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Caramel and Chocolate Gooey Bars

Posted Feb 20 2012 11:19pm

I created the world’s gooey-est and stickiest bars when I made these. Or at the very least, the gooey-est bars I’ve ever made, and I’m not complaining. That’s what soap and water is for.

There are only good things that can come from melting butter, brown sugar, caramels, and cream.

Add lots of vanilla extract and chocolate for good measure.

When I received these caramel squares from Oh! Nuts , I had a few ideas for bars that would incorporate melted caramels.

I prefer making bars to cookies because bars are much faster and less fussy to make.

And I prefer these bars to anything I’ve eaten so far in 2012.

To say these are rich is an understatement. The melted caramels and cream, the butter, the chocolate seeping through each bite. Call Ina Garten and let the woman who cooks with a pound of butter like it’s a tablespoon know that these bars will give her a run for her butter money.

I really can’t convey how dense they are. Each one is like holding a little lead weight.

When I gave Scott the small 8-by-8-inch pan to hold, he thought I had lined it with heavy metal objects. I assured him that it wasn’t a stunt pan; just all the good stuff which is that heavy.

He also thought I put alcohol in them because they have so much depth of flavor. He thought it was another rum cake special, but no. I attribute the depth of flavor to the caramels.

I also added a copious amount of vanilla extract to them, allowing the vanilla flavor to not only stand up to, but really complement, the caramels. Too often vanilla gets lost, but not in these.

I assure you that you will want to get lost with one of these.

 

    Print This!    

Caramel and Chocolate Gooey Bars (Gluten Free with Vegan option)

Makes 16 bars

3/4 cups butter, melted

1 1/2 cups whole rolled oats

3/4 cup brown sugar, packed

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup all-purpose flour, optional*

1 teaspoon vanilla extract + 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup chocolate chips

35 caramel squares (or 2 cups caramel sauce)

2/3 cup half-and-half or cream

Preheat oven to 350F and line an 8 x 8-inch baking pan with aluminum foil, allowing for overhang (do not make this recipe unless you line your pan with foil) and spray the foil down very well with cooking spray. Note: Do not select a jellyroll type pan because the recipe bubbles up and higher sides are needed to prevent spillover. In a large microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter. To the melted butter add the oats, brown sugar, baking soda, flour*, one teaspoon vanilla, and stir to combine. Pour just over half the oat-butter mixture (about 60%, eyeball it) into the bottom of the prepared baking pan, spread it evenly with a spatula, and bake for 9-10 minutes. The mixture will bubble up and foam considerably while baking. Watch it closely and the sides will show a bit of browning at about 9-10 minutes. Remove pan from oven and let it rest and cool for 3 minutes, and then sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top in an even layer.

While the mixture is baking, unwrap the caramels and place them in a medium-sized saucepan that’s been sprayed with cooking spray. Add the cream to the caramels and melt over medium-high heat, stirring nearly continuously to prevent scorching or boiling. It may take 5 minutes for caramels to completely melt. After mixture has melted, is smooth and combined, turn off the heat and add one teaspoon of vanilla, using caution because the vanilla will likely bubble up a bit, and stir to incorporate.

Pour the melted creamy caramel mixture over the top of the oat mixture that has been topped with chocolate chips. It will be very soupy, this is fine. Take the remaining half (40%) of the oat-butter mixture and sprinkle it as evenly as possible over the top, using a spatula to gently spread the oats within the “caramel soup”. Place pan on top of a cookie sheet as a precaution for spill-over and bake for 14-16 minutes more, or until sides of the mixture are beginning to brown (Look closely in order to discern “browning edges” from the overall brown color of the caramel mixture when it’s baking; they’re very similar but distinct enough to differentiate). The mixture will be bubbling quite intensely while baking and watch it for signs of spilling over. Remove pan from the oven and allow it to rest and completely cool on the countertop before attempting to slice the bars (at least two hours) or you can expedite the process by placing the pan in the freezer or refrigerator until sufficiently cool enough to slice (but not frozen). Store bars in an airtight container in the refrigerator, or freezer, and freeze extras for up to 3 months. I stored these bars in the freezer because they were so gooey and they never froze solid (all that butter).

Notes: *I did not add flour to the bars as they are shown here and they are incredibly gooey and are hard to keep in a “neat” bar form, which only matters if you’re trying to take pictures of them or transport them. If you prefer something less gooey and sticky and more portable, add 1/2 cup flour. If you do not have caramel squares, you could use 2 cups of caramel sauce for ice cream and the thicker and richer, the better; however, I have not tested the recipe with caramel sauce. Oats are a gluten free grain but use certified GF if necessary and take care the caramels used are GF. To make the recipe vegan, use margarine in place of butter, cashew cream (1/4 cup cashews, soaked, and blended with 3/4 cup water) or another nut-based or vegan milk in place of the cream, and use vegan caramels .

Make sure your gym membership is active or your running shoes are laced. You may want to get a little exercise after these.

Be forewarned: these are sticky and gooey and you should probably store them in refrigerator or freezer.  You may also want to eat them with a fork.

Yes these are sweet, but they’re not as sweet as they are fatty dense, rich, thick, heavy.

You will be able to feel the butter on your lips after you get done taking a bite and every once in awhile, that’s a-okay. Knowing that the high butter content of your latest dessert does double-duty for chapped lips is always a winning feeling.

If you’ve had a bad day, a PMS day, want to butter up (literally) your spouse before you ask them to take you to Bora Bora or impress friends ‘n fam at parties, make these.

Guests may need to use forks unless you pet names like Aunt Susie Sticky Fingers and Uncle Bobby Butter Fingers are acceptable among party-goers.

The oozing chocolate.

The drippy caramel cream sauce.

These will make you close your eyes, savor each bite, and the world will just.stop.while.you.chew.

Ahhh….

If you’re a fan of caramel, I recommend:

Caramel Apple Bars (GF with Vegan adaptation)

Raw Vegan GF Caramels (sandwich style with peanut butter in the middle)

Caramel Peanut Butter and Apricot Jelly Bars (GF with Vegan adaptation)

Happy unwrapping.

 

Do you like caramels?

I love them and all things caramel-flavored.

What’s one of the last really rich and dense desserts or other foods you’ve had?

Sometimes I want something airy and light like popcorn or angel food cake. Sometimes I want a lead balloon. Today was the later.

Thanks for the Babycakes Cupcake Maker and Cookbook Giveaway entries.

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