Imagine you're now eating an oatmeal cookie that actually has chocolate chips, not the unfortunate raisins. Then add in a bunch of delicious, gooey caramel, and you might have a basic understanding of the joy a caramel bar will bring. For as long as I can remember, my family has used this as a cure-all for anything ranging from illnesses to rainy days. This family recipe has always been helped cheer me up when I'm feeling down, and is easy and relaxing to make. When it comes to deserts, this one really takes the cake.
What you will need:
- 1 cup butter (2 sticks)
- 1 cup flour
- 1 cup raw oatmeal
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 32 individually wrapped caramels, or 10 oz. soft caramels
- 3 Tablespoons milk
- 6 oz. chocolate chips
- 1 medium mixing bowl
- 1 medium microwave safe bowl
- 1 9x13-inch baking pan
- Mixing utensils
Step 1: Set Up Your Ingredients
One of the things I find most important before you start baking, is to know that you actually have all the ingredients you need before you start anything. No one wants to be halfway into making an apple pie before realizing they don't have any cinnamon, one of the most crucial parts of the recipe. Plus, if you measure everything out before hand, everything else goes pretty fast after that.
When measuring out dry ingredients like flour and oats, you want to level off the top with a flat edge like the back of a knife. This ensures your measurements are accurate to a T. Make sure to do this even for the baking soda and salt.
Note: Brown sugar is a bit finicky in its measurements. It usually has to be packed down, and so you can take a spoon or anything that can compress the sugar into the measuring cup. If you've done it correctly, it should maintain its shape after it has come out of the cup, like the first image of brown sugar in the bowl.
Step 2: Preheat Oven & Prep Baking Pan
Now that you've verified that you have all your materials, you can set up for the actual creation of different parts of the bars. First, you want to preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit so that it has time to warm up. Then, you'll want to prepare a 9 inch x 13 inch baking pan, and greasing it is practically crucial since caramel sticks a lot. You can use either non-stick spray or plain butter like the picture shows. Make sure to even get the sides, not just the bottom, otherwise your final product might end up a little crummy.
Step 3: Mix It All Together
In a medium or large mixing bowl you're going to combine all the dry ingredients. Pour in the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt. Then mix everything together until it is all uniform.
Step 4: Creating the Base
To start out, use only 3/4 cup of butter instead of all that is listed for this recipe; the other butter will be used up later. Microwave the butter in a microwave-safe bowl for about 30 seconds or until it is completely melted. Then, mix it into the dry ingredients, making sure nothing is left uncombined. Then, press 3/4 of the mixture into the bottom of the baking pan until it covers it entirely, just like as shown in the first picture.
Note: It is easier to cut the butter into the amount you need while it is still in the paper, the measurements will help you cut precisely the amount you need.
Step 5: Actual Baking... But Also More Prepping
Once you've finished the base, you can pop that in the oven for approximately 15 minutes. In the meantime while you're waiting, you can unwrap all 32 of the individually wrapped caramels. Once the fifteen minutes is up, you're now more than halfway done! Place the pan on a cooling rack and let it cool down a bit before going on to the next step.
Step 6: A Caramel Concoction
This is where everything finally starts to make sense. Start by combining the remaining butter, caramels, and milk in a microwave safe bowl. Then microwave the contents for about 2 minutes total or until everything becomes fully combined, making sure to mix the contents every thirty seconds or so. At the end, you should have a smooth, homogeneous mixture.
Note: Milk and caramel seem to have a complicated relationship with each other, so you might have to continue stirring the mixture even after the caramel has completely melted.
Step 7: Assembly
This is my favorite part of the whole process, finally seeing the product take shape. First, immediately after creating the caramel mixture, pour it over top of the base. The mixture should settle evenly on its own, but if it seems to be having trouble, you can gently nudge it around with your mixing spoon. Next, you can kind of just fling the chocolate chips and remaining base mixture over top of the caramel. At the end, it should look something like the first picture.
Step 8: Pulling It All Together
Finally, put everything back into the oven again (still at 350 degrees Fahrenheit). After about fifteen minutes or when the oats start to turn golden-brown, it should be done baking. Place the pan on a cooling rack, and wait a significant amount of time for the bars to cool down before you cut them since they will fall apart otherwise. Save them for a rainy day of your own, anytime you need a pick me up, or just eat them all right after you make them. No matter when you have a caramel bar, they always will make a day better. Enjoy!