These bars – all crumbly and buttery and sweet and sticky – are also called caramelitas.
Caramelitas are literally translated as little caramels. I have a soft spot for words that end in -ita (the suffix indicates smallness in Spanish) not only because I like cute little adorable things, but also because some of my family members call me Biancita. (Another nick name: Bey. And yes, this was way before Beyonce became famous.)
I have been thinking about making these bars for weeks, and the perfect opportunity came when my friends and I spent a day in Tanglewood, because these bars are perfect for picnics and lounging in lawns. These are chocolate-caramel-oatmeal squares, but I switched caramel for the thicker, more luxurious dulce de leche. I could call them dulce de lechitas, but Oatmeal Dulce De Leche Bars sound nicer.
I followed a recipe from Pillsbury, but modified the amounts because I found that the original recipe would result in much thinner bars. I wanted mine to be thick and dense. Each bar tastes very rich, and I actually ended up cutting each square bar in half again after taking these photos, resulting in smaller rectangles.
The main difference between dulce de leche and caramel is that dulce de leche (or cajeta) is make from sweetened milk, while caramel is made from sugar. I prefer the thicker, creamier dulce de leche, and I always keep a jar or can in my pantry (you can also make your own if you have a can of condensed milk!) but you can easily substitute caramel sauce, or even caramel candies.
Each bite of this dulce de leche bar tastes like the intersection of an oatmeal cookie, buttery shortbread, and a crisp because of the crumble topping, mingled with thick dulce de leche and rich dark chocolate. Each bite tastes ridiculously good.
Oatmeal Dulce De Leche Bars
(adapted from Pillsbury’s Oatmeal Carmelitas)
3 cups all purpose flour
3 cups old-fashioned oats (quick-cooking oats would work, too)
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups butter, softened
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup heavy cream
12 oz dulce de leche
2 cups dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease a 13×9 baking pan with butter and set aside.
In a big mixing bowl, combine the flour, oats, sugar, baking soda, salt, butter, and vanilla extract. Mix together until crumbly. Reserve around 1/3 of crumb mixture, and press the remaining 2/3 at the bottom of the pan. Bake for 12 minutes.
In a medium microwave-safe bowl, combine the dulce de leche and cream and heat for one minute. Whisk together until smooth.
Remove partially baked crust from oven, sprinkle with chocolate chips and walnuts, then evenly pour dulce de leche mixture on top. Sprinkle remaining crumb mixture on top, and bake for another 25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely, then refrigerate for 2 hours before cutting into bars.