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!

Advertisements

Happy Face Cookies (Nutella-Stuffed Peanut Butter Oatmeal)

Happy Face Nutella Cookies

Many things make me smile. Using my boots to make a giant heart in a field of freshly-fallen snow. Getting to know the bus driver through weekly morning commute conversations. Hallway high-fives. Discovering simple fixes to potentially time-consuming problems with the field instruments. Recognizing your friend’s handwriting on a letter in the mail. Carpool karaoke. Skype dates with best friends and phone calls home.

And these cookies, which smile right back at you. And have crunchy peanut butter oatmeal edges and soft centers. And are filled with a creamy, delicious layer of Nutella. Yes indeed, these cookies are something to smile about!

I adapted this recipe ever-so-slightly from Not Your Momma’s Cookie. I added extra butter to avoid buying shortening (we’re only in this house for a little while and wouldn’t use it all). Also, because the batter seemed too wet/weak and knowing that the butter-for-shortening substitution would make the cookies spread more, I added an extra 1/4 cup oats to boost structural support. The balance between the oatmeal, peanut butter, Nutella, and a few chocolate chips is perfect. Make these; they’re a little bit of work but nothing too crazy, and the payoff is well worth it. Trust me, one bite is all you need to fall in love with these sweet faces!

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

HAPPY FACE COOKIES (NUTELLA-STUFFED PEANUT BUTTER OATMEAL)

¾ cup all purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. salt

½ cup unsalted butter, softened (or: 1/4 cup butter + 1/4 cup shortening)

½ cup brown sugar

½ cup white sugar

⅔ cup peanut butter (any kind; I used chunky)

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla extract

¾ cup quick cooking oats

½-1 cup Nutella

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

1. Cover a cookie sheet/pan/large flat plate with parchment or wax paper. Using a teaspoon, scoop 25 balls of Nutella onto the paper. Freeze for at least 20 minutes.

2. Preheat oven to 350 F. Prepare a cookie sheet by covering with parchment paper.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

4. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to cream together the butter, sugars, and peanut butter. Add the egg and vanilla; stir until combined. Add the dry mixture in thirds, stirring just until incorporated each time. Gently stir in the oats.

5. Take about a quarter-sized scoop of dough and flatten it into a mini pancake in your palm. Place a frozen Nutella drop into the center and fold the edges of the batter up around the Nutella until no Nutella is exposed. Gently shape into smooth, slightly flattened balls. Place on cookie sheet about 2 inches apart.

6. Press in chocolate chips in the shape of a happy face. Since these cookies will spread quite a bit, put the smile’s chips right next to each other and the eye’s chips far away from the smile.

7. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until edges are lightly browned. Remove from the pan to cool. The chocolate chips will stay soft for a while, so wait a few hours for them to harden before you try to store these or you’ll mess up all the faces!

Nutella drops need to be in the freezer for at least 20 minutes before you try to use them. You'll have to keep re-freezing them, because they soften quickly.

The Nutella drops need to be in the freezer for at least 20 minutes before you try to use them or they’ll get all over your fingers. Right after you take them out of the oven, pop them off the paper. Then when you’re assembling the cookies, it’ll be easy to pick up a drop instead of trying to pop one off every time. You’ll have to keep re-freezing them, too, because they soften and start making a mess quickly.

The chips for the smile need to be as close together as possible because the cookies spread in the oven. Try to keep the eyes distinctly separate, too, or when the cookies spread you won't get a clear happy face.

The chips for the smile need to be as close together as possible because the cookies spread in the oven. Try to keep the eyes distinctly separate, too, or when the cookies spread you won’t get a clear happy face. (Side note: aren’t they just the cutest?! I practically want to hug them!!)

SMILE!

Look at how happy they are! I bet it’s the secret Nutella layer inside. That would make anyone grin!