Caramel Corn Chocolate Chip Cookies
Caramel corn is one of my favorite snacks. Sweet and caramely with a bit of saltiness and plenty of crunch.
It’s really good on it’s own, but it’s even better baked into chocolate chip cookies.
I was looking around my pantry and noticed a bag of caramel corn that I had forgotten about. I opened it, shoved three handfuls in my mouth as fast as I could, and was about to demolish the whole bag when I thought there had to be something better to do with it than just shoveling it in fast and mindlessly. So I decided to bake it into cookies.
There are so many things people bake into cookies and if you spend time on Pinterest, you’ll see pretzels, cereal, candy bars, and even bacon finds its way into cookies. So why not caramel corn. I’ve already done Cornflake Chocolate Chip Marshmallow Cookies and I’ve baked potato chips into Compost Cookies, and now caramel corn has its turn.
To make them I adapted two of my favorite dough bases, the Chocolate Chip and Chunk Cookies and the Sugar-Doodle Vanilla Cookies. I knew that making the Chocolate Chunk recipe would produce a boatload of cookies because the caramel corn bulks up the dough dramatically, but I didn’t need a boatload. However, I do love the cornstarch in those cookies because it softens and tenderizes the dough for a Soft-Batch style cookie.
The Sugar-Doodles have an incredible vanilla-based flavor, against a sweet, creamy, soft and tender dough base. The issue with that dough base is it’s so soft and tender, great for more delicate cookies like Cranberry and White Chocolate Chip Cookies. But for gobs of chunky caramel corn and chocolate chips galore, I created a slightly sturdier dough that’s fit to hold a ridiculous amount of add-ins.
Sometimes I enjoy simplistic and plain cookies like the Sugar-Doodles or Brown Sugar Maple Cookies, where the dough itself is the cookie, and the buttery, soft, sweet, flavorful dough is the focus. Other times, I like enough add-ins and over-stuffage that not one more morsel will fit. This was one of those times.
The dough comes together quickly and easily. Begin by creaming together butter, an egg, sugars, vanilla, and beat until light and fluffy. It’s important to really aerate this dough and get is as fluffed as you can because there’s not much of it in relation to the add-ins that will be incorporated later. What dough there is must be nice and fluffy.
Add the flour, cornstarch, optional salt, and beat momentarily to incorporate. Cornstarch is both a softening agent and a thickener. Think of gravy or pudding, which are both thick yet soft and use cornstarch. Just a tiny amount does wonders for cookies and helped to create my favorite Chocolate Chunk Cookies and helped here, too. There’s not much flour in comparison to most cookie recipes, and the dough will be a little on the soft and sticky side, but firms up after the add-ins are added.
I didn’t salt the batter because the caramel corn is already slightly salty, and I didn’t want to over-do it. You can always finish these with a sprinkling of coarse salt after baking to really accentuate the salty-and-sweet effect.
Add the caramel corn, chocolate chips, and beat for just a couple seconds to incorporat, but don’t overmix and break those pretty kernels. Using a medium cookie scoop (or use your hands and roll the dough into tightly packed balls), form mounds weighing 1.40 to 1.50 ounces each, about two heaping tablespoons each; I made 20 cookies. The mounds will look large because the caramel corn bulks the dough without adding much mass so they look bigger raw than they bake into.
It’ll seem that there are more add-ins than dough, and that there’s no way all this caramel corn and chocolate chips will stay bound together with this paltry amount of dough, but they do. Using your hands as necessary, press all the caramel corn and chocolate chips in, and firmly squeeze the mounds of dough, or roll them between your hands as necessary to get everything to stick together. Slightly flatten the mounds so they don’t stay too domed and puffed while baking, just don’t over-flatten.
The dough must be chilled before baking, so place mounds on a large plate, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 5 days, before baking. Unbaked cookie dough can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, so consider baking only as many cookies as desired and save the remaining dough to be baked in the future as desired.
Preheat oven to 350F, line two baking sheets with Silpat Non-Stick Baking Mats, place dough on trays spaced 2 inches apart, and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until edges are set and tops are barely set. Even if they’re pale, glossy, and slightly under-baked in the center, this is okay and they’ll firm up as they cool. Watch them closely after 7 minutes, and I recommend the lower end of the baking range, and not exceeding 10 minutes.
Baking too long results in cookies that become too crisp and hard, with caramel corn and undersides that will become too browned. The cookies shown in the photos were baked for 8 to 9 minutes depending on the batch (I preferred the 8 minute cookies), with trays rotated halfway through baking. They were quite glossy and translucent at 8 to 9 minutes, but I pulled them out anyway and as they cooled, the warm dough shrank down and clung tightly to chunks of caramel corn.
I brought the cookies to my daughter’s birthday party and men, women, toddlers, teenagers, and strangers from a neighboring party in the park came over to our table requesting cookies. Word got out in the park about them and they were a hot item, even seeming to trump the birthday cakes from either party. Although I made a strawberry cake with strawberry frosting and sprinkles per my princess’ request that wasn’t too shabby.
People would take a bite of a cookie, lock eyes with someone else who was eating one, and were proclaiming things like ohmygodthesearesogood. I love bringing food to parties and watching people’s honest reactions when they don’t know who made what and I observe those reactions like a fly on the wall.
They’re sweet with a little bit of saltiness from the caramel corn, although not a true sweet-and-salty treat. But you can make them that way with a finishing sprinkle of coarse sea salt. As it bakes, the caramel corn turns from crunchy and crisp into soft and chewy. The caramel sauce that coats the corn melts off a bit, creating puddles of caramel amidst chocolate.
The edges are chewy and the center is either chewy if you bite into a piece of caramel corn or squishy and gooey if it’s chocolate. Some bites are all of the above.
The idea of stuffing as much chocolate as possible into cookie dough is something I did with the New York Times Chocolate Chips Cookies and repeated it here. Chocolate oozes everywhere and is a rich, dark, flood that blankets the pieces of caramel corn and contrasts beautifully against the buttery, vanilla-twinged dough.
My new favorite way to eat caramel corn.
Caramel Corn Chocolate Chip Cookies
Caramel Corn is a favorite snack that I can devour by the handful. It’s even better when it’s baked into chocolate chip cookies. The cookie dough is sweetly perfumed with vanilla and brown sugar, and the addition of cornstarch helps the cookies stay soft and chewy, and they stay soft for days.The cookies are loaded to the max with caramel corn and chocolate chips, providing plenty of chewy texture. The cookies have a slight sweet-and-salty vibe from the caramel corn and biting into a softened and chewy piece of caramel corn that’s engulfed in chocolate is my kind of cookie.
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg, room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- pinch salt, optional and to taste (some caramel corn is already well-salted, something to consider before salting the dough)
- 3 cups caramel corn
- 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
- To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter, sugars, egg, vanilla, and beat on medium-high to high speed to cream them. Beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the flour, cornstarch, optional salt, and beat to just incorporate; don’t overmix. Add the caramel corn, chocolate chips, and beat momentarily to incorporate or fold in by hand, making sure not to overmix and break the caramel corn.
- Using a medium cooking scoop (or use your hands and roll the dough into tightly packed balls), form mounds weighing 1.40 to 1.50 ounces each, about two heaping tablespoons (I made 20 mounds). Mounds will look large because the caramel corn bulks the dough without adding much mass. It will appear that there are more add-ins than dough and that it will all hardly hold; this is normal and okay. Use your hands to press the add-ins into the dough, firmly squeezing the mounds together in your hands and rolling them between your palms as necessary to get everything to stick together.
- Slightly flatten the mounds so they don’t stay too domed and puffed while baking, just don’t over-flatten. Place them on a large plate, cover with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator to chill for at least 2 hours, or up to 5 days, before baking.
- Preheat oven to 350F, line 2 baking sheets with Silpat Non-Stick Baking Mats, and place dough on mounds, spaced 2 inches apart (8 per tray). Bake for 8 to10 minutes, until edges are set and tops are barely set, even if pale, glossy, and slightly underbaked in the center. Watch them closely after 7 minutes and I recommend not baking longer than 10 minutes, and erring on the lower end of the baking range. Cookies firm up as they cool, and baking too long will results in cookies that become too crisp and hard, or have overly browned caramel corn pieces or undersides (The cookies shown in the photos were baked for 8 to 9 minutes depending on the batch, with trays rotated at the 4-minute mark, and have chewy edges, soft centers, and gooey chocolate).
- Allow cookies to cool on baking sheets for 5 to 10 minutes before removing and transferring to a rack to finish cooling. Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Alternatively, unbaked cookie dough can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, so consider baking only as many cookies as desired and save the remaining dough to be baked in the future when desired.
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Compost Cookies – Potato chips, butterscotch and chocolate chips, and so much more is added to these cookies with a salty ‘n sweet, crunchy and chewy profile
Chocolate Chip and Chunk Cookies – My favorite recipe for pure, unadulterated, perfect chocolate chip cookies. They’re soft, chewy, tender, moist, stay soft for days, are a snap to make, and have two kinds of chocolate in every bite. I wrote extensively about why I love them and if you need a solid, fuss-free, and straightforward recipe for chocolate chip cookies that yields fabulous results, try these
Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies – One of my favorite cookie recipes on my site. Chewy, filled with texture, and combines three of my favorite cookies in one – chocolate chip, oatmeal, and peanut butter – and very easy to make, no mixer required
New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies (from Jacques Torres) – I learned many valuable lessons when making these cookies, including using bread flour, making larger cookies, and stuffing in more chocolate than I thought was possible. Fresh from the oven, I love these cookies, and although I don’t consider them my ‘perfect’ cookie and there are a few reasons why (and wrote extensively in the post) fresh from the oven, they’re wonderful
Vanilla Cake Batter and White Chocolate Chip Caramel Corn – – I love the flavor of cake batter, especially when it’s baked into air-popped popcorn, creating a rich, buttery, cake batter flavor-infused caramel corn
Caramel and Chocolate Gooey Bars (GF with Vegan adaptation) – Caramels and gooey chocolate oozing everywhere are part of why I like these texture-filled and easy bars, made with oats to give them extra chewiness
Seven Minute Microwave Caramels (no-bake, gluten-free) – The recipe sounds too good to be true but it works and produces my favorite caramels of all time. No candy thermometer required and hassle-free
Do you like Caramel Corn?
Best thing you’ve ever tried baked into a cookie? Anything you’d like to try?
Happy Fat Tuesday. I think caramel corn cookies scream celebration and party cookies.
Thanks for the $100 Giftcard and Special K Prize-Pack Giveaway entries