Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Building a Better Carmelita

Carmelitas: they are delicious bars of chewy, nutty, chocolatey goodness, and I just made some.

I took this recipe and changed it around a bit so that it better suits my particular tastes. For example, this recipe doesn't call for nuts, but a carmelita cannot, in my opinion, be a carmelita without nuts. Since I'm not a fan of walnuts (too crumbly!) and I think that pecans are too close in flavor to caramel, I decided to use chopped hazelnuts. Those are my favorite nuts anyway, so I'll toss them in just about wherever I can. I'm also not particularly keen on caramel, so I've added a bit of cinnamon to offset its sticky sweetness.

Cinnamon Hazelnut Carmelitas:

crumbly carmelita "crust":
1 1/2 c flour
1 1/2 c quick oats
1 c brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 c melted butter
1 tsp ground cinnamon (optional - but I like the slight zing that the cinnamon adds)

gooey carmelita middle:
1 1/2 c chocolate chips
1 c chopped hazelnuts
1 c caramel ice cream topping
2 Tbs flour


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 13 x 9-inch pan with foil.
2. Combine all ingredients for the crust in a large mixing bowl. Stir until a crumb mixture is formed.
3. Press half of the crumb mixture into the bottom of your 13 x 9-inch pan and bake for 10 minutes.
4. Remove from oven after 10 minutes and immediately sprinkle with chocolate chips and chopped hazelnuts. Drizzle caramel topping over chips and dust with the 2 Tbs of flour (if you skip this bit, the caramel will melt into the top layer of the crust and sort of disappear into it, leaving you with an oddly hard, slightly chewy top layer and no gooey caramel center to speak of. As this would be a tragedy and defeat the purpose of making carmelitas, I wouldn't skip this step...).
5. Top with the remaining crumb mixture (I usually flatten palmfuls of the mixture between my hands and place them on top of the caramel like a jigsaw puzzle).
6. Bake for an additional 15-20 minutes. Cool and cut into bars. Note: it's easier to cut these suckers into bars if you refrigerate them first.

You can always leave out the cinnamon or hazelnuts, or you can substitute a different kind of nut, should you so desire. I made them exactly to the original recipe the first time, and while those carmelitas turned out well, they weren't very interesting in either their texture or their taste. Hence my need to "build a better carmelita."

I hope you enjoy!

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