Although I’m not sure where the summer went, it’s now decidedly fall. Everyone’s back in school, we’re patiently waiting for the leaves to change color, and for the air to get crisp enough to show off our new boots and sweaters.
And although there are still evenings where salads and corn on the cob are appropriate, more and more we begin to turn to soups and roasts and warming baked goods pulled fresh from the oven. Warming baked goods like cookies, which somehow seem like the most appropriate early fall dessert out there.
Maybe it’s because I associate a plate of chewy cookies and a glass of milk with sitting around the kitchen table after school, telling my mom about all the new things I learned and the new people I talked to during those first few weeks of school.
Or maybe it’s the memory of the joy I always felt at finding two homemade chocolate chip cookies in a ziploc baggie tucked inside my lunchbox. Whatever the reason, I find myself making a lot of cookies during the first few weeks of fall, and eating them with a big smile on my face.
The first batch of cookies I made this season were these chocolate-toffee cookies with caramel. They’re a riff on my favorite basic chocolate cookie recipe, which I’ve adapted from Finale, with a sprinkling of toffee bits and a big dollop of homemade caramel baked into the top.
The cookie itself is an unusual dough, with very little flour, which bakes into a cookie that’s flaky like a brownie on top and soft and slightly gooey in the middle. The caramel used here is very thick at room temperature, definitely more of a candy than a sauce, but spreads over the top of the cookie while it bakes – to make your cookies extra pretty, place another little ball of caramel into the center of each one immediately after taking them out of the oven.
The caramel will melt just enough to make a nice neat patch on top of the cookies. And whatever you do, make sure you have at least one of these while they’re still warm!
Chocolate Toffee Cookies with Caramel Centers
Base cookie recipe adapted from Finale. Makes 18 cookies.
- 2 eggs
- 2/3 c. plus 2 TBS sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/3 c. salted butter
- 2 oz. bittersweet chocolate chips
- 6 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
- 2/3 c. flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 c. toffee bits
- 1 recipe caramel sauce, at room temperature, recipe below
- In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar, and vanilla until light and frothy. Set aside.
- Bring a large pot of water to a simmer. Place a smaller pot or heat-proof bowl over the simmering water, and place the butter and the chocolate in the smaller pot/bowl. Melt the chocolate, stirring, in this double-boiler set-up, until it is just fully melted, but not longer, then remove from the heat. Whisk the chocolate into the egg mixture, whisking vigorously as you add the warm chocolate to the eggs to help prevent the eggs from setting.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and the baking powder. Gently fold the flour into the chocolate batter, then stir in the toffee bits. Cover the batter and leave out at room temperature for three hours – it will thicken as it sits.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Scoop rounded spoonfuls that are slightly smaller than a golf ball out of the batter, and place on the baking tray about 3 inches apart. Don’t crowd the cookies – they will spread out a lot as they bake. Press your thumb lightly into the center of each cookie to make a small valley. Pull a teaspoon-sized ball of caramel out of the caramel jar and place in this valley.
- Bake the cookies for 11-13 minutes, until the chocolate tops are cracked and the caramel has spread. As you remove the cookies from the oven, immediately place another small ball of caramel into the valley to give the cookies a pretty finish – the caramel will melt into the edges of the warm cookie but won’t run all over the top. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Makes 1 cup.
- 1 cup of sugar
- 3 TBS salted butter
- 1/4 c. heavy cream
- Fill a small glass jar (1/2 a pint) with hot water, and set aside. Add sugar to the bottom of a high-sided frying pan. Heat over medium heat, whisking continually. The sugar will begin to melt, clumping back up as you whisk the melted sugar into the solid sugar. Keep whisking until all of the sugar has melted, and the color is a deep brown. If the color reaches deep brown before all of the clumps have melted, remove from the heat to stop the cooking and keep whisking until the un-melted bits are melted.
- Carefully add the butter to the melted sugar – the butter will cause the caramel to bubble up vigorously. Whisk in the butter, then carefully whisk in the heavy cream (the same bubbling will occur). Cook, still whisking, for another 2-3 minutes, then remove from the heat. Remove the hot water from your glass jar, and pour the hot caramel into it. Let cool to room temperature.