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The Tale of the Carmelitas

carmelitas

We live in a big-but-not-huge town. We have a P.F. Chang’s and a Pottery Barn and two malls and two full-price movie theaters. But we don’t have a Williams-Sonoma. Instead, we have a few delightful, locally-owned kitchen stores. One of them holds a monthly baking contest, and these Carmelitas were supposed to be my ticket to local baking contest greatness.

See, a Carmelita is not your ordinary, run-of-the-mill treat. Rather, it is like a buttery oatmeal cookie that swallowed a caramel-filled chocolate bar and then got bibitty-bobitty-booed by the dessert fairy godmother and received an extra dose of deliciousness. Everyone I have ever talked to who has tasted one has proclaimed it to be the most wonderful thing ever. I’m not exaggerating! I tasted my first Carmelita last year while I was visiting my sister. I liked it so much that I helped her eat the whole pan in two days. Just the two of us. A 9×13″ pan. Two days. And we liked it…obviously.

When I got my kitchen store newsletter in January, I started planning out my strategy. Some months I knew I’d be gone, some months I couldn’t think of a good cookie to make, but September–Oatmeal Cookie Month–I knew would be mine because I was going to make Carmelitas, and no one can resist them. They were like my fail-safe. If my coconut macaroons didn’t win in April (they didn’t), and if my bar cookies didn’t win in June (nope), and if my thumbprints didn’t win in August (er, not them either), then I’d knock everyone’s socks off in September with the best oatmeal cookie any of them had ever tasted!

The email naming the winner took a few extra weeks to be sent–no lie–and I was on pins and needles the whole time. When I saw it sitting there in my in-box, I had one of those strange prickling sensation on the back of my neck that you always hear about in stories–not a good feeling. The thought popped into my head that if I had won, they probably would have called or emailed me or something before just sending it out in an email newsletter. But I still didn’t think any cookie could beat my sweet Carmelitas, it just wasn’t possible! But it was true: a recipe for oatmeal cookies studded with white chocolate and dried cranberries had been crowned the champ. I just could not–and a part of me still doesn’t–imagine any oatmeal cookie tasting better than the best cookie I’d ever had.

Epilogue:
If I sound just a wee bit crazy, get a load of this! Last week, I had to go into the kitchen store to buy 20 tiny salt spoons (more on that another time), and I actually brought up the oatmeal cookie contest to the cashier! Even though it had occurred to me to ask about the results, I don’t think I had really planned on doing it, because I sort of ummed and uhhed and stumbled all over my words. It ended up being, “Umm, well, I sort of was wondering, um, do you guys, you know, like…..keep the results from past contests? ‘Cause I was just, you know, um, maybe if you, you know, remembered the Carmelitas, uh,” **very blank look from the cashier at this point**, “how close it was, uh, you know, like,” and I just sort of trailed off! These baking contests have turned me into a raving lunatic!!

Carmelitas
All of the crazy obsessiveness boils down to this: Carmelitas are to-die-for. Make them. Now.
carmelitas-2

32 caramel squares, unwrapped
1/2 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup flour
1 cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

Combine caramels and cream in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir until completely smooth; set aside. In a separate bowl, combine melted butter, brown sugar, flour, oats, and baking soda. Pat half of the oatmeal mixture into the bottom of an 8×8″ pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Remove pan from oven and sprinkle chocolate chips over crust. Pour caramel mixture over chocolate chips. Crumble remaining oatmeal mixture over caramel. Return to oven and bake an additional 15-20 minutes, until the edges are lightly browned. Remove from oven and cool completely before cutting.
*A stint in the fridge will help them cool off if you’re pinched for time. They shouldn’t be served cold, but all of that molten caramel takes a long time to cool down. They should be stored and served at room temperature.
**If you want to use homemade or store-bought caramel sauce in place of the caramel/cream mixture, use 1 1/4 cups of caramel sauce, and omit the caramel squares and heavy cream.
***To make a 9×13″ version, simply double the amounts.

450 thoughts on “The Tale of the Carmelitas

  1. Melissa, I would like to ship these across the country… Do you think they’d still taste fresh enough…4 days later?

    1. Hi Annie. They do taste good leftover, but I’ve never had them stick around long enough to see if they are still good 4 days later. I have a couple of ideas. 1) You could try freezing them before sending them. That would give them an extra day of freshness. 2) You could overnight them or send them Priority to get them there faster. 3) You could just send them as is. I’m sure they’d taste delicious!

  2. I just took these out of the oven for a party tonight. I double the recipe and followed it extremely closely. I used one jar of Hershey caramel in place of the candy and cream. I left it in for 17 minutes, but the center was extremely shaky although the sides had bubbled up. I left it in for about 8 more minutes and then I took it out, the center was still shaky but if I left it in the caramel would’ve burned. It’s now sitting outside in the snow…. Any ideas?

    1. Hi Nina. I just saw this comment; sorry I didn’t answer sooner! Yes, the center stays very liquidy until they have cooled completely, which takes several hours. I usually make them well before I want to serve them, or stick them in the fridge. Hopefully they worked out for you!

  3. Hey Melissa! Thank you soooooo much for this recipe! I have made these for several parties and get togethers. They are always a hit! A go-to in my recipe book!

  4. Hi Melissa! I’m so excited to try these! Have you ever done a sheet cake size? I wanted to make them for a party, but wasn’t sure if I quadrupled it, if it would turn out the same?

    1. Hi Amy. I’ve never tried a sheet cake size!! It sounds amazing, but yeah, makes me a little nervous. I never change the time if I jump to a 9×13″ and double it, but a sheet cake is just so big! Maybe do two 9×13″ pans instead??? If you do try to sheet cake, let me know how it turns out!

  5. Hi! Melissa, i have a comment but i dont know what happen!, im asking how many cup of caramel if i use caramel bits, anyway i already figure it out..for one caramel square it’s 6 grams and multifly it by 32 so its 192 grams..im planning to make it on our camping day which is on Labor Day ,i have a portable oven and i will use it to impress my friends…hope it will be good,!,,thank you………Josie

  6. i have been making these for a bake sale at work. Don’t know why they didn’t win first place! People at work loves these! They are a great seller.

  7. Made these yesterday. My husband loved them.
    For the question of the Caramel bits it 1 + 1/3 C
    Going to make with toasted pecans sprinkled in middle of all that deliciousness.
    Was wondering if I could use Riesens.
    Thank you for such an easy and delicious recipe!

  8. White chocolate and cranberries in an oatmeal cookie…doesn’t sound that great to me, but you never know…I have a recipe very similar to this and they are awesome. A lot of people don’t classify “bars” as “cookies”…that would be about the only reason (without tasting those strange cookies), that I could see that you wouldn’t have won!

  9. Hi!
    I’ve been wanting to make these forever and I’m finally getting around to it for a party this weekend. I was just wondering if you usually use old fashioned oats or if quick oats would be acceptable?
    Marie

    1. Hi Marie. I probably didn’t get your question answered in time. But, I think quick oats would be acceptable. The texture of the cookies will be slightly different, but it’s really the flavor that matters in these!

  10. Hi Melissa,
    I just wanted to tell you how much I loved these cookies. I made them to pass at a Halloween gathering and they were a huge hit! I sent a batch to my college daughter to share with her housemates and she ended up hoarding them in her room and eating them all! If I hadn’t given them to her I would have done the same thing at my house! Fantastic recipe, thanks.

  11. I made this yesterday along with the some Christmas cookies and these were by far the best I made, according to my four boys! I doubled the recipe, let it cool for several hours and it was gooey, delicious and amazing! Thank you!

  12. My family looooooves Carmelitas. I was unable to find the Kraft caramel squares but found the Kraft caramel bits. From what I read online 1 cups equals 25 squares. So would you say 1 1/2 is about equal to the 32 squares?

  13. I realize this blog post is from over 5 years ago, but my husband and I just made these Carmelita’s last night. (I found the recipe via Pinterst a few nights ago.) Your recipe is AWESOME! We brought the leftovers to my parents’ house this evening and they LOVED them (and they’re pretty picky about their desserts)! Thank you so much for sharing this recipe!

  14. This is the second time I have made this. It is so wonderful! The first time I used the Kraft caramels and heavy cream. This time I used a fancy shmancy bourbon pecan caramel sauce (store bought). Both times it turned out perfect and very addicting. I got loads of compliments on them too šŸ™‚ Thank you so much!

  15. Wonderful gooey goodness!! These are awesome! I made them for a family reunion a couple weekend ago and thought I’d double the recipe so I would have some left to bring home, haha silly me…of course there were none left! I am baking another double batch as I write this for our 4th of July get together…I’m sure I won’t have any left to bring home tonight either! By the way they are a winning recipe in my book! Thanks for sharing!

  16. These are so delicious! I had them at book club a while back and I stalked her pinterest just to find the recipe. I make them all the time and they are always a hit with who I make them for! Love them!

  17. Hi
    I am making this for a cookie exchange, how many does the batch make. I need enough for roughly 8 dozen or so.

    thank you!
    Kim

    1. I would say a single batch makes 24 tops. I usually cut them much bigger than that and end up with 12-15 per batch. I wouldn’t go any smaller than 24 though.

  18. I just made these after some suggested tweaks (and I made my own caramel) and together my roommate and I polished off the pan in a day.
    Lulu, if you’re wondering about the extra traffic this recipe is seeing, Reddit brought me here.

  19. Just found this recipe, delish! Added some cinnamon and vanilla to the caramel… oh so yummy! They are baking now, cant wait!

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