Carmelitas {Mystery Dish Challenge}

Trust me when I say these are the most delicious cookie bars ever. Carmelitas are a heavenly combination of gooey caramel and half-melted chocolate chips sandwiched in between oatmeal cookie crumbs. It's practically impossible to eat these by hand. You'll need the help of a fork and napkin, and a very strong will to control yourself from eating everything in sight.

This month, I am guest posting for the Mystery Dish Challenge. Basically, it's a monthly challenge hosted by Dani Carroll from See Hubby Cook in which 12 bloggers create a dish of their fancy, choosing a couple ingredients out of a list of 8 - 10. For these carmelitas, I chose chocolate and cream.

Admittedly, Carmelitas are rich and gooey, so I wouldn't recommend making every day...But it's nice to treat yourself to some once in a while, especially during these polar vortex days. Northwestern doesn't believe in canceling school, even if it drops 20 degrees below zero and the high is zero. Frostbite shuttles are my new best friend.

Here's how you make the Carmelitas.

First, melt the butter. Add vanilla to it. Then add brown sugar. Then add flour, oats, baking soda, and salt.

Hand mix it all together nice and good until it's a crumbly mixture. It may be appear moist at first because of the melted butter, but after letting it sit, it'll take on a more crumbly texture.

Press half of the oatmeal cookie mixture onto the bottom of an 8 x 8 inch pan (I used a 9 inch circular cake pan, and it worked perfectly well.). While this bakes for 10 minutes, melt the caramel and heavy cream mixture. Alternatively, you may make homemade caramel sauce. I went the shortcut way because it's faster.

Here's the caramel sauce, all melted and ready. And just in time! The bottom layer of the Carmelitas is ready. See the nice and golden edges?

Get those chocolate chips ready. I used a combination of milk chocolate and semi-sweet.

Add the caramel sauce and sprinkle the remaining oatmeal cookie crumbs on top. Beautiful.

And here's the finished product. The hard part is waiting for it cool enough to slice.

Serve and enjoy at room temperature, with a tall glass of cold milk!





Adapted from Lulu the Baker
Yield: 12 servings | Time: 45 minutes


For Caramel Sauce:
32 caramel squares, unwrapped
1/2 cup heavy cream

Note: Alternatively, you may use 1 ¼ cup homemade or store-bought caramel sauce.

For the Oatmeal Cookie Layer:
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

For the Oatmeal Cookie Layer:

Melt the butter, and then add vanilla to it. Then add brown sugar, flour, oats, baking soda, and salt. Mix by hand until combined. Pat half of the oatmeal mixture into the bottom of an 8 x 8 inch pan. 9 inch circular pan works too. (If using a 9 x 13 inch pan, simply double the recipe and adjust the baking time.)

Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes.

For Caramel Sauce:
Meanwhile, use microwave to heat caramels and heavy cream in 30-second intervals, stirring well after each interval until melted and smooth. Alternatively, you may combine caramels and cream in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir constantly until completely melted and smooth. Set aside.

Remove pan from oven and sprinkle chocolate chips over crust. Pour caramel sauce over chocolate chips. Then crumble the remaining oatmeal mixture over the caramel layer.

Return the pan to the oven and bake for an additional 15 - 20 minutes, until the edges are lightly browned. Remove from oven and cool completely before cutting. Store in air-tight container, and serve at room temperature. Enjoy!


Here are the rest of the bloggers participating in January's Mystery Dish Challenge, if you're interested in checking them out!

1.  Carmelitas by Pass the Cocoa

2.  Strawberry Champagne Cupcake Trifles by The Dessert Chronicles

3.  Strawberry Orange Stuffed French Toast by I Dig Pinterest

4.  Strawberry Orange Ice Cream with Chocolate Chips by Joyful Healthy Eats

5.  Chocolate Strawberry Pudding by See Hubby Cook

6.  Chocolate Doughnuts with Strawberry Cream Cheese Icing by Chez CateyLou

7.  Champorado (Filipino Chocolate Rice Pudding) by The Pajama Chef

8.  Whole Wheat Orange Scones with Vanilla Cream Glaze by The Well Floured Kitchen

9.  Chocolate-Filled Cream Puffs with Strawberry Sauce by Culinary Couture

10.  Red Velvet Beet Cupcakes

by Yummy Healthy Easy

11.  Chocolate Covered Strawberry Milkshake by I Want Crazy

12.  Strawberry Rose Chocolate Verrines by Baking a Moment

Homemade Granola Bars

So today's an anniversary of sorts. While Pass the Cocoa is only one and a half years old, Monica and I started food blogging exactly 2 years ago on our high school newspaper's website, under the blog name Just Desserts.

Neither of us had any idea what we were doing. We had almost no experience in baking, and even less in photography (as some of these early pictures bake quite clear) or blogging. But we both loved dessert, and so we started writing about it.

It's been quite a journey these two years with learning a ton about baking, challenging ourselves making new foods, trying to pick up photography, struggling with crappy point-and-shoot cameras, getting pictures rejected from Foodgawker, juggling freshmen college schedules, dealing with less than ideal college kitchens, trying and enjoying and sharing new recipes, and meeting tons of sweet, kind, and amazing people in the food blogging community.

The very first recipe I posted was granola, because, as I said two years ago, "Monica and I thought we’d go ahead and make ourselves feel all righteous by starting with something at least kind of healthy, and decided to make granola."

This isn't the same granola post; the recipe tastes better, I think, and the photos are better, I think, and we sort of know what we're doing now, I think. But I know we've kept that same excitement about making, eating and sharing food. There's something so personal about sharing recipes, and making other people food, and it has yet to get old.

But enough sentimentalism. Let's make granola!

Mix together the oats, salt, and melted butter.

Evenly spread the mixture on two large baking sheets. I cut the recipe in half, so I only used one. Bake for about 15 minutes. Take the pans out about halfway through and mix the oats, to prevent them from burning.

Once that's done, put the sugar, honey, and apple juice in a pot and heat to a low simmer. I made peanut butter granola, so I also added in about 1/4 cup peanut butter, but feel free to leave it out. Take the mixture off the heat, and stir in the vanilla. A dash of cinnamon here would be nice as well.

Chop up some nuts.

Pour the cooked oats back into the mixing bowl, and add the nuts and cereal. The only cereal I had on hand was Honey Bunches of Oats, but I'd suggest using something with less sugar, like Rice Krispies.

Pour the syrup mixture over the oats, and mix together. It'll be really sticky. This means you're doing it right (:

Pour the oats onto a large greased jelly roll pan. Grease your hands with oil and pack down the oats to form an even layer. (This should take up the whole pan and be thicker, but I halved the recipe. And then I wished I hadn't because this stuff is ridiculously good. So don't halve it.)

Bake it for about 20 minutes. Let it cool, cut into bars, and try not to eat it all at once.

Enjoy, everyone!

Homemade Granola Bars

Yields about 40 granola bars | Adapted from The Pioneer Woman

6 cups rolled oats (see notes)
4 tablespoons butter
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
⅔ cup brown sugar
¾ cup honey
¼ cup apple juice
¼ cup peanut butter (optional)
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ½ cup cereal, such as Rice Krispies
1 cup wheat germ (see notes)
1 cup chopped nuts, such as walnuts, almonds, peanuts, or pecans

Quick oats can be used in place of rolled oats. Just reduce the toasting of the oats from 15 minutes to about 7, and the second baking to 12- 15 minutes.

The wheat germ can be substituted by using an extra ⅔ cup of oats in the second step.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Toss together the oats, butter, oil, and salt. Spread evenly over two large jelly roll pans and bake for 15-20 minutes, shaking the pan two to three times during the baking.

Reduce the heat to 325 degrees.

In a saucepan, combine the sugar, honey, apple juice, and peanut butter. Heat over low heat until the ingredients form a smooth mixture. Take off the heat and add the vanilla.

Pour the oats into a large mixing bowl. Add the nuts, cereal, and wheat germ. Pour the liquid over the oats, and stir. The mixture will be very sticky and thick.

Grease your hands with vegetable oil and press the oat mixture into a large jelly roll pan lined with foil that has been greased.

Bake for 20-25 minutes. Let cool. Cut the granola into bars and enjoy!