Monday, January 13, 2014

Nutty Caramel Oatmeal Bars

I have zero motivation to get started on things at work this week, but at least we have a long weekend to look forward to! I did a little baking this weekend for my friend Liz’s surprise birthday.  I’ll get to the baking details in a bit, but first I should do a proper recap of the party! Despite the fact that her mom thought we were childhood friends, Liz and I only went to high school together for 1.5 years.  Nevertheless, she’s one of my closest friends, each a part of the other’s wedding, and I’m even credited with introducing her to her husband (he and I went to college together)! I don’t think she was terribly surprised by the party, perhaps because her sister-in-law had to keep her at brunch well past the time their plates were cleared, but props to her husband for planning such a great party.  There was great food (dips galore, meatballs, roast beef sammies, and more), we played a few drinking games, and I discovered a new favorite drink – McKenzie’s Black Cherry Hard Cider! Since her actual birthday is today – HAPPY BIRTHDAY LIZ(ZY) :) Feeling very lazy on Sunday evening, KK suggested Oven Baked Risotto with Caprese Chicken for dinner which we enjoyed while watching the Golden Globes.

Now... onto the baked goods. Liz and her husband tend to follow a Paleo diet, so these bar cookies weren’t necessarily Paleo-friendly, but I had some caramel squares I wanted to use up, so I went ahead with it anyway! I have several oatmeal/chocolate/nut/caramel bar recipes in my email archives, so I took inspiration from all of them, but mostly based them off of Blue-Eyed Bakers’ recipe.  I was going to skip the parchment paper step, but decided to double-up with parchment paper and cooking spray to avoid a difficult of melted butter and sticky caramel (you’re welcome, KK!).  I used a combination of milk chocolate and dark chocolate chips this time, but you can use semisweet, white, or even butterscotch chips to add a little variety.  My favorite part of these bars were the salted peanuts – they added just the right amount of saltiness to offset the caramel chocolate filling.  I baked these the night before the party, and allowed them to cool completely before cutting them.  These bars are very dense, so I do recommend cutting them into small pieces.  In an airtight container stored at room temperature, the bars will stay fresh for about a week, but I imagine the party leftovers will be devoured by my coworkers in a matter of minutes after lunch today!

Nutty Caramel Oatmeal Bars
Adapted from Blue-Eyed Bakers
Time: 50 minutes
Makes: 30-40 bars

Crust & Topping Ingredients
Cooking spray
1 ½ cups salted dry roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
3 cups flour
2 ½ cups old fashioned oats (not quick cooking)
⅔ cups sugar
⅔ cups packed light brown sugar
2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 ¼ cups (3 sticks) butter, melted

Caramel Chocolate Filling Ingredients
24 soft caramel candies
½ cup heavy cream
1 cup mini Rolos
¾ cup chocolate chips (milk chocolate, dark, or semisweet)

1. Preheat oven to 350°.  Grease a glass 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray, and line bottom and sides with parchment paper.

2. Mix together dry crust ingredients in a large bowl.  Pour in melted butter, and mix until combined.  Use ⅔ of the mixture to form the bar crust, pressing the mixture into an even layer on the bottom of the prepared baking dish.  Bake 20 minutes, until crust is golden brown and soft.

3. Prepare the caramel filling while the crust bakes.  Melt caramels and heavy cream in a small saucepan over low heat.  Stir frequently to prevent the cream from boiling.  Once caramels begin to melt, but are still somewhat clumpy, add Rolos to the saucepan.  Continue stirring until both the caramels and Rolos are melted, about 7-10 minutes in total.  Let caramel cool slightly.

4.  Cool crust on a rack for 5 minutes.  Top with chocolate chips and cover with caramel chocolate sauce.  Crumble remaining crust/topping mixture on top of the filling.

5. Bake 20-25 minutes until top is golden brown.  Cool completely on a wire rack before cutting.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for spending my bday with me MC! It was so fun to have you and KK in town. We must get together again soon!!! I'll keep you posted about our Super Bowl trip! xx


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