The Weekend Dish-Chocolate Caramel Dandies

The Backyard Sisters are getting competitive. The LA Times is holding the third annual cookie recipe competition and we have entered our favorite recipe from our annual Four Sisters Cookie Bake. Entries are being accepted until 5PM PDT today so if you’re feeling the calling to share we welcome the competition. Voting will take place on the LA Times facebook page from November 2-12. We encourage you to visit and vote, especially for ours if you like what you see.  You can peruse all the entries, or search for Chocolate Caramel Dandies. Here’s our entry:

Chocolate Caramel Dandies

If you close your eyes shortly after you slide a pan of crumbly Chocolate Caramel Dandies into the oven, you’ll notice a slight scent of roasted almonds, faint, as if a street vendor one block down has just begun warming his parchment packets of crispy delicacies.

This scent heralds the arrival of the annual Four Sisters Great Cookie Bake, a raucous all-day affair when we, with as many of our ten children as are in town, gather in Pasadena or Torrance or Trabuco Canyon to continue a tradition reaching back to our maternal grandmother and her three sisters.  We bake as if Christmas Eve couldn’t happen if we didn’t fill the white oval platter, big as a hug, to tipping with cookies made from recipes smudged with cocoa and butter and child size fingerprints and as inextricable from our Christmas memory as Santa and a tree and twinkly lights.

We make fudge and peppermint fudge. We bake molasses crinkles, delicate thin sugar crispies and frosted sugar cut-outs. We bake chocolate mud puddles and powdered sugar-covered snowballs and everyday chocolate chip cookies to keep the husbands away from the specialties and we often try something new, but we always, always, always bake Chocolate Caramel Dandies.

In fact, we usually bake two batches because they’re everyone’s favorite, including our neighbors who anticipate their own red plate gifts from the Four Sisters Great Cookie Bake.  It’s the timpani of a milk and semi-sweet chocolate duet, served upon a toasty almond-oatmeal crust and mellowed with a swirl of smooth caramel that thrills.  Even though Chocolate Caramel Dandies are as easy to make as a good decision, we reserve these treats for that one magical week in December when we share our good fortune and good cooking with each other and now here, we share with you.

Chocolate Caramel Dandies

Chocolate Caramel Dandies

Preheat oven to 350.

Grease a 9 x 13″ pan.

1   3/4 C all-purpose flour

1/4 C almond meal

2 C old-fashioned oats

1C packed brown sugar

1 tsp. baking soda

1/4 t salt

1 C (2 sticks) butter, melted

2 C (12oz. pkg) chocolate chips.

(I usually mix 1/2 milk chocolate and 1/2 semi-sweet.)

1 C caramel ice cream topping

1/3 C all-purpose flour

Combine 1 3/4 cups flour, almond meal, oats, brown sugar, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Stir in butter.  Mix well.

Measure out one heaping cup of crumble and set aside.

Press remaining crumble mixture into greased 9 X 13″ pan.

Bake in 350 degree oven for 15 minutes or until lightly browned.

Remove from oven.  Sprinkle with chocolate chips.  Let chips melt (about one minute) and spread evenly over crumble mixture.

In a small bowl, combine caramel topping with remaining 1/3 C flour.

Drizzle evenly over melted chocolate chips.

Sprinkle with reserved crumble mixture.

Bake at 350 degree for 20-23 minutes or until lightly browned.

Cool in pan on wire rack then cut into small squares. Makes about 24 two-inch bars.

Tossing our oven mitt into the ring.

~ Catherine and Sue

The Weekend Dish – Snickerdoodles

The summer I was nine years old our family embarked on a cross country driving trip. We were mixing touring the United States with meeting our mother and father’s extended families. Piling into the the large, brown Pontiac station wagon along with the ensuing daily “discussion” over who would get to sit in the rear-facing back seats became the routine. The anticipation of getting to St Louis, where our mother’s cousin and her family lived, was growing by the day. Following the introductions, a bit of awkwardness developed as we attempted to become acquainted. A snack of snickerdoodles and a drink was offered. We were unfamiliar with snickerdoodles but soon learned they are delicious cinnamon sugar cookies. There is nothing quite like cookies to put a slightly awkward crowd at ease. That afternoon, we shared stories and jokes getting to know each other better while nibbling snickerdoodles.  Our delight with the cookies during our visit  prompted our mother to request the recipe. The snickerdoodle has now made it’s place in my recipe box and it has become a regular on the annual Christmas cookie platter. The sweetness of the cinnamon and sugar along with a slight tartness from the cream of tartar mix together to create a perfectly delectable blend of flavors.  


1 cup shortening   (I use butter)

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 eggs

2 3/4 cups flour

2 teaspoons cream of tartar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

Cinnamon sugar:  to make cinnamon sugar, mix 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon (or to taste) with a quarter cup of granulated sugar.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, cream together the shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly between each addition.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. Add to the shortening mixture, beating well. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.

Tear off walnut-size pieces of dough and roll each into a ball. Roll in the cinnamon sugar mixture and place on an ungreased baking sheet, spacing the cookies about 2 inches apart. Cookies can be pressed with a fork in a criss-cross pattern if you want. Bake until the cookies are light brown and firm on top, 10 to 15 minutes.

Cool the cookies on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to finish. Store in an airtight container.