What are carmelitas, you ask? Carmelitas are a layered bar cookie, but once baked, they sort of lose their definition and the flavors meld together, becoming reminiscent of the gooiest parts of a chocolate chip cookie with a chewy, toffee-like edge.
And they are so, so good!
These bars are very rich and sweet but are offset with just enough salt that the sweetness is balanced, and they become instantly addicting. I love a chewy edge, and the edges pieces on the bars are perfection.
For those of us that aren’t fans of a chewy edge, don’t worry! The interior pieces are tender and gooey, like the center of a fresh oatmeal chocolate chip cookie—but with the addition of caramel and coconut.
NUTS OR NO NUTS?
Some carmelita bar recipes call for nuts, but I left them out. If you want to add them, sprinkle about a half-cup of chopped nuts over the chocolate chip layer.
Pecans or walnuts would be amazing!
CAN I MAKE CARMELITA BARS WITHOUT COCONUT?
I like coconut in this recipe, because I like the nutty flavor and chewy texture. If you want to eliminate the coconut altogether, just replace it with an additional 1/3 cup of oats to the base.
HOW TO CUT CARMELITA BARS
These bars have a caramel layer that becomes very sticky once it’s baked and cooled.
To make cutting them easier and to have cleaner lines, I like to score them after they have cooled for about 10-15 minutes, but are still warm. Once they’ve cooled completely to room temperature, I cut them the rest of the way.
HOW TO STORE AND FREEZE CARMELITA BARS
Carmelitas can be made in advance and stored on the countertop or in the freezer.
If keeping them on the countertop, they will last for four days sealed in a zip-top bag or a lidded container. If you have to stack them, only do so in two layers and separate with sheets of parchment paper.
To freeze the bars, first wrap them in plastic, followed by foil. They will keep for up to three months.
To thaw, leave the frozen bars on the counter until room temperature, or if you’re the kind of person who freezes Girl Scout cookies, these taste great semi-frozen too.
LOVE BAR COOKIES? TRY THESE!
For the base layer:
- 1 cup all-purpose flour (128g)
- 1 cup plus 1/3 cup quick cooking oats (100g)
- 3/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut (75g)
- 3/4 cup dark brown sugar (150g)
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
For the top layer:
- 6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips (170g)
- 1 cup prepared caramel sauce (homemade or store-bought)
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup quick cooking oats (40g)
- 1/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut (25g)
1 Prepare the oven and the pan: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9x13-inch baking pan and line with parchment, leaving an overhang on the long sides of the pan (this will allow you to lift the bars out of the pan later).
2 Make the base layer and par-bake: In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, oats, coconut, and brown sugar. Stir in the baking soda and kosher salt, followed by the melted butter until the mixture is evenly moistened with the butter.
Spread the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan and press firmly into an even layer. Bake for about 12 minutes, or until the edges begin to brown, and the top is just golden. Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes.
3 Add the top layer: While the base is still warm (but not piping hot) sprinkle the chocolate chips evenly over the baked base. Pour over the caramel sauce and spread in an even layer.
Stir together the flour, oats, and coconut in a bowl, and sprinkle evenly over the top of the caramel sauce layer. Press it down slightly with your fingertips or a spatula to make sure the top layer ends up moistened by the caramel after baking.
4 Finish baking the bars: Bake for an additional 25 minutes. The caramel should bubble, and the top layer of dry oats and coconut should absorb any additional butter and become golden.
5 Cool and cut the bars: Remove the carmelitas from the oven and cool on a rack for 15 minutes.
Using a knife or a bench scraper, score the carmelitas, pressing down firmly but not all the way through. Cool completely before lifting from the pan and cutting all the way through. Store leftover bars in an airtight container at room temperature for several days.
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