Trading recipes with friends (and even interweb strangers!) is one of the best parts of being a baker. You need an idea, or can't figure out why a recipe didn't turn out, and you've got a whole host of nearby resources and inspirations.
This week, Hilary brought my lemon bars in to her office, and a couple of weeks ago, I borrowed her recipe for these sinful-looking bar cookies. She called them Oatmeal Turtle Jumbles, but I'm not sure that fully represents the chocolatey, caramely, crumbly goodness that's going on here. I mean, seriously:
Look at the chocolate! And that happy little stray oat down there on the bottom bar!
These were really delicious and chewy. Perfect for the school bake sale since they have no nuts and are chock full of chocolate and caramel - favorite, kid-friendly flavors.
Best of all, I found Kraft caramel bits, which eliminated the time-consuming caramel unwrapping process. They are very easy to use and taste just like regular caramels. To be honest, they might work better in a recipe that calls for melting caramel only because in these bars, they held their shape a little more than a regular caramel would have. It wasn't off-putting, just unexpected. You can find the caramel bits in the baking section at Target. And you can see them in the picture below.
On to the recipe:
Oatmeal Turtle Jumbles
Makes a 9x13" pan - either 12 giant bars or several dozen smaller ones
Base and Topping Ingredients
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
3/4 cup (5.25 ounces) sugar
3/4 cup (5.25 ounces) light brown sugar
1 3/4 cups (7 3/8 ounces) flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups quick oats (I only had regular oats, but I whirred them around for a few seconds in the food processor to break them down just a bit)
1 cup caramel bits (or just buy caramels, unwrap them, and cut them in half)
3/4 cup (4.5 ounces) milk chocolate chips (I only had semi-sweet)
2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk*
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup pecans (like Hilary, I omitted these)
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a 9x13" pan with nonstick cooking spray.
Cream butter, sugar, and brown sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and mix well. Then add flour, baking soda, and salt, mixing until just incorporated. Add the oats and mix until just incorporated. Measure out two cups of the mixture and crumble it over the bottom of the 9x13" pan. The dough is almost cookie dough consistency, so it's not terribly crumbly, but do your best to create an even crust. Do not press the dough up the sides, just cover the bottom. To the remaining dough, stir in the caramel bits, and then set it aside for the topping.
Next, melt the chocolate chips, condensed milk, and cocoa powder together over medium-low heat. Cook until mixture is smooth, stirring constantly to prevent scorching. Remove from heat and stir in pecans (if using) and vanilla. Pour the filling over the dough and spread it evenly with an offset spatula.
Crumble the caramel dough over the filling. I sort of used my fingers to break up the dough clumps and lightly spread them. They didn't completely cover the filling, but they were pretty evenly distributed.
Bake the bars for 27-30 minutes or until chocolate filling is set and topping is firm. Cool completely before cutting.
*My only beef with this recipe is that is uses most of a can of sweetened condensed milk. What am I supposed to do with the remaining 2 tablespoons? (And no, eat it with a spoon is not the right answer...)
PS Check out these awesome "Mad Lips" recipe cards. What a hilarious way to come up with recipe names! Tell you what... in the comments, give me your best shot at renaming these bars. I'll pick the name I like best, officially rechristen them, and send the winner a batch of 'em!