Broken Pretzel and Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookies

By: Heather Baird

Gear up for holiday baking with Cooking Channel. Your favorite chefs & Food People have opened their kitchens to share their best cookie recipes. From mini Red Velvet Whoopie Pies to Chuck's Maple-Pecan Shortbread, we'll keep you baking all season. Visit our All-Star Cookie Swap, then head over to FoodNetwork.com for great takes on holiday baking from Food Network chefs.

It's pretty difficult to improve upon the chocolate chip cookie. Everyone has their favorite recipe — myself included — and you'll often be hard-pressed to get someone else to try out a new one. But after creating this recipe for Cooking Channel's holiday cookie swap, I must urge you to give this one a go. With rich dark chocolate chips, crumbled pretzels and pockets of chewy caramel, each bite seems to offer something tastier than the last. The cookie itself has crisp, golden edges and a chewy middle that remains blonde as it bakes.

*Note, these are large cookies, so you'll only be able to accommodate 4 to 6 mounds on a standard baking pan. I recommend using two or more baking sheets. Be sure to save some of the mix-ins for placing on top of the dough pre-baking: It gives the cookie that studded, finished appearance that makes it perfect for holiday gifting.

Broken Pretzel and Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookies

Active Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Yields: About 20 cookies
Ingredients
3/4 cup large broken pieces salted pretzel twists (about 10 pretzels)
20 soft caramels, each caramel quartered
1 cup dark chocolate chips
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, tightly packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Reserve a few pieces of the broken pretzels, quartered caramels and chocolate chips. You'll use these to stud the tops of the unbaked cookies. This makes the baked cookie look more attractive and yummy.

In a large bowl combine flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk to combine and set aside.

In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and both sugars until the mixture is fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the egg, vegetable oil and vanilla extract. Mix until well incorporated.

Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat until the ingredients just come together, making a soft, crumbly dough. Add the remaining pretzels, caramel pieces and chocolate chips to the dough; mix on lowest setting until these additions are evenly dispersed.

Portion dough into 24 pieces about the size of a large walnut and roll into balls. Place the dough balls on the lined cookie sheets about 3 inches apart. Press a few of the chocolate chips, caramel pieces and pretzel pieces into the tops of the cookie dough balls, or just use one of the toppings on each ball. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes. Cookies are done when they are still pale in the middle and the edges are golden brown. Don't be tempted to over-bake these! The caramel will become hard and the pretzels will over-brown.

Remove cookies from the oven and allow them to cool on the baking sheets for 10 to 12 minutes. (Better for cookies to cool on the baking sheets longer, so caramel can set, otherwise it sticks to the sheet and pulls the cookie apart if removed too soon.) Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely. Store cookies in a container that seals air-tight.

Tip: Make short work of quartering the caramels by employing the use of a large chef's knife.

Heather Baird is an accomplished painter turned pastry artist and food blogger. She now primarily channels her creativity into assembling, styling and photographing the sweet works of art that fill her blog Sprinkle Bakes. She is the author of SprinkleBakes: Dessert Recipes to Inspire Your Inner Artist . Raised just outside the Great Smoky Mountains, her baking influences are inherently Southern. Although she was raised on apple stack cake and buttermilk pie, she also loves international confectionery and in her free time studies the art of patisserie. Heather lives in Knoxville, Tenn., with her husband, Mark, and two very mischievous pugs, Biscuit and Churro.

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