Chocolate-Oatmeal Carmelitas

I’m a cookbook junkie. There, I said it. That’s the first step towards recovery, right? But, I think I may be too far gone to rehabilitate. We are having a gift and book fair at work right now and, generally, where there are books, there are cookbooks and this book fair did not disappoint. Yes, I browsed and yes, I purchased. 2 of them! I wanted more!! It’s promising that I limited myself to only 2, right? I could have bought them ALL! Anyway, the good news is I have new recipes to try and that means YOU’LL get new recipes to try. One of the cookbooks is a crock pot cookbook and you know how much I love convenience, especially on a weekday. OMG, I am so excited about these new recipes!!! (insert vision of Kermit wildly swinging his arms around to describe how EXCITED I am!!!)

But, this post is not about cookbooks. It’s about a bake sale. No really, we’re having a bake sale at work tomorrow – I know! So many exciting things happening at my place of employment!! – and the proceeds benefit the American Heart Association. It’s our final bake sale before the Heart Walk on Saturday. So, even though I had a tough workout at class tonight and I’ve been up a loooooong time already, you know I had to contribute – especially once I found a recipe for Chocolate-Oatmeal Carmelitas, courtesy of Food and Wine magazine. (did I mention I’m also a cooking magazine junkie? *sigh* I have a problem.) The ABSOLUTE BEST part about this recipe is the fact that it has to sit overnight before cutting the carmelitas into bars. That means, once the pan comes out of the oven, I’m going to bed! Anyway, that’s not important – well, to me it is but we’re not talking about me. We’re talking about chocolate chips, oatmeal, pecans, caramel all combined into one fabulous dessert concoction. Oh, did I mention the butter? Yes. Butter. Lots of it. The whole thing is decadence in a 9×13 pan. Yes, I know I tout healthy eating. No, these cannot be lumped into the “healthy treat” category. So what? Sometimes, a girl just wants a chewy oatmeal bar jam packed with gooey caramel, chocolate chips, and pecans. So sue me. You know you want one too. 🙂

Chocolate-Oatmeal Carmelitas
makes 24 bars

3 cups plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 sticks (1 pound) unsalted butter, softened
3 cups quick-cooking rolled oats
2 1/4 cups light brown sugar
one 16-ounce jar dulce de leche (1 1/2 cups); see Note
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup chopped pecans

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by-13-inch metal baking pan. In a large bowl, whisk 3 cups of the flour with the baking soda and salt. Add the butter, oats and brown sugar and mix until combined. In a small bowl, mix the dulce de leche with the remaining 3 tablespoons of flour.

2. Pat half of the oat mixture into the baking pan. Bake for 15 minutes. Scatter half of the chocolate chips and pecans over the crust. Dollop half of the dulce de leche mixture on top. Crumble the remaining oat mixture evenly into the pan. Cover with the remaining chocolate chips, pecans and dulce de leche. Bake for about 35 minutes, or until the edges are set. Let stand uncovered at room temperature overnight. Cut the carmelitas into bars and serve.

NOTE: Dulce de leche, the Latin caramel sauce, is available at most supermarkets and specialty food shops.

MAKE AHEAD: Once cooled, the carmelitas can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 1 month.

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