My big grad school exams are next week, which means I have been studying all summer and am struggling to find motivation to keep studying. You’d think needing to pass these exams would be motivation enough, but I’ve been preparing for these crazy things for months now and am just ready to take them and get them over with! I am currently sitting at a coffee shop with my papers and books strewn about and I sure look like I’m studying, but what I am doing instead? Blogging. Obviously necessary. But hey, you have to take study breaks every once in a while, right?
I’m a big fan of “productive” procrastination because when I’m doing something at least relatively productive, I don’t feel so guilty about not studying. So, I’ve been productively procrastinating by running, going to the gym, catching up with friends, and, of course, baking! (And baking is definitely productive….at least I tell myself that!) Plus baked goods always manage to lighten the mood in a room full of stressed out grad students. So, after skimming the internet for some new recipes, I settled on one for Oatmeal Carmelitas, inspired by this recipe. They’re chocolately caramely deliciousness, and decadently rich after my last sugar-free post!
But, before I get to the recipe, you might have noticed that my little poochie pie Junior was not in my list of productive procrastination methods. That’s because the lucky pup went over to Idaho to frolic in the wilderness at our family’s lake cabin. So, while I’m slaving away, spending my days doing math problems, Junior’s chilling on the boat and rolling in dead fish, which he greatly enjoys. I’m maybe a little jealous of my dog.
Anyways, back to the carmelitas! They’re made with oats and chocolate and caramel and are super delicious. I modified the original recipe a bit and they turned out really well! The recipe does involve unwrapping a bunch of caramel candies, but really it’s worth it. And if you have someone you can coerce into helping you, it goes really quickly with two people! It also involves melting those caramel candies, which you really do need to do over LOW heat, unless you want to ruin a perfectly good sauce pan. I just left mine in the pan on the lowest heat setting and they were perfectly melted after I’d finished making the oatmeal batter and gotten that in the oven. They’re easy and fantastic, and I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!
makes a 9×13 pan of bars
64 caramel squares, unwrapped
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups butter, melted
1 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
2 cups flour
2 cups rolled oats
1 teaspoon salt, plus more for sprinkling on the caramel
2 teaspoons baking soda
12 ounces (one bag) semi-sweet chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and either grease a 9×13 inch pan or line it with foil (foil means easier clean up!). Combine the caramels and heavy cream in a saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally until the caramels have melted into the cream. You don’t want lumps, but rather a nice smooth sauce. Remove the pan from heat and set aside. After it has cooled slightly, stir in the vanilla.
To make the oatmeal batter, combine the brown sugar, oats, flour, baking soda, and salt. Add the melted butter and mix until everything is coated and you have a crumbly dough. Press half of the dough into your pan and bake for 10 minutes. Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the crust and pour the caramel over the chocolate chips. Sprinkle a bit of salt over the top of the caramel (see note below). Then, crumble the remaining oat mixture over the top of the caramel and bake for 15 minutes, until the edges are lightly browned. Cool completely before cutting. These take a long time to cool because of the caramel, so don’t panic if it looks a liquidy for a while. You can refrigerate them to speed up the cooling process.
A note on salting the caramel: I am not a big fan of salted caramel, and used maybe 1/2 teaspoon total to sprinkle on top of the caramel layer, but it really adds a great depth of flavor to the bars! If you only use about 1/2 teaspoon, the bars will taste wonderfully chocolately and caramely and not like salted caramel at all. If you really like salted caramel, you might want to up the salt content here to get that flavor!