I first laid eyes on these oatmeal, chocolate caramel cookies when I first moved to New England and went shopping at the local Whole Foods Market. I was three months post-partum, severely sleep deprived and stressed out about all the unpacking/organizing all while trying to help my sweet four-year-old feel comfortable in our new home. I remember scrambling around the market trying to get everything on my list when I took a much-needed detour to the bakery section. I wanted to get Sof a sweet treat, and thought I'd get something for myself. On a whim, I decided on a Carmelita, and I was in love after the first bite.
Determined to find the best Carmelitas recipe, I quickly realized that most recipes called for bottled caramel sauce or pre-made caramel candies that are simply melted down. While there's absolutely nothing wrong with those options, I knew I wanted my caramel to be salted and I wanted it to be as rich and creamy as possible. Thus leaving me with no choice but to make a homemade salted caramel sauce.
This Carmelitas recipe rivals the ones I first tasted at Whole Foods, and the touch of salt in the caramel sauce only enhances this decadent bar cookie. I hope you give it a try!
Carmelitas Made with Homemade Salted Caramel
Adapted from this recipe at food.com
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups whole grain, old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/4 cups firmly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups unsalted butter, softened
1 cup salted caramel sauce (recipe below)
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
11 ounces of bittersweet chocolate chips/pieces
1 - Preheat the over to 350 degrees F and grease a 13x9 inch-baking pan
2 - In a large bowl mix all of the crust ingredients until well blended and crumbly.
3 - Press half of the crust mixture into the prepared baking pan. Reserve the rest of the crust mixture.
4 - Bake for ten minutes.
5 - While the bottom crust bakes, mix the salted caramel sauce with the 3 tablespoons of flour and set aside.
6 - Once the bottom crust is baked, remove it from the oven and sprinkle it with the chocolate.
7 - Next, evenly drizzle the salted caramel sauce over the chocolate and finally sprinkle the reserved crumb mixture on top of the caramel.
8 - Bake for 20 minutes or until the top crust is golden brown.
9 - Remove from oven and allow it to cool completely.
10 - Refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours until firm.
11 - Cut the cooled bars into squares
Yields 30 - 36 cookie bars
Salted Caramel Sauce
Adapted from Cooks Illustrated
1/2 cup water
1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 - Pour water into a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan.
2 - Carefully pour the sugar into the center of the pan, making sure not to allow any sugar to touch the sides of the pan. (If the sugar does touch the sides of the pan, when heated, the sugar will crystalize and ruin the sauce)
3 - Gently stir the sugar with a clean spatula until it is thoroughly wet.
4 - Bring the mixture to a boil over medium high heat. Without mixing, allow the mixture to boil until all of the sugar is dissolved and the sauce turns a faint gold color. This will take about 3 to 6 minutes and the mixture will be at around 300 degrees F on a candy thermometer.
5 - Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to cook, stirring occasionally until the caramel is a dark amber color. It will take about 1 to 3 minutes and reach about 350 degrees F on a candy thermometer.
6 - Take the pan off of the heat and slowly whisk in the cream until combined. (Adding the cream will cause the mixture to bubble vigorously, so please be careful!)
7 - Then stir in the vanilla, lemon juice, and salt.
Yields 1 1/2 cups
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