Does a brilliant idea beget inspiration, or is it the other way around? Ponder that one while whipping up these Special Caramel Cookies. The secret ingredient will blow everyone away at your holiday cookie swap, and you’ll undoubtedly be referred to as a brilliant inspiration. Get the foolproof recipe, here.
Confession: I’m absolutely TERRIBLE with recipes. Embarrassingly so. This is not to say I’m a bad cook - quite the contrary! - but I go on auto-pilot in the kitchen and deep into a meditative state in which the measurement of seasonings simply has no place. Hence, the appearance of a recipe here on EFEL is pretty rare.
Baking is another story. More science than art, there’s something to be said for tinkering around with the variables of a basic chocolate chip cookie recipe: what if I alter the sugar content? How does 25 degrees impact brownness? Is it nine and a half minutes, or does a full ten result in the perfectly tender, slightly chewy morsel? What about cooling?
Somewhere around Thanksgiving I happened upon a recipe for potato chip chocolate chip cookies, which in turn led to various incarnations of layered brownies, and finally, the Special Caramel Cookies you came here for. But there was another stroke of inspiration along the way: beefitswhatsfordinner.com.
I know what you’re thinking: this woman has gone too far with her love of beef. But hear me out. THIS is an actual recipe created by the folks from BIWFD. I heard about them on Twitter and was instantly filled with delight. Beef in a cookie?! Does life get better than this!?
Yes. Yes, it does. While the original recipe sounded just lovely, and I’m sure I’ll get around to it sooner or later, it really got me thinking: why had it not already dawned on me to add beef jerky to a chocolate chip cookie? Feel free to mentally insert a “mind blown” emoji right here.
Here’s the thing about beef jerky: in addition to being an excellent source of portable, satisfying protein, it’s also an excellent stand-in for bacon. Bacon is the perfect foil to sweetness, hence the trend a few years back of candied bacon, bacon ice cream, and if memory serves correctly, bacon lollipops. Bacon has most definitely been in a cookie (I sometimes use strained bacon grease as a sub for half the butter in a chocolate chip cookie recipe), so why not beef jerky?
Just as I pondered what would work best in a potato chip chocolate chip cookie (rainbow sprinkles and Heath brickle bits are the way to go), I gave the same consideration to what might suit beef jerky best. The answer is obvious - caramel, of course! Semi-sweet mini morsels and chopped walnuts round out the full, satisfying flavor of these must-bake Special Caramel Cookies.
A couple of notes on preparation:
-Spray your kitchen shears with cooking spray before chopping up the caramels. This will coat them a bit and help them blend more easily and uniformly into the cookie dough.
-Utilize a silpat or spray your cookie sheet with cookie spray. Since the caramels are worked into the dough, some cookies will be a bit “lacy” around the edges and they’re definitely going to be a bit sticky. The end result makes them well worth the trouble.
-Keep the dough cold in between batches. If you’re working with a few cookie sheets, I’d go so far as to scoop out the dough and place the prepared pan in the freezer for a few minutes before it goes into the oven.
-These work incredibly well as the base for a vanilla ice cream sandwich. Just sayin’…
Enjoy your food. Enjoy your life!!!
SPECIAL CARAMEL COOKIES
Author: NICOLE RODRIGUEZ, RDN, NASM-CPT
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 sticks butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 1/4 ounces Jack Links Original Beef Jerky, finely chopped (single-serve pack)
16 caramel candies, roughly chopped
1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate mini morsels
1/3 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
Preheat oven to 375. Combine dry ingredients in small bowl with fork. In large bowl or stand-up mixer, beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and vanilla until well combined. Add dry ingredients gradually and beat to combine until smooth. Add mix-ins to bowl and beat gently to combine.
Using spoons or scooper, drop dough by rounded tablespoons onto prepared sheet (see tips above) spaced evenly apart. Bake 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool slightly before removing and placing on wire rack to cool completely.
Makes about four dozen cookies.