Vanilla Bean Dulce de Leche

Later this week I’m going to share an ah-maz-ing cookie recipe that taste like a Twix bar! In order to pull it all together you’re going to need some dulce de leche, which is basically a fancy name for the best caramel sauce ever.

Like a lot of things in life, there is more than one way to make dulce de leche. Many methods use just a can of sweetened condensed milk, like this and this. Both of those recipes seem really easy and I’m sure yield excellent results. But, it’s just not that easy to find cans of sweetened condensed milk in Suzhou. Plus, I really loved the idea of using vanilla bean. Decadent dulce de leche with flecks of vanilla bean? Yes, please!

The good news is, even though there are just a few more ingredients to this, it’s still an easy recipe. The hardest part is being patient and waiting for it to turn that trademark deep, dark, golden brown.



Easy Turtle Brownies


It’s Sweet Friday again and today I bring you Easy Turtle Brownies. I wanted to title this post “Crazy Easy One Bowl Turtle Brownies” but I thought that might be a little long. These are however crazy easy to make, and they do only require one bowl. Perfect for a weeknight chocolate craving.

I do have a go-to recipe that I have dubbed my favorite but in my opinion a girl can never have too many ways to make a brownie. If you haven’t noticed, there is a salted caramel craze across the foodie world. So I drew some inspiration from that – and a bottle of Hershey’s caramel sauce that I found hidden on my refrigerator door shelf. I also had a bag of pecan pieces in the cabinet. That’s how the wheels starting turning.

I thought these brownies were fabulous. The bit of brown sugar I subbed in the brownies gave the chocolate an extra caramely and chewy kick. And every so often I would get a nice bite of kosher salt. They also had my ideal brownie texture, chewy, fudgelike, and moist. Jesse on the other hand liked them but still thought they were too “wet.” He prefers a much more cake like brownie so I wasn’t at all surprised. Just keep that in mind, if you prefer drier cake like brownies, these aren’t it.

Crazy Easy One Bowl Turtle Brownies
(Brownie adapted from Hershey’s, idea inspired by The Novice Chef)

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1/3 cup cocoa powder*
1/2 cup flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
Hershey’s Caramel Syrup (or another brand of caramel, or make you’re own if you’re up to it)
Pecan pieces, optionally toasted
*I used half Hershey’s special dark and half regular cocoa powder, you can use a combination or whichever you have on hand.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8×8 baking dish (or if you’re like me and resisting this purchase, just use a 9 inch pie pan).

Melt the butter in a microwave safe mixing bowl. Using a wooden spoon, stir the sugars into the melted butter. Add the vanilla and eggs and stir until well combined. Add the cocoa powder, flour, baking powder, and kosher salt to the bowl. Without breaking into the liquid ingredients below, give the dry ingredients a few stirs with a fork, then use your wooden spoon to incorporate into the liquid ingredients. Stir until you no longer see the flour.

Pour half of the batter into the greased pan and spread with a spatula (or save dishes and just use the wooden spoon). Drizzle the batter with the caramel syrup, being careful to keep it a 1/4 inch away from the edges. Pour in the rest of the batter. Drizzle with a little more caramel syrup then swirl with the spatula (or wooden spoon). Drop a small handful of pecans on top.

Bake for 20 minutes**, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool then slice into even squares or wedges and serve with a LARGE glass of milk.

**Because of the caramel syrup these were a little bubbly when baking, probably not the prettiest brownies I’ve ever made, but that’s OK. Don’t be scared when they don’t have box-perfect shiny crispy crust on top.

Caramel Macchiato Kind of Cookie

>Sometimes I get an idea in my head about something I want to do, or try to do, and I just can’t get it out of my head. I guess you could say I have obsessive tendencies. That’s what these cookies are kind of about. I have had an idea for probably 2 years about making a vanilla caramel cookie with a subtle coffee hint, kind of like a caramel macchiato from Starbucks. I actually tried a few years ago to create the cookie in my head but they didn’t work out the way I had planned. The idea was pushed to the back of my head in the moving craziness of the last year but it was still there.

About 2 weeks ago I was shopping in Target and I was just browsing their baking aisle, I didn’t really need anything I was just looking around. As I was looking at the variety of chocolate chips I saw a bag that instantly brought my mind back to the “caramel machiatto” cookie I have imagined. It was a bag of caramel bits, intended for easier melting and eliminating the hassle of unwrapping a million caramels. So I bought the bag and started brainstorming.

I wanted to use a vanilla pudding packet in the cookie to up the creamy vanilla flavor I was looking for. I did an online search for sugar cookies with vanilla pudding and I found this recipe. I was intrigued because it calls for vegetable oil, which I have never used in a cookie before. I was a bit skeptical but the raving reviews convinced me to try it. In the end they were good, but a bit crunchier than I had imagined (thought still somehow a little chewy, which was good). After 15 seconds in the microwave they were perfect, but just straight out of the storage container the next day they were too crunchy for me.

Because they were good after warming them up, and because some people really like crunchy sugar cookies and these were strangely crunchy and chewy, I am going to share the recipe now. But I am still going to work towards getting this cookie exactly as I have been imaging it so don’t be surprised if you see similar cookies again soon. And a little warning, I had a LOT of fun taking pictures of these, so there are a couple photos 🙂

Sugar Cookies with a Caramel Macchiato Kick
(Cookie adapted from Cookie Madness; Caramel Topping my own recipe)

2 sticks (8 oz) salted butter, softened**
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup powdered sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 package (3.4 ounces) instant vanilla pudding mix — lemon works too
4 cups all-purpose flour (18 oz)
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
*I added 1/2 cup of the caramel baking bits to the dough but they were a little sticky in the cookie so next time I am going to do more of a thumbprint wit the caramel topping instead of the caramel bits directly in the cookie
~3/4 cup caramel topping, recipe below

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl combine the flour, cream of tartar and baking soda and set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, or a large bowl, cream the butter, oil and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, vanilla and dry pudding mix.

Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and with the mixer on slow-medium speed, mix well.

Using a medium scoop, or by heaping tablespoon, drop the cookies 2 inches apart on a baking sheet (ungreased). With a flat bottom glass, press down the top of each cookie.

Bake for 12-15 minutes or until edges start to turn golden brown. Remove to a wire rack to cool.

Set the wire rack over top of parchment paper or aluminum foil and drizzle the caramel topping over the cookies.

Caramel Topping Recipe (I had a good amount of this caramel mixture left after drizzling, but it would make an excellent topping for ice cream!)

1/2 cup caramel bits
1/4 cup half and half, room temperature
1 packet Starbucks VIA coffee (for less potent coffee flavor use half a packet)

In a microwave safe bowl melt the caramel, starting with 30 seconds and continuing in 15 second intervals until melted.

In a small measuring cup add the VIA to the half and half and stir to dissolve.

Using a silicone spatula, pour the half and half mixture into the melted caramel and stir until smooth and completely combined. It may need another 15 seconds in the microwave.

For ease of decorating you can transfer the caramel to a decorating bottle, but you can also just use a spoon to drizzle on top of the cookies.