Oatmeal and caramel and chocolate all rolled into one decadent dessert bar? OKYESPLEASE.
That’s what you get when you bake these carmelitas — a double-layer of oatmeal cookie goodness sandwiching layers of smooth, chewy, ooey-gooey caramel, melted chocolate chips and toasted nuts.
It’s not even Christmas and I’m already getting out my fat pants.
I’ve had the pleasure of being a brand ambassador for Bob’s Red Mill this year (brand ambassador = fancy talk for, “I loooooove Bob’s Red Mill products and they ask me to bake and cook with and write about them every once in a while and it’s super neat”) and it’s been so much fun to experiment with their grains, grits, gluten free flours, etc. I thought I’d go out with a bang on my set of recipes for 2014 by baking up what are one of my favorite desserts in all the lands, these carmelitas. If you’ve never tried a carmelita bar before, WHAT ARE YOU EVEN DOING. I mean, please ever so kindly skidaddle thyself to the grocery store and get the necessary ingredients to make this dessert — though you probably already have most of them on hand — and then make it immediately. I don’t care if you’ve already got a truckload of cookies in your fridge/freezer/countertop/belly from all those holiday cookie exchanges. Trust: you’ll still want to make room for these.
Because I am not one to a) choose sides but more likely b) make decisions, I used equal parts Bob’s Red Mill’s organic whole wheat and all-purpose flours for the recipe. As a regular baker I am fairly keen on the differences between flour brands, and I have to say that Bob’s does a mighty fine job with just about any recipe, from pizza dough to cookies to bagels to sandwich loaves. Also, carmelitas, clearly.
So I know you’re just dying to know what, exactly, is going on in these bars and I’ll tell you: First, there’s a layer of oatmeal cookie dough that gets par-baked in the oven. While that’s baking, you’ll make a melty, smooth and thick caramel sauce using those store-bought caramel candies or caramel bits, if you can find them, mixed with some heavy cream (remember, fat pants). Once the dough is done, you’ll scatter some chocolate chips and toasted nuts on top (I used a mix of chopped walnuts and hazelnuts, but pecans work fantastically, too) and then drizzle on the caramel sauce. Finally, sprinkle the rest of the oatmeal cookie dough on top and bake it until it’s all golden brown and such. Once the bars are cooled, it’s best to give them a chill in the fridge for a couple hours so the caramel can harden a bit and keep everything together, but pssst — sometimes (a lot of times) I don’t have the patience to wait, so I cut right in. They’re a little messier that way, but hey, they also get into my belly faster so who really cares, amiright? Ahem.
Truth be told, I haven’t taken more than a sliver of these bars to my mouth yet because I’m saving them for my family’s Christmas, which we are celebrating early (as in, this coming weekend. TWO CHRISTMASES!). So they’re just staring at me every time I open the fridge, asking — nay, begging — to be eaten. Even a few days early, Christmas can’t come soon enough.
Let’s be real: All I want for Christmas is a carmelita bar in my face.
- 1 cup Bob's Red Mill unbleached white all-purpose organic flour
- 1 cup Bob's Red Mill 100% stone ground whole wheat organic flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1½ cups packed light brown sugar
- 2 cups Bob's Red Mill rolled oats
- 14 ounces (about 1¾ cup) caramels (unwrapped) or caramel bits
- ⅓ cup heavy cream
- 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
- ¾ cup chopped walnuts, toasted
- ¼ cup chopped hazelnuts or pecans, toasted
- Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly spray a 13-by-9-inch baking pan with cooking or baking spray.
- In a large bowl, whisk flours, baking soda and salt to combine.
- In a separate large bowl using an electric hand mixer or in the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar on medium speed 2 minutes until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to low and stir in flour mixture until just combined. Stir in rolled oats.
- Press half of mixture firmly and evenly into bottom of prepared pan. Bake 10 minutes to set.
- Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan or skillet over medium-low heat, heat caramels and heavy cream. Stir constantly 5 to 7 minutes until mixture is fully melted and smooth. Remove from heat and allow to cool while dough is baking.
- Scatter chocolate chips and chopped nuts evenly over par-baked dough. Pour caramel sauce evenly over the top (use a spatula if needed to spread the caramel sauce). Sprinkle evenly with remaining dough.
- Bake 15 to 20 minutes until top is lightly browned and baked through. Cool completely on a cooling rack, then cover and chill at least 2 hours before cutting into bars.
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"Quick Bread Love" is a great resource for beginner bakers, with plenty of tips and tricks to make delicious baking a snap, but contains recipes that are creative enough or even the most advanced baker. The mix of sweet and savory recipes with classic and quirky flavor combinations means that everyone can find a favorite recipe from this collection. My personal favorite is the Lemon Crumb Loaf -- but ask me next week and I might just have to pick a new favorite. 😉
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Disclosure: I am an ambassador for Bob’s Red Mill and received compensation for recipe development purposes. All opinions are my own.