Dark Chocolate Chip Salted Caramel Nutella Cookie Bars

This weekend found me back at the Cape Cod field site for a few days, ostensibly to help with data collection and discuss potential contributions I can make to the research. And both of those did happen

cape sand ripples

But we also explored the Cape for a few hours, walked along the beach for a few miles, and were fascinated by the water and sand ripples. I even found a half dozen heart-shaped rocks! The hunt for these put me a good 100 yards behind Beth and Ellie for half of the walk… oops. But aren’t they just so darn cute?!

heart rocks

Furthermore, I was treated to some hilarious delirium on the parts of Beth and Ellie, who’ve been out here for weeks now. As an ever-so-slightly-more-sane addition to the house, I felt it was necessary to cure their field campaign doldrums with something sweet. While hunting for recipes, I asked Beth if I could make this one and she gave me the most incredulous look. “Has anyone ever said no?!”

choc chip caramel nutella cookie bars

A dinner of homemade lasagna and garlic bread paired with local Truro red wine (Beth and Ellie have amazing taste and culinary skills, in case you couldn’t tell), topped off with these dark chocolate chip salted caramel Nutella cookie bars for dessert was just what we needed to push through the last few days out here. Days that included unlocking and re-locking dozens of chained entrances. Days of moving very large and very heavy gas cylinders up and down an uneven sandy hill. And yesterday’s grand adventure: getting locked out of our rental house after they showed it to prospective buyers, thus having to break back in by climbing (horrifically ungracefully) through a window. All excellent excuses to savor our relaxed evening. Find yourself a similarly perfect excuse for making these. Did you check off a few key things on your “to do” list recently? Spend your entire day working up data or tweaking models on a computer? Finally tackle the pile of laundry you’ve been putting off for weeks? Arrive to work on time every day last week? Successfully breathe all day? Impressive, my friend, very impressive indeed. You need these. No, wait, you deserve these. You worked hard for it.

I took this already perfect recipe from Two Peas & Their Pod and amped it up just a tad. First, I switched to dark chocolate chips because I love the combination of salted caramel and dark chocolate. Second, I added Nutella because why would you ever need an explanation for adding Nutella? These are buttery. These are sugary. These are melty. These are gooey and salty and sweet and chocolate-y and carmel-y and Nutella-y (those are all words) and basically everything you could ever dream of. Best of all, they are a cinch to pull together. The ONLY thing that could possibly be holding you back right now is lacking the right ingredients in your pantry. Otherwise, you should already be preheating your oven (325 F, but you scrolled to the directions a long time ago, didn’t you?).

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

DARK CHOCOLATE CHIP SALTED CARAMEL NUTELLA COOKIE BARS

(Recipe barely adapted from Two Peas & Their Pod)

2 1/8 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. baking soda

12 tbsp. butter, softened

1 cup light brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk

2 tsp. vanilla extract

~2 cups (one 1o-oz bag) dark chocolate chips

10 oz caramel candy squares, unwrapped

3 tbsp. heavy cream

~1/2 cup Nutella

Sea salt, for sprinkling over caramel and bars

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

1. Preheat oven to 325 F. Grease an 11×7-inch baking pan with nonstick baking spray or butter.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and baking soda until well-mixed. Set aside.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer or using an electric hand mixer, combine the softened butter and sugars until well-mixed, at least one minute. Beat in the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla extract until smooth. Gradually beat in the dry mixture until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

4. In a large microwave safe bowl, combine the caramels and heavy cream. In 20-second intervals, microwave caramels on High until they melt, stirring after each round. This should take ~2 minutes.

5. Press half of the cookie dough into the prepared pan, pressing it down evenly and smoothing the top with a spatula. Spread Nutella evenly over the cookie layer. Pour the melted caramel over the Nutella and sprinkle with sea salt. (Here I let out an audible “Oh!” because the sight of caramel pouring over Nutella is darn close to divine.)

6. Take small portions of the remaining cookie dough and press flat with your hands. Place gently over the caramel, and repeat until you’ve covered all the caramel. Sprinkle the top with additional sea salt.

7. Bake at 325 F for 30 minutes or until the top of the bars are light golden brown and the edges start to pull away from the pan. Cool completely* on a wire rack and then cut into squares.

cookie bars stacked

*Um, yeah right! I say go for it after you’re sure you won’t burn your tongue. Letting it cool completely means you’ll have clean cuts, but if you’re not giving the entire thing away to people, dig in as soon as it cools down. You’re okay with a spoonful of cookie, Nutella, and caramel all melted together, right? That’s what I thought. You can cut the rest up nice and pretty later. But you need a warm and gooey mess right now. Mmm… délicieux…

Also, apologies that we’re back to bad photos for the day. My talented photographers are a few hours away!

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