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PEANUT BUTTER CARAMELITAS

PEANUT BUTTER CARAMELITAS

prep: 15 MINUTES | bake: ABOUT 40 MINUTES | total: 55 MINUTES, PLUS 3 HOURS COOLING | serves 12 TO 18

My friend Rachel, my sweet-tooth sister, helped me dream up these decadent bars. She loves the classic caramelita—an oatmeal cookie stuffed with gooey caramel and melty chocolate—but decided she wanted to take it to the next level of insane deliciousness. So we invited peanut butter to the party! After testing them three times in one week (we had to be sure we’d gotten the recipe right…), we considered our work complete. One secret was using my salted caramel sauce, though you could cheat and use store-bought instead. We also debated over what kind of chocolate chips to use, and while I’m normally a semisweet gal all the way, milk chocolate was the clear winner. That said, you can’t go wrong with either, so I just suggest using your favorite.

INGREDIENTS

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 1⁄2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1⁄2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (1⁄2 pound) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1⁄2 cups (9 ounces) chocolate chips (semisweet or milk—go with your favorite)
  • 1 cup Salted Caramel Sauce (page 70) or store-bought caramel sauce

NOTE: These are great to make ahead because the caramel needs at least 3 hours to cool and set before you can slice the bars.

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously grease a 9 × 13-inch pan with nonstick cooking spray.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together both sugars with the butter and peanut butter until smooth, about 2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula if necessary. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix until combined.

4. Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Press half of the dough into the prepared pan and bake for 12 minutes.

5. Remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle the chocolate chips evenly over the cookie crust, then drizzle the caramel sauce evenly over the chocolate chips. Top with the remaining dough, gently pressing it into an even layer on top of the chocolate and caramel. (It helps to lightly spray your hands with nonstick cooking spray.)

6. Return the pan to the oven and bake for 24 to 30 minutes, until the bars are golden brown. Let the bars cool for at least 3 hours before cutting, so the caramel has time to set up. Slice the caramelitas into squares and serve. You could also cover the pan with plastic wrap or store the squares in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.