Monday, December 9, 2013

Salted Caramel Bars

Salted caramel sauce... bittersweet chocolate chips... pecans…all housed in an buttery oat crust. Are you drooling yet? There's no way you can you go wrong here.
Since these are bars, it goes without saying that they travel well. These also make a wonderful gift- just put them in a pretty box with a small jar of the salted caramel sauce and a note about how you should win “Gift Giver of the Year” for giving this away.

Maybe you’re in a time-crunch and don’t have time to make the homemade Salted Caramel Sauce. You could technically cheat and use a good-quality store bought sauce, but then you miss out on licking the spoon as the caramel is cooling. Or having some leftover sauce stashed away for a midnight spoon dip. 

reserve 1 1/2 cups of dough for topping
the toppings for the cooled crust
hot & bubbly, fresh out of the oven
The first time I made this recipe I thought it was just ok. The caramel, which should be the star ingredient, seemed like it absorbed into the crust. This time I used a different recipe for a Salted Caramel Sauce (rather than the one recommended with the original recipe) and adjusted the crust proportions. I also added more Salted Caramel Sauce to make it really stand out. I don't think you'll be disappointed. (recipe to follow)

Salted Caramel Bars, aka Carmelita’s
Slightly modified from here
Makes 36-66

Recipe notes:
- I used Old Fashioned Oats, because that’s what I have, although the original recipe calls for quick-cooking oats. Either is fine, the Old Fashioned Oats just leave a little more texture in the bars.
- Personally I prefer the taste of dark chocolate with caramel, rather than milk chocolate. Therefore, I used the Ghirardelli’s Bittersweet chocolate chips (no, I’m not getting free bags of that stuff, I just like it!) but use any flavor of chocolate that you fancy.
- I did a few adjustments to the original recipe- I added vanilla to the crust (shocker) and added ¼ cup more of the Salted Caramel Sauce (which required adding a little more flour). I also adjusted the proportions of the batter by only reserving 1 ½ cups of it for a “sprinkling” effect on top, rather than half which was in the original. Oh and I added more chocolate chips. You're welcome.
- The Salted Caramel Sauce can be made the same day you're going to make these but just give yourself time for the Caramel to cool- two to three hours should do the trick.
- Once these are completely cooled, they're fine to leave out at room temp, the caramel will just get softer and gooier. If it's at all possible that you have extra's, store them in the fridge.
- What's with the 36-66? Well, I cut them teeny-tiny, because they're really rich, and I was bringing them to a potluck where there would be other desserts and most people just want to sample a variety of options. Normally though, I would slice them around the 36 number to give as gifts. 

2 Cups flour
1 ¾ Cups oats 
1 ¼ Cups brown sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla
1 ¼ Cups (or 20 Tbs.) unsalted butter, softened
1 ¼ Cup bittersweet chocolate chips
¾ Cup roughly chopped pecans
1 ¾ Cups Salted Caramel Sauce (recipe here)
3 Tbs. flour

1. Preheat oven to 350° F and grease a 9x13” pan.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the flour, oats, brown sugar, baking soda, salt and butter until crumbly. Remove 1 ½ cups of the dough and reserve for the topping. Press the rest of the crumb mixture in the prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes. Remove and let cool slightly.
3. Sprinkle the chocolate chips and chopped pecans over the cooled crust. Mix the salted caramel sauce and flour together- drizzle this over the chocolate chips and pecans. Top with the remaining crumb mixture.
4. Put the pan back in the oven to bake for an additional 15-20 minutes, or until the crust starts to brown. Allow the pan to cool and then refrigerate until the caramel filling is set. Cut into bars and serve. 

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