Monday, September 16, 2013

Autumn Baking: Carmelitas



For the past three years, there has been a woman at our local farmer's market who made these bar cookies called "Carmelitas". Unfortunately this year she didn't return to the market so I have been missing what I have often described to friends as the best cookie I've ever had. I resisted looking for a recipe for them for so long because I know I could probably consume an entire pan.



And then just like that, this pin popped up on Pinterest. I think I showed great fortitude in waiting 46 weeks to make them.



That said, the original recipe called for an 8x8 pan and using melted packaged caramels and I just knew I could improve upon that (which the original recipe even suggests). Never mind that the first time I made caramel, I burned it  and the second time, I almost set the kitchen on fire (okay, I did set the kitchen on fire). I have successfully made caramel since, but that didn't stop Doug from quipping that it would be even more fun this time because he has a great camera to capture the resulting pyrotechnics. Thanks, dear.



Anyway, I managed to make the caramel without singeing my eyebrows, burning the sugar or making a mess and the result was pretty spectacular. Just use a big pot and wait for the bubbling to subside just like the recipe says! You'll have a bit left over, but since when is extra caramel sauce a bad thing?

Oh, and the Carmelitas? Just as good as I remembered.



Carmelitas 
Adapted from Lulu the Baker and America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook
Makes one 9x13 inch pan, cut as desired

Bars
2 1/2 cups caramel sauce (directions below)
1 1/2 cups butter, melted
1 1/2 cups brown sugar, lightly packed
2 cups flour
2 cups rolled oats
2 teaspoons baking soda
12 ounces (one bag) semisweet chocolate chips

Caramel sauce
1 cup water
2 cups sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Bar Instructions
1. Make caramel sauce. Stir until completely smooth; set aside.

2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

3. In a separate bowl, combine melted butter, brown sugar, flour, oats, and baking soda. 

4. Pat half of the oatmeal mixture into the bottom of an 8x8" pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. 

5. Remove pan from oven and sprinkle chocolate chips over crust. Pour caramel mixture over chocolate chips. Crumble remaining oatmeal mixture over caramel. 

6. Return to oven and bake an additional 15-20 minutes, until the edges are lightly browned. Remove from oven and cool completely before cutting.

7. Store at room temperature for up to three days. (Who am I kidding, these won't last three hours.)

Caramel Sauce Instructions
NOTE: Do not stir while making the syrup until the instructions specify to whisk. If your burners heat unevenly like mine, you can gently swirl the pan once or twice, but stirring will result in graininess.

1. Pour the water into a large saucepan. Add the sugar to the center of the pan, taking care not to let the granules adhere to the sides of the pan. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat.

2. Once boiling, uncover and continue to to boil until the syrup is straw-colored and registers 300 degrees on a candy thermometer, about 7 minutes. Reduce to medium heat and continue to cook until the syrup is a deep amber color and registers 350 degrees on the thermometer, 1 to 2 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, bring the cream and salt to a simmer in a medium saucepan. (if the cream simmers before the syrup reaches a deep amber color, remove it from the heat and cover to keep warm.)

4. Remove the sugar syrup from the heat. Very carefully, pour about one-quarter of the hot cream into the sugar syrup and let the bubbling subside. Add the remaining cream and vanilla and let the bubbling subside. Whisk the sauce gently until smooth. Serve warm or cool to room temperature, about 1 hour.

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