Salted Carmelita Bars

After months of procrastination, we finally finished our taxes yesterday! Nothing like waiting until the last minute, right? They’ve been on our to-do list every weekend since the end of February but we didn’t make them a priority until the deadline was staring us in the face. And now that I know we’re getting a little something back I think there’s some online shopping in my future! I’ve had my eye on a few new pieces for my summer wardrobe… :)

And while we’re celebrating having accomplished this dreaded task, I think a sweet, gooey dessert might be in order too. Though, truthfully, it’s Monday, and isn’t that reason enough for a decadent little treat? Is Monday your least favorite day of the week? I think mine is actually Sunday, sometimes the anticipation of the long week ahead is worse than the reality.

Salted Carmelita Bars

I’d never heard of carmelita bars until fairly recently but once they were on my radar, I knew it wouldn’t be long until I’d be making them. Here’s what we have: an oat shortbread-like cookie crust topped with chocolate chips and salted caramel sauce finished off with a crumble topping. So easy, and so ridiculously good! The extra salt in the caramel really helps balance off all of the sweetness going on here. I stored the bars in the fridge then popped them in the microwave for a few seconds before eating them so they were uber gooey. A messy way to eat them, but my favorite!

This version calls for making your own salted caramel sauce to use in the bars. I promise the recipe here is super simple, and I always feel like homemade caramel sauce yields a better result than the caramel candies. The choice is yours though! Also, the original recipe called for pecans in the filling along with the chocolate and caramel. We’re not fans so I skipped them, but feel free to include them (or substitute your favorite nut).

Salted Carmelita Bars
slightly adapted from Kelsey Nixon (via Cooking Channel)

{Note: you can halve this recipe and bake in an 8-inch square pan.}

Salted Caramel
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Bars
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups quick-cooking oats
1 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup semisweet (or bittersweet) chocolate chips
salted caramel sauce (from above, you should have about 1 1/3 cups)

To make the salted caramel: Add the sugar and water to a medium saucepan and set over medium heat. Swirl the pan to combine, then allow the mixture to come to a boil (don’t stir). Place a cover on the pan and continue boiling for 2-3 minutes (this allows the steam to clean any crystals off the sides of the pan. Remove the cover and continue cooking (still, no stirring) until the mixture is a deep amber color. Take the pan off the heat and add the heavy cream (be careful, it’ll bubble up). Add the butter and salt and whisk until combined – if you wind up with a few chunks of caramel, just set the pan over low heat and whisk frequently to melt them.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a 9×13-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Add 2 cups of the flour, the oats, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix briefly on low just to combine. Add the butter and beat on low speed until the butter is broken into small bits and the mixture is crumbly. Transfer about two-thirds of the mixture to the prepared pan and press into an even layer over the bottom to form the crust (it’ll be a fairly thin layer). Bake for 10 minutes then remove the pan and transfer to a wire rack.

Sprinkle the chocolate chips evenly over the surface of the crust. Stir the remaining 2 tablespoons of flour into the salted caramel sauce until incorporated, then pour the caramel over the chocolate chips in an even layer. Sprinkle the remaining crumb mixture over the chocolate and caramel (I like to squeeze it in my hand so there are some bigger chunks mixed in). Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the topping is lightly browned. Remove the pan to a wire rack and allow the bars to cool completely then refrigerate for at least 2 hours (I left mine overnight). Cut into squares and serve. I stored these in an airtight container in the refrigerator and briefly microwaved them for about 10 seconds before eating.