1small box instant vanilla pudding mix - dry, not prepared (one 3.4 ounce box, it must be INSTANT - not cook and serve, etc)
2cupssemi sweet chocolate chips
24soft caramels (such as Kraft square caramels, unwrapped)
optional: coarse sea salt
Start by beating butter and sugars together for 1-2 minutes until very fluffy. Add vanilla and egg and mix well. In a separate bowl whisk together flour, pudding mix, baking soda, and salt. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix until incorporated and dough comes together. Stir in chocolate chips. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350 and very lightly grease baking sheets. (I lightly mist mine with cooking spray, then wipe it off with a paper towel, too much grease will yield very flat cookies!) Roll about 3-4 tablespoons of the chocolate chip cookie dough into a ball , then repeat with 3-4 more tablespoons of dough. Press a caramel square into the center of one dough ball. Gently smash the two dough balls together and roll into one single ball. Repeat with remaining dough and place dough balls at least 3-4 inches apart on the baking sheet. Poke additional chocolate chips into the top of each cookie if desired (this is just for looks).
Bake cookies for 10-13 minutes until set but still slightly undercooked. Remove from oven and (optional) sprinkle immediately with coarse sea salt (highly recommended!). Allow to cool at least 10 minutes on baking sheet, then transfer to a cooling rack and allow to completely cool to room temperature. Store in airtight container.
*Prep and bake time does not include 1 hour of chilling time - it's so worth it!