Cooking lesson the second: Caramel Oat Chocolate Bars

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Okay, so this is a secret recipe that I'm going to share with you. I almost changed my mind at the last minute because I've never given this recipe out, but I just love y'all that much. I have been making these bars for years and they're damn good, if I do say so myself. They're also spectacularly unhealthy, which is why I typically only make them if they're soon to be leaving my house. I could eat them all in one sitting, but I'd instantly gain 15 pounds. It would be so worth it.

First up are the ingredients:

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Brown Sugar
Oats (the slow cooking/old fashioned kind)
Baking Soda
Chocolate Chips/Chunks
Caramel Ice Cream Topping

So the first thing you're going to do is take 3, yes, I really did say 3, sticks of butter and melt them in the microwave. Admittedly I used 2 sticks of butter and one of margarine, but it did change the texture and I won't do it again. I have been told that the recipe still works with 2 sticks of butter and may try that sometime when I'm not making them for other people, but right now you're going to have to trust me that it's worth it or you're going to have to take the texture into your own hands to save the calories and fat.

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You'll need to nuke it for about a minute and a half to melt it completely and then set it aside.

Measure out 2 cups flour, 3/4 cup sugar, 3/4 cup brown sugar, 2 cups old fashioned oats (do not substitute quick oats, it will not work, I promise), 1 tsp baking soda and 1/2 tsp salt. Do not put the flour away, you'll still need a little more later. Mix this a little bit with a fork, don't worry about getting it too mixed up, you just want there not to be a big pile of baking soda on the top.

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Now pour the melted butter into the dry ingredients and mix, using a fork (you don't need your kitchen aid for these). They don't need to be perfectly mixed, just well combined so that there aren't big puddles of butter or big pockets of flour.

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Now, take this fabulous concoction and press about half of it into the bottom of a LIGHTLY greased 9x13 inch pan. I like to press it up on the sides a little bit so it will contain the fillings a little bit.

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Keep in mind that the dough has no eggs in it, so there's just no reason not to sneak a taste here and there. It's goooooood. Now put that pan into a preheated (350*) oven.

While your crust is baking, pour the caramel into a bowl and add 6 tablespoons of flour to it. The best caramel I've ever found is not sold here in NOLA, but if you can get it, Mrs. Richardson's Butterscotch Caramel ice cream topping is the shit.

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Now mix, but do so carefully, otherwise it's going to get everywhere. Not that I've done that every time I've made these, but I'm just saying. It'll end up a few shades lighter and a little thicker than it started. It still tastes really freaking good.

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Now set this aside for now.

The original recipe said to bake the crust for 10 minutes, but here's what mine looked like at 10 mintues...

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Just not brown enough for my tastes, so I put it back in for 5 more minutes (15 total). You want it to be very lightly brown, but neither overcooked (then the final product will be way crunchy), nor undercooked and mushy. There's a fine line. This looks a lot more like what I want.

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Now, take the bag of chocolate chips (I used chocolate chunks and they worked out great), but to be honest the best chocolate chips for this recipe are the ghirardelli double chocolate chips, they're so worth the extra cost. Anyway, sprinkle about half the bag's worth of whatever chips you chose all over the crust that you've just pulled out of the oven.

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Leave them there for a few minutes to soften. Don't rush the softening, otherwise you'll rip the crust apart on this next step. They'll start softening in no time, just be patient grasshopper. See, about 3-4 minutes later, they're all melty.

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For this next step I use a frosting spatula, but any knife would do. Gently, without ripping your crust apart, spread the chocolate all over the crust. I don't go quite all the way to the edge, but pretty darn close. And I definitely lick the spatula when I'm done.

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Now, take the caramel flour mixture you've set aside and pour it carefully over the whole crust. Don't get too much anywhere, you want it to cover evenly. Do NOT mix it with the chocolate, we're going for layers here people.

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Now, remember the half of the crust mixture you had lying around? Or rather, what's left after you sat there and dipped little chunks of it into the caramel concoction (not that I did that...). You're going to use your hands and sprinkle little chunks of it all over the caramel mixture. This is an area of personal preference we're about to enter. I almost never use the entire remaining half of the crust mixture because I don't want the top to be a fully covering crust, I want there to be little areas of caramel peeking through. If you want to cake the top layer on, by all means, have at it.

Either way, once you've covered it to your heart's desires, very gently press down the oatmeal chunks into the caramel, I mean very gently, just so that it's not floating on top of the caramel, it's really more snuggling up against it. Oh, and hello sparkly ring. How are you today?

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Now pop this beautiful pan into the oven. The original recipe says to bake for 15 minutes, but once again, it just wasn't done enough for me. I think in the end I ended up baking for 18 minutes. Like I said last week, I tend to set timers and ignore them. There are no eggs here, so underbaking won't hurt anything. On the flip side, you do not want it to overcook them, because the bottom will get really crispy. They'll still taste good even if overbaked, they just won't be quite as melt-in-your-mouth soft. Here's what mine looked like after 18 minutes.

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Now, this next part is incredibly important. You will want to eat these because they smell SO good. But you must let them cool. And not just for like 10 minutes, like an hour, probably more like 2. If you cut them when they're still warm they won't hold a shape, they'll just sort of melt out into a puddle. A super good tasting puddle, but a puddle and not so much a cookie bar. So try really hard to refrain from cutting them until they're no longer warm to the touch.

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And after you wait, you will be rewarded. I realize that this is a horrible picture, but I'm pretty sure it's because a camera cannot capture the true beauty that is a caramel oat chocolate bar. Yea, it's most definitely the beauty and not the terrible photographer.

Caramel Oat Chocolate Bar Recipe

2 cups flour
2 cups old fashioned oats
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter, melted
1/2 bag of chocolate chips
1 (12 oz) jar caramel ice cream topping
6 tbsp flour

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, lightly grease the bottom of a 9x13 inch pan.
2. Stir together 2 cups flour, oats, sugar, brown sugar, baking soda and salt. Add in melted butter. Press half the mixture into the bottom of the 9x13 inch pan. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until lightly golden.
3. While the crust is baking, combine the 12oz of caramel with 6 tbsp of flour. Mix until well combined (will be lighter in color).
4. After the crust comes out of the oven, sprinkle half a bag of chocolate chips (or more if desired) over the hot crust and let it sit (outside of the oven) for 3-5 minutes to allow the chips to soften. When they've melted, gently spread the chocolate over the crust, covering the bottom evenly. Pour the caramel mixture over the top and spread so that it covers evenly.
5. Take the remaining crust mixture and and sprinkle it over the top, covering evenly. Gently press the oats down into the caramel.
6. Place back in the 350 degree oven for 15-18 more minutes, or until the top crust is lightly brown.
7. Allow to cool completely, then cut and enjoy!


Pontchartrain Pete said...

Sitting in my office salivating. Gimme!

Katie said...

Well, I'll tell you what. If I end up meeting you and NOLA tomorrow, I'll bring some. How's that?

Moondance said...


kim-d said...

Mmmm...Caramel Oat Chocolate Bars. You make them. And, to me, send. If you don't, you run the risk of me showing up where you and Nola and pontchartrain pete meet. And you don't want that. Seriously, these look and sound divine, and incredibly easy. And everything good includes three sticks of butter, right? At this point in life, what's a little extra butter. HAHAHA!

nola said...

That IS a sparkly ring!! Thanks for sharing!

taylor said...

Oh my god! These look completely AMAZING. Thank you for sharing!

(and you have lovely hands!)

Sandy C. said...

That looks. like. heaven! And I'm with Nola..Love your ring :)

Anonymous said...

Oh my god I REALLY want to make these. They look completely amazing and fantabulous. Can't wait!!!!