the oven when they’re just barely done, so they can finish cooking on the baking sheets. That way the centers stay nice and soft!cookies3

If you’re like me and enjoy adding a little something extra to old-fashioned favorites, try out these Extra Special Chocolate Chip Cookies. They’re kicked up a notch in flavor and were loved by everyone who tried them! Maybe someday I’ll be brave enough to bake a good old fashioned batch of chocolate chip cookies, but today is not that day. And honestly…who’s complaining?cookies4

“Extra-Special” Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes about 2 dozen cookies

1.5 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter

1 cup brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg + 1 egg yolk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

10 ounces chocolate chips (I used caramel-stuffed milk chocolate chips)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicon mats.

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook, whisking constantly, until the butter is amber-brown and fragrant (about 5 minutes). Be careful not to cook for too long, or the butter will burn!

Pour the browned butter into a large mixing bowl and let cool slightly. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.

After the butter has cooled for a few minutes, beat in the sugars until smooth. Add in the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla, beating until well-combined. Gently stir the flour mixture into the wet ingredients, mixing just until combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Scoop the dough into 2-tablespoon sized balls. Place on the prepared cookie sheets 2 inches apart. Bake for 14-16 minutes or until edges are slightly golden and centers are set. (If making smaller cookies, decrease baking time.) Let the cookies cool for 5 minutes on the cookie sheets before transferring to a wire rack.

(Recipe adapted from Take a Megabite)

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Billionaire Bars

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Today I have a very special post for you. (And no, I’m not talking about fact that these bars contain shortbread, caramel, cookie dough, and chocolate, although that is pretty special.) I’m pleased to report that this is….drumroll please….the 100th post of Emma’s Baking Addiction! Funny enough, it falls almost exactly on my blog’s one-year birthday. Two landmark events for a baking blog equals two excuses to bake two fabulous, over-the-top celebratory treats. First up are these Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Billionaire Bars, a worthy candidate for my 100th blog post.

When I first started thinking about what to make for the big 1-0-0, Millionaire Bars came to mind. You know, the shortbread-caramel-chocolate layered bars that are very similar to a homemade Twix? That are apparently so good that they make you feel like a million bucks? Or are worth a million dollars? Make you gain a million ounces? Don’t ask me how they were named. I guess it was something about the fact that “one hundred” and “one million” are both numbers that made me think of baking Millionaire Bars to celebrate the 100th post. An obvious connection, right? Right? Maybe-possibly-not-so-much? It made better sense in my head.

Anyway, upon looking for a great Millionaire Bar recipe to make as my 100th post (which, as we’ve established, makes total sense) I found the recipe for these babies. Not just Millionaire Bars, these are Billionaire Bars. Which means they’ve gotta be good. Not only do they have the buttery shortbread, gooey caramel, and decadent chocolate of their lesser-valued cousin, these bars have the brilliant addition of a chocolate chip cookie dough layer. An eggless chocolate chip cookie dough layer, that is, which means it can be eaten raw with absolutely zero worries or frets. Be still, my cookie-dough-loving heart!

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Let’s take a look at what we have here: a bottom layer of crumbly, melt-in-your mouth shortbread; a second layer of sweet, sticky caramel (not from scratch, for those of you who are terrified of caramel-making, like me this one person I know); a third layer of raw chocolate chip cookie dough that will make the bowl-licking-dough-sneaking little kid in all of us cry tears of joy; and a final layer of rich semisweet chocolate. Yes, there’s a lot of patience involved as each layer bakes or chills, and yes, there’s the possibility of a major sugar rush afterward, but it’s all totally worth it when you sink your teeth into one of these. They’re better than a billion dollars!! (Just don’t hold me to that if I’m ever actually given the choice, kay?)

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I hate to say it, but Millionaire Bars have lost a little bit of their luster to me now that I’ve made these Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Billionaire Bars. It’s not that I wouldn’t satisfied with the original bar, it’s just…a layer of eat-able chocolate chip cookie dough sandwiched between chocolate and caramel? With a shortbread crust, for goodness sake?! Billionaire status indeed.

Happy 100th post, little blog!

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Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Billionaire Bars

Yield: 16 bars

For the shortbread crust:

1/3 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

For the caramel:

7 ounces soft caramels (about 25 candies)

2 tablespoons heavy cream

For the cookie dough:

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons heavy cream

1 cup all-purpose flour

Pinch of salt

1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

For the chocolate layer:

4 ounces good-quality semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8″x8″ glass baking pan and set aside.

Make the shortbread: Using an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Beat in the vanilla, then slowly mix in the flour and salt until combined. Mixture will be crumbly. Firmly press the dough into the prepared pan. Poke shallow holes all over the pan using a fork or a toothpick. Bake the shortbread for 18-22 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Remove from the oven and set on a wire rack.

Make the caramel: Place the unwrapped caramels and heavy cream into a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the caramels are completely melted. Pour the hot caramel over the warm shortbread crust, spreading it evenly. Refrigerate for 30-60 minutes or until the caramel is set.

Make the cookie dough: Using an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Beat in the vanilla and heavy cream, scraping down the bowl as needed. Stir in the flour and salt until just combined, then stir in the chocolate chips. Spoon the cookie dough onto the chilled bars and spread evenly. Refrigerate the bars while making the chocolate layer.

Make the chocolate layer: Place the semisweet chocolate and butter into a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 30-second increments on 50% power, stirring in between, until chocolate is smooth and melted. Pour the chocolate over the bars, spreading evenly.

Refrigerate the bars for an additional 30 minutes or until chocolate is set. Using a sharp knife, cut into bars. The bars can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for several days.

(Recipe adapted from Brown Eyed Baker, originally from The Cookie Dough Lover’s Cookbook)

Caramel Pretzel Turtles

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I’ve always wondered why in the world of baking, “turtles” referred to a combination of caramel and pecans. I’ve heard of turtle ice cream, turtle sundaes, and turtle brownies and could never understand what caramel and pecans could possibly have to do with turtles. Until I made these Caramel Pretzel Turtles and had a revelation. When pecans are whole, they look a lot like a little turtle shell. Mystery solved! I could be wrong about this, but let’s just say I’m right because it makes such perfect sense. I love it when things actually make sense, unlike the facts that:

A fat chance and a slim chance are the same thing

Feet smell and noses run

We play at recitals and recite at plays

Quite a few and quite a lot mean the same thing

We fill out forms by filling them in

We drive in parkways and park in driveways

The word lisp has an “s” in it

It’s nice to know that these Caramel Pretzel Turtles actually have a legitimately logical name. And I can guarantee that when you pop one of these salty, caramel-y, chocolatey, nutty little turtles into your mouth, everything will feel right in the world. These are dangerously delicious turtles, my friend.

Caramel Pretzel Turtles

Yield: 24 candies

2 dozen pretzels (I like to use the square kind)

2 dozen Rolos

2 dozen shelled pecans or M&Ms

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or baking mats. Place pretzels onto cookie sheets and top with Rolos. Bake for 3-4 minutes, or until chocolate is shiny but still maintaining its shape.

Immediately press a pecan or M&M onto each pretzel. Allow them to cool for at least 30 minutes, or until chocolate is set.