Chocolate Caramel Corn Cookies / by Chelsea Zwieg

My cookie experiments began at a young age. Once I grasped the concept that pretty much anything can be mixed into a basic dough and turned into a cookie, my mind got racing. But stop right there, because I can tell you right now that whatever you are imagining little Chelsea whipping up is so so much better than the horror that actually ensued. My first memory of inventing my own recipe came out of the oven in the form of Spike cookies. Spike is an all purpose seasoning that I seem to remember tasting something like Lawry's salt. And a quick google search just revealed that it is a blend of 39 (!) herbs and spices, none of which, I can say with confidence, should be found in a cookie. Think along the garlic salt, celery seed, onion powder route. Do you trust me to make cookies for you yet?

Needless to say, Spike cookies were not the instant hit I hoped they would be. Although my grandma claimed that she loved them. I wouldn't put too much trust in that though. Unless you're also ready to believe that I could win any board game when I was 4 and that my natural, unbrushed, unstraightened hair really is so pretty. I think we all need more grandma level votes of confidence in our lives, don't we? 

Thankfully the years have been kind to my creative side and I am able to present you with chocolate caramel corn cookies rather than Spike cookies. 

Chocolate and caramel is one of the best combinations out there, in my opinion. Add caramel CORN to the mix and you get a chewy chocolate cookie with little pockets of crunchy, buttery caramel around bits of popcorn. Plus there's chocolate chips so your little crunchy caramel pockets are accompanied by melty, gooey chocolate pockets and you might just be tempted to shove all of these cookies into your own pockets. Or hey, maybe you're craving some Spike cookies. Either way, I'm here to help. 

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Chocolate Caramel Corn Cookies

Cookie base adapted from Food Network 

Makes 24 cookies

| Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt 
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 sticks butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cups caramel corn (see recipe below) 

| Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 375. Grease or line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside. 
  • In a bowl, combine flour, salt, baking powder and cocoa powder. 
  • In a mixer, beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition and scraping the sides of the bowl as you go. Beat in vanilla.
  • Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture, mixing until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips and caramel corn.
  • Shape dough into two-tablespoon size balls. Flatten dough with the back of a spoon or the palm of your hand. Transfer dough to prepared baking sheets and bake 9-10 minutes. Cool cookies on a wire rack. 

Caramel Corn

Adapted from Food52 

Note: Admittedly, This makes a lot more caramel corn than is needed for the cookies. Now, I don't see this as a bad thing because you have to have something to snack on while you're waiting for the cookies to bake and it seems like a wasted effort to make caramel corn for only 1 1/2 cups worth. That being said, if you do want to make less or you are saving your popcorn kernels for a movie marathon or the Parks and Rec series finale ( I will be too busy eating my tears), the recipe can easily be scaled back. 

| Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup popcorn kernels (about 5 cups, popped)
  • 6 tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder

| Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 250. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a non-stick mat. 
  • Pop popcorn by your preferred method (I use an air popper). Set aside in a large bowl to cool.
  • In a saucepan, melt butter and brown sugar over medium heat, stirring continuously. After sugar has dissolved, increase heat to high and boil for 3-4 minutes, stirring to prevent it from bubbling up or sticking to the pan and burning. Stir in salt and baking powder. 
  • Quickly, remove pan from heat and pour caramel over popcorn. Stir until popcorn is coated. Transfer to prepared baking sheet and bake 30 minutes, stirring halfway through. Remove from oven and allow popcorn to cool and harden at room temperature.