J’s second favorite cookies: caramel cookie bars. These bars do not tolerate heat well, so I do not recommend them for care packages destined for an aircraft carrier floating in the Persian Gulf. Packages for sailors in that region typically sit on pallets in Bahrain until the next scheduled airlift; sometimes it will take weeks. The result? An ooey, gooey hot mess; and still very yummy-tasting, nonetheless. But, they don’t photograph well.
This recipe is another gift from my dear friend, Karen. Her version of the recipe was a ‘gift’ from Betty Crocker, but she changed it for the better. Betty’s recipe called for a bag of individually-wrapped caramels that had to be individually UN-wrapped, for crying out loud! So, Karen replaced that time-suck activity and ingredient with a jar of Smucker’s caramel topping. WAY quicker and even better tasting, I thought.
Since the Smucker’s topping is not vegan (and its first 2 ingredients are corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup, in that order), and I can’t find vegan caramel sauce locally, I set about (you guessed it) making my own caramel sauce for this recipe. Even Betty wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.
Before I get to the recipe, here is MY gift for Karen: seriously, how old is this picture?! Hey, we are still a couple of hot messes ourselves! Check out the B.A.M. (Big Ass Margarita) in front of us. Because that’s how we roll.
Thanks for the recipes, Karen. Keep them coming; I love a challenge!
♥ ♥ ♥
Caramel Cookie Bars
1-3/4 cups whole oats
1-1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup firmly-packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) non-dairy butter, melted (I prefer Earth Balance)
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chip pieces (true semi-sweet chocolate does not contain dairy)
1 cup vegan caramel sauce
1/4 cup flour
Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a 9 x 13 glass baking dish with non-stick cooking spray; set aside.
In a large bowl, mix together the oats, flour, brown sugar, baking soda and salt. Add the melted non-dairy butter; mix well. Reserve one cup of this mixture and press the remainder into the prepared glass baking dish. Bake 8 minutes and remove from the oven to a wire rack and let it cool for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, whisk the flour into the caramel sauce and set aside.
After 5 minutes, top the cookie bar crust with the chocolate chip pieces and spread them evenly over the-still warm crust. Give the caramel sauce/flour mixture another stir and then pour it evenly over the chocolate pieces. Use a spatula to distribute the sauce evenly.
Sprinkle the reserved oat mixture evenly over the caramel sauce and return the dish to the oven. Bake 18 to 22 minutes (the longer cooking time is better when using a homemade caramel sauce).
Let cool and then place in the refrigerator several hours, or overnight, to set up properly. Remove the chilled cookie bar to a cutting board and cut into bars with a sharp knife. Store in an airtight container.