Oatmeal Carmelita Bars

Back to work, back to school, and nothing says easy and portable quite like cookie bars. They are easy to make, and just as easy to wrap up and drop in a lunchbox (or lunch bag, depending on who is taking the treat). If you don’t have kids or don’t need to worry about packing a lunch, then all you need to worry about is that these are just plain fantastic. Nothing complicated here, yet the flavor definitely packs a serious punch. An oatmeal shortbread crust is topped with chocolate and chopped pecans, then a layer of caramel sauce, and then finished off with an oat crumb topping. Hello, heaven.

A little over a year ago a reader, Joelle, emailed me to ask if I had a recipe for carmelita bars, as she had enjoyed one on a recent trip and was dying to recreate them at home. My apologies to Joelle that it has taken me this long to whip them up, but hopefully she feels that they were worth the wait! I know she mentioned that hers had walnuts, while I used pecans in these, but you could easily use either one interchangeably.

I am pretty much a sucker for anything that includes a crumb topping, and these are no exception. Chocolate, nuts, caramel, oats, crumb topping… life doesn’t get much better than that for someone who adores sweets!

One year ago: Oatmeal Muffins with Dates, Cranberries & Pecans

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Oatmeal Carmelita Bars

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

ΒΌ teaspoon salt

1 cup butter, at room temperature

1Β½ cups light brown sugar

2 cups quick-cooking oats

14 ounces caramel candies, unwrapped

Β½ cup evaporated milk

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1 cup chopped pecans


Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9x13-inch baking dish; set aside.


2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.


3. Using an electric mixer, cream together the butter and brown sugar on medium speed until combined and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and slowly add the flour mixture until fully incorporated. Add the oats and mix on low briefly to just combine.


4. Transfer approximately half of the dough mixture to the baking dish. Spread and press the dough into the baking dish until you have an even layer with no cracks or crumbles. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from oven.


5. While the dough is baking, combine the evaporated milk and caramels in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir the mixture constantly until all the caramels are melted and you have a thick sauce. Allow to cool until cookie base comes out of the oven.


6. Once out of the oven, sprinkle the cookie base evenly with chocolate chips and pecans, and then carefully pour the caramel sauce over the cookie base, nuts, and chocolate. Use an offset spatula to spread the caramel sauce into an even layer.


7. Sprinkle the remaining cookie dough over the top of the caramel-chocolate-nut mixture a handful at a time, making sure to get an even coating over the whole dish.


8. Return the dish to the oven, baking until the topping is lightly browned, about 15 minutes.


9. Once out of the oven, cool the dish to room temperature and then refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight. Cut into 2-inch squares and serve. Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator.


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(Recipe adapted from Bluebonnets & Brownies)


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