Dorie Greenspan's Magically Caramel-y Chocolate Chip Cookie

Plot twist: There's no caramel at all.

Every week in Genius Recipes—often with your help!—Food52 Founding Editor and lifelong Genius-hunter Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that will change the way you cook.

Prolific doesn’t begin to cover Dorie Greenspan’s career. In the last 20 years, she’s written 14 cookbooks, a newspaper column, countless articles, and been in videos. In her latest cookbook Baking with Dorie, Ms. Greenspan has come up with yet another way to reinvent the chocolate chip cookie, taking it from traditional to terrific with one simple but effective baking tip.

Photo by Julia Gartland.

First make the dough, which she suggests doing with a mixer but also works just fine done by hand. Next the dough gets wrapped and chilled. No surprises here. But then these seemingly humble cookies are sliced and baked not on a baking sheet but in a standard muffin tin. “Because these slice-and-bake cookies are baked in muffin tins until their bottom and sides are deeply golden, the butter and sugar brown so completely that they produce the full, nutty, edgily sweet flavor of caramel,” Dorie explains. That wonderful caramel flavor is the first to hit your tongue when you take a bite. It’s so perfect that she named the cookies Caramel Crunch-Chocolate Chunklet Cookies even though there isn’t any caramel in the ingredient list.

The magic of these cookies can be explained by science. Heating sugar breaks it down into glucose and fructose. Those molecules then break down further and react with one another creating new flavor compounds, like phenols and esters. Thanks to those new compounds cooked sugar and butter become so much more than simply sweet. They meld together and transform into something buttery, bitter, malty, and nutty all at once.

As if that weren’t enough, these cookies have even more special characteristics. First of all, Dorie makes them with both granulated sugar and confectioners’ sugar. While the granulated sugar is doing its job of keeping the cookies moist and sweet, the confectioners’ sugar adds tenderness giving them the texture of a soft and chewy shortbread.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“You don't want o read them. The usual contingent of complainer s and whiners”
— txchick57

Dorie also suggests that you use chopped chocolate instead of chips. While chips stay whole in baked cookies, chopped chocolate introduces pieces of varying sizes that are nicely distributed throughout the cookie. Each cookie has loads of chocolate, from tiny flecks to nice, big pools, giving every bite a more complex flavor. The muffin tin also keeps all the cookies the exact same shape and size so they cook evenly and look fantastic. What more could you ask for? This Dorie Greenspan fan (or “Greenstan” if you will) is 100% satisfied.

Got a Genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].

This post contains products independently chosen (and loved) by our editors and writers. As an Amazon Associate, Food52 earns an affiliate commission on qualifying purchases of the products we link to.
Listen & Subscribe

From our new podcast network, The Genius Recipe Tapes is lifelong Genius hunter Kristen Miglore’s 10-year-strong column in audio form, featuring all the uncut gems from the weekly column and video series. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts so you don’t miss out.

Listen & Subscribe

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • 4maries
  • Raphaelle Cassens
    Raphaelle Cassens
  • Jane
  • agamom
  • Shelley Frisch
    Shelley Frisch
Writer. Baker. Sticky bun maker.


4maries November 12, 2022
Well, I tried this recipe and they were a success. I slathered butter generously around the cupcake tins and they were crispy on bottom and sides and soft in the middle. They were pleasantly not as sweet as other cookie recipes. Will make again.
Raphaelle C. October 31, 2022
I'm not sure why so many are bellyaching about these-they are delicious, adult oriented cookies. If you all want super sweet chocolate chip cookies, stick with TollHouse type recipes.
Smaug October 31, 2022
Well, most of the complaints are about the caramelization not happening; this is a very delicate balance between how the cookies are sliced, the pan and the oven, not to mention any vagaries in making the dough. Also some were disappointed with the small amount of chocolate- I thought the cookies were better without it, but I didn't try adding more.
Raphaelle C. October 31, 2022
I made them as directed except using 50% semi sweet chocolate, 50% super dark and a mix of walnuts & pecans according to proportions listed, and instructions. I had zero issues with caramelization, slicing, chips falling out, crumbled dough, etc. I will definitely make them again
Smaug November 1, 2022
Congratulations. I didn't have any particular issues either, but I don't see why people who did shouldn't discuss them.
Jane October 31, 2022
My cookies tasted good but it’s not worth the extra effort to make these. Not making again. My time is too precious to spend it on a recipe that is takes so much effort for a chocolate chip “puck”. No thanks.
agamom October 29, 2022
Bakers who found the cookie without the caramel flavor might try cooking just a minute or two longer or on a slightly lower temperature for longer - just like a shortbread it needs time. Or add just a bit of molasses to the recipe which helps replace the lack of brown sugar. Sometimes it’s good to have alternative recipes for those moments when you need a cookie recipe without a particular ingredient, like eggs, or brown sugar, and can’t get to the grocery store! Loved the explanations and I’m a Dorie recipe baker for years.
Shelley F. October 6, 2022
These were absolutely delicious - now my go to for chocolate chip cookies.
Joan June 16, 2022
I had such high hopes for these cookies, but they ended up being a disappointment. They were super dry and crumbly, and were lacking any caramelization/caramel flavor. They were basically like shortbread/pecan sandies. Unfortunately, I would suggest skipping this one.
Elaine S. May 10, 2022
Has anyone who made these cookies had trouble cutting the slices? Mine was quite cold and also, I think the chocolate chips were part of the problem. They literally fell apart and I had to just mold them into cookies with my hands. Any hints?
Smaug May 10, 2022
It does say to knead the dough briefly after adding the chips and nuts- I think I used something called "fraissage" in French ("pushing off in English, but the French is more often seen)- it involves sort of smearing the dough across the table =/board with the palm if your hand in more or less walnut sized chunks; a good method for bringing together reluctant doughs in general.
christymoug April 29, 2022
no eggs?
Smaug April 29, 2022
No eggs, the idea is to get a shortbread like texture.
Morgan P. April 28, 2022
These are terrible. There are short bread with chocolate in it. None of the "Carmel" flavor is there. At best there are a bland crunch cookie at best there are chocolate shortbread if that's your thing go for it but nothing about this is your new favorite chocolate chip cookie.
Sandy April 27, 2022
Is it really necessary to use fine sea salt? If so, why?
Smaug April 27, 2022
No, but you'd want fine salt. Table salt (which actually is sea salt anyway) would be fine. The amount given is way too much for my taste.
Jo October 29, 2022
Dorie uses Maldon Sea Salt if you use something different then you probably need to use less I found an article that talked about her Peace cookies and they recommended using only 1/4 tsp table salt for that recipe it’s heavier than sea salt or the expensive Maldon (I’ve never bought). I buy my sea salt from Costco and it’s a fine salty salt so I use a light hand adjust as needed. It’s frustrating that everyone uses a different salt you need to check if they aren’t specific. It’s like Ina using extra large eggs and no one else does -I just use large. Hope this helps🤓
Smaug April 27, 2022
Perhaps the magic of this recipe can be explained by science, but it wasn't, all that amounted to was "hot sugar turns too caramel". I suppose I'll have to dredge up a muffin tin and see how it goes- a little surprised it skips the brown sugar, but I generally like chocolate chip cookies better without the baking soda.
mkn April 27, 2022
Maillard reaction, if you care for more science - might make the article kind of dull :)
Smaug April 28, 2022
Throwing out some names is not an explanation. A real explanation would probably serve no purpose in this context, as few readers are chemists able to follow it, but I think it's important to understand that this sort of vague description is not science.
Smaug June 14, 2022
Also, this is not Maillard reaction, which is between amino acids and simple sugars. Caramelization is a different reaction.
[email protected] April 27, 2022
Following. I can’t wait to hear comments, this recipe sounds fantastic!
txchick57 September 30, 2022
You don't want o read them. The usual contingent of complainer s and whiners
Smaug October 29, 2022
You want to read them. This is an unusual recipe, and there are a number of quite legitimate issues and questions connected to it.
I might remind you that this site still talks of itself as interactive and touts its "community"- largely hyperbole at this point, maybe, but we haven't quite got to just shut up and take whatever you're handed.