Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Caramel oatmeal bars

A month or so ago I was craving a simple dessert, but lacking inspiration.  I started flipping through my old binder full of hand written recipes that I started over a decade ago (does anyone else feel nostalgia for hand written recipes? or am I the only one to do that still...), looking for some old forgotten recipes I used to love.  I came across a bunch of simple classics that I had forgotten about, that made a great distraction from my macaron obsession.

There are a great number of classic, simple, reliable recipes - the kind that used to be a standard on the side of brand name candy and cereal bags.  For some reason these recipes seem to have been forgotten by the road side as everyone strives for new creative or fancy desserts, and I'm excited to start cooking through these again.  I love the reliability and consistency from these recipes, and they often bring back fond childhood memories, like making a mess in the kitchen.

This week I present you with a slight variation on the Kraft caramel bar.  The original recipe I made growing up calls for Kraft caramels, that are melted down in the microwave with heavy cream, then sandwiched between layers of chocolate oatmeal cookies.  I haven't found soft chewy caramels here in England, so I had to resort to making the caramel myself, but this led me to another great recipe.  This caramel recipe is soft and buttery and chewy and delicious and addictive....  I recommend doubling the caramel recipe and pouring it into a 9x13 inch pan and sprinkle some chocolate chips on one end.  I then cut off a 4x13 inch rectangle and cut this into individual caramels to eat plain, and use the rest in the caramel bars.  This caramel is pretty straightforward to make, but it does require a candy thermometer!

Below I've included instructions to make your own caramel, or melt down purchased caramels, both are delicious!

Caramel Oatmeal Bars
adapted from kraft oatmeal bars and land o'lakes caramel 

Caramel ingredients
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 113 grams (1/2 cup) butter
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 cup light corn syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla

OR: 1 bag of kraft caramels (11 ounces bag, about 32 individual caramels), unwrapped
5 Tb whipping cream (UK)/heavy cream (US)

Oatmeal crumble ingredients:
- 170 grams (3/4 cup) unsalted butter
- 1 cup flour
- 1 cup whole rolled oats (you want whole, "large" pieces, this is what I buy in the UK: )
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Make the caramel:
  1. Line a 9x9 pan with parchment paper.
  2. Place everything but the vanilla in a heavy saucepan (at least 2 quarts).  Stir and cook over medium heat until the butter is melted and the mixture starts to boil, this step usually takes about 15-20 minutes.
  3. Place a candy thermometer in your pot (or use an infrared one!), and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until it reaches a temperature of 244 f.  This should take a good 25-30 minutes to reach temperature.  If you are unsure, place a small drop of the caramel liquid into a glass of ice water, if it spreads out, it is not ready.  At about 244 f (the firm ball stage), it should form a firmish ball, you can squeeze between your fingers.
  4. Remove from heat, mix in vanilla, and pour into the prepared pan.  Leave it to cool overnight, or place in the fridge to speed up the process.
OR melt the caramel:
If you are using pre-made caramels, place the caramels and heavy cream in a glass bowl, and melt them together in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds to prevent burning, until smooth.

Make the Oatmeal bars:
Preheat the oven to 176 c (350f).  Line a 9x9 pan with parchment paper running up at least two of the sides.
  1. In a medium glass bowl, melt the butter carefully in the microwave (30 second increments, stirring in between).  Let it cool for a few minutes, then stir in the flour, oats, brown sugar, baking soda and salt (everything but the chocolate chips).
  2. Press half of the mixture into the pan, making sure to get some into the corners (this is a pretty thin layer, don't worry).  Bake the crust for 8 minutes, then remove onto a wire rack.
  3. Sprinkle 3/4 cups of the chocolate chips over the baked crust.  Place the caramel over the crust: either pulling back the parchment paper and laying the square of solid home-made caramel on top, or pouring the melted caramel over it.
  4. Mix the remaining 3/4 cup chocolate chips into the remaining oatmeal/cookie mixture, then crumble this on top of the caramel layer.
  5. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the edges are starting to get golden.
  6. Using the parchment handles, lift the dessert from the pan, and cut into squares.

1 comment:

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