Carmelita Bars

I’m at it again. For some reason I have caramel obsession on the brain lately. I’ve actually been wanting to make these for some time. Last summer we went to our local San Francisco “Off The Grid” which is a local food truck gathering. There I was with The Husband, child and dog in tow and we were each perusing around the “grid” each buying various food items to share and tracking each other down after our hunt and kill was done. I had done savory. The Husband had done spicy. The child had done messy. I was after something sweet. A serious sweet tooth nagging at my noggin. I wish I could remember the name of the food truck I visited because I would love to give them their props for having the best freaking carmelita bar I’ve ever had. It had a bit of crunch to it on the bottom part of the crust. The caramel was butter rich, the oats were perfectly chewy but not too mushy. Upon my quick dissection of that caramel puppy I discovered it had a thin layer of sliced almonds. Freak yeah! I made a mental note right there. I said, self- you need to come up with a carmelita with a bit of crunch. I love gooey, but I love texture too; especially when the two are combined. You know how it is when you are enjoying some great street food and time almost seems to stand still? Everything is swirling around you, noise, people, commotion but you are able to focus on your personal food nirvana? Yeah, this was one of those moments, except I literally stood still. I mean, I seriously stopped dead in my tracks- frustrated Mothers with double wide strollers were strategically edging around me. Once I took a bite of that carmelita- I literally stopped in the middle of the grid and closed my eyes and finished off that caramel booger in about 4 bites. The Husband found me and said, ”Hey, I thought you were going to get something sweet” ? I looked at him like a naughty cat trying to hide my discovery. “Huh, me? naw, I changed my mind.” Some things you just have to keep to yourself. Meeowww!

Carmelita Bars

Filling

One 14 oz. bag Kraft caramels; unwrapped

1/2 Cup + 2 Tbsp. heavy cream

pinch salt

1 Cup rolled “old fashioned” oats (not quick oats)

1 Cup flour

1 tsp. baking soda

pinch of salt

2/3 Cup packed dark brown sugar

1  1/2 sticks (3/4 Cup) unsalted butter; melted

1/2 Cup sliced almonds

1/4 Cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a 9 inch square pan by lining with a parchment sling to cover each side so that a few inches hangs over on each side. Spray the lined pan with non-stick spray.

2. In a non-stick saucepan, over medium-high; heat the caramels and cream until the caramels melt and the mixture is smooth; let boil for about 30 seconds. Turn off the heat and set aside while you make the oat mixture for the crust.

3. Combine the oats, flour, baking soda, salt, sugar, and melted butter until combined.  Divide the mixture in half. If you have OCD tendencies like me that is about 9 oz. for each half. Press half of the mixture into the bottom of the pan and sprinkle the almonds over the oat mixture to cover completely; being careful to press into the crust firmly. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven; (the crust will look puffy-that’s okay), let cool about 5 minutes then sprinkle the mini chocolate chips over the crust. Pour the melted caramel mixture over the crust and smooth it evenly. Take the remaining half of oat mixture and sprinkle like big crumbs over the caramel, pressing in slightly. Bake for 15 minutes. DO NOT OVER BAKE; THE FILLING WILL BE VERY, VERY LOOSE and the edges of the oat mixture will be golden brown. The filling will solidify once cool. If you over bake it will become too hard. Let the pan cool on a wire rack until cool enough to park in the fridge until completely cool.

4. Cut the bars while they are cold. (I let them sit in the frige overnight).  Let come to room temperature to enjoy. Store any leftovers at room temperature.


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