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The Tale of the Carmelitas

Carmelitas have a buttery oatmeal cookie base and topping, and a luscious chocolate and caramel filling.

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!

Carmelitas have a buttery oatmeal cookie base and topping, and a luscious chocolate and caramel filling.

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!

Carmelitas have a buttery oatmeal cookie base and topping, and a luscious chocolate and caramel filling.

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.

Carmelitas have a buttery oatmeal cookie base and topping, and a luscious chocolate and caramel filling.

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 have a buttery oatmeal cookie base and topping, and a luscious chocolate and caramel filling.

Carmelitas

Yield: 12-16 bar cookies
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

    1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
    2. Combine caramels and cream in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir until completely smooth; set aside.
    3. 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 8x8" pan.
    4. Bake for 10 minutes.
    5. Remove pan from oven and sprinkle chocolate chips over crust. Pour caramel mixture over chocolate chips. Crumble remaining oatmeal mixture over caramel.
    6. Return to oven and bake an additional 15-20 minutes, until the edges are lightly browned.
    7. Remove from oven and cool completely before cutting.

Notes

  • 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 9x13" version, simply double the amounts. No need to adjust the baking temperature or time.
  • For more cookie recipes, CLICK HERE and explore my cookie recipe archives.

    469 thoughts on “The Tale of the Carmelitas

    1. i love oatmeal and caramel and haven’t ever combined the two. (I’m definitely asking myself “why not” right now!) trying these soooon.

    2. Just made these and they taste fantastic BUT they stuck to the pan sooo bad. Took about 10 minutes to get them out.

      1. That’s too bad! I’ve never had a problem with them sticking, but I can see that if the caramel made it’s way to the sides and bottom of the pan, they would be stuck like glue! Hopefully they were worth it!

    3. Yummy “Caramel Squares”…I have been making these for 20 +years! You’re right,everyone loves them!

    4. Thank you SO much for this recipe. I found it on Pinterest and made it last week. I’ve made a lot of recipes from Pinterest and so many don’t turn out πŸ™ But this was fantastic! Super easy to make and amazingly delicious. Seriously the best dessert I’ve ever had.

    5. I made these tonight and I have also made a cheese cake type bar with the same type of receipe. I have the hardest time with the bottom part of the bar (it seems as if I didnt put enough down) I felt as if I used more than half but it was very hard to get to stay on the bottom of the pan becuase it was so sticky. So now, hours later, I cut them becuase my boyfriend could not wait to eat them and it seems as if there is no bottom part of the bar, it is just the top part and tons of caramel and chocolate! What am I doing wrong? I didnt actually make the caramel I used caramel sauce (for ice cream) Is that my problem or are there any other tips you could give me?? I have to get these correct and taste them!!

      1. Hi there! I’ve had a few readers comment that they made the carmelitas and something went wrong. I wish I could tell you how to get them perfect! All I can tell you is that I follow the recipe to a T when I make them and they have always turned out. I do usually get impatient and stick them in the fridge to help them solidify, but I’ve never had them turn out really weird. Maybe take a week off and try them again with fresh eyes!

    6. These are delicious, i just whipped up a batch. How on earth can anything beat them. These are a-ma-zing. Now…to just hide them from the family….;)

    7. Oh my word, these are the best ever! My hubby and I tried them and they were perfect! Making them again tomorrow night for some friends who are coming over!

    8. OK, so I made these and sent them to a house of ” 4 boys” at college. Packed em up and sent them from NY to California. Double batch. My son said they were gone in two days.UNREAL! (THE BATTER FROM THE OATMEAL IS GOOD ENOUGH JUST LIKE THAT!)

    9. You need to find the closest county/regional fair, and enter them there!! I competed for a few years in baking and photography fields at the Ozark Empire Fair – and loved it!! When I moved out of state, well, that’s another story – but I’ll be looking in to the closest fairs soon!! (and I’ll let you know if your Carmelitas win there).

      1. Hi Marina! I’ve entered them a couple of times in little baking contests and they’ve never won, which completely blows my mind! Please do let me know if you win anything with them; I know a couple of other people have had baking contest success with these babies!

    10. I made a double batch of these using Dulce de leche for some friends and family I was visiting and they LOVED them!! One friend said he’d be happy to eat a whole pan till he got sick πŸ˜‰ Can’t wait to make them again!

    11. These look so yummy that I made a pan for my husband… flop. The oatmeal doesn’t look cooked (had it in the oven for 25 minutes!) and the carmel bubbled up over the top. I used Mrs Richardson’s carmel topping and wonder if that was too runny. I googled other recipes and sure enough… if you use topping you need to add about 1/4 cup extra flour to it to thicken it up. You may want to add that to the end of your recipe.

    12. What a perfect fall treat! Made them for a friend’s movie night and they were good then but then took some to work to share with co-workers and they tasted better a couple of days after they have been cooked! πŸ™‚ So yummy. Thanks for sharing! -Melissa

    13. These sound spectacular and, as a caramel fiend, I long to taste the sheer deliciousness you describe.
      A note on the baking contest: Many times these contests are judged on presentation and not taste alone which, I think, is total crap because how many times has something not looked like a magazine print but tasted like Palatable Paradise? What I’m saying is that, because it was oatmeal cookie month, and they also hosted a bar month, perhaps the judges disqualified your entry based on shape. Yeah, they’re that shallow sometimes. Perhaps they were looking for a round, somewhat flatted traditional cookie versus a square bar?

    14. Ohhhh, I hope these are like the Sheila’s Dream Bar (from a regional sandwich shop). I’m going to shop for supplies and make these this weekend. Maybe even taken them on a camping trip.

      So sorry that you didn’t win your contest. There’s always next month.

      1. Hi Fame. Sadly, the little kitchen store stopped having contests after that! I asked a couple of times and they said they planned on starting back up, but they haven’t so far. πŸ™

    15. I have to thank you so much for sharing this recipe. I found it last night on Pinterest as I was searching like a fiend to find the yummiest scrummiest recipe I could find so I could make something for my Company’s Carnival today. I doubled your recipe and made this (thank goodness my 2 kids like unwrapping caramels) and guess what??? It won First Place!!!! I hope that helps to prove that whatever judging was done on your oatmeal cookie competition that it was TOTALLY RIGGED! You absolutely deserved to win with this recipe. By the way, we have a new nickname for these we are calling them “Crack Bars” because one taste and you are HOOKED!

    16. I usually don’t keep caramels in the house but I had a bag leftover from another dessert. I was meant to make them today. I just added the second layer and they are in the over. Can’t wait to try them YUM

    17. First, I WILL be making these today. Second, you’re hilarious! That’s something I’d totally do, glad there are goofballs (albeit talented) like us in this world to keep it interesting….and delicious! πŸ™‚

    18. The carmelitas look amazing! — My only question is…. Do you use Quick- cooking oats or Old Fashioned oats? No one has asked this and I want mine to turn out right so can anyone help me with this?

    19. I don’t know if this helps or hurts but I just won our work bake sale (benefiting United Way) with these! They are delicious and my office thanks you!

    20. These turned out so good! I made them even easier with the Kraft caramel bits. They are made to be added to a recipe without premelting. I used a little less than a cup to just cover the first layer.

    21. I thought you might like to know that I made these for a cook-off at my church a few weeks ago and THEY WON in the dessert section! I knew you would be happy to know that this recipe is a winner :}

    22. WOW. JUST. WOW! I made these last night and sent them with my husband for the office. They have gone down a treat and were even more delicious than I hoped. The judges must have had no taste buds. 5 stars from me πŸ™‚ I highly recommend making your own caramel. It’s super easy, cheap, and quick. I made salted caramel–to die for–and drizzled chocolate on the top after they baked. The world will never be the same

    23. I made these last night and sent them to the hockey rink with my husband so he could share them with the team. Success! I wonder how many calories are in a whole tin, or even a square?? I’m calorie counting and I want to stuff my face with these bad boys soooo bad. They really are the best thing ever, and I could totally eat 1/2 tin to myself in 2 days. Easily.

    24. I adore this story even though the carmelitas didn’t win. They are ridiculously yummy. In fact, whenever I get together with my friends now they ask me to bring “the crack”, meaning the carmelitas.

      For those asking about the heavy cream substition, I can confirm that evaporated milk can be used successfully. Use 3/4 of the quantity of heavy cream called for in evaporated milk. After the caramels are all melted the sauce seemed a tad runnier than it did using heavy cream so I took it off the heat, stirred in a good sized pat of butter and let it sit for a minute or two. By then the consistency was perfect and I didn’t notice any difference in the taste.

      Thanks Lulu for the best dessert recipe ever! Screw those old dried fruit eaters! πŸ™‚

    25. I realize that this has been posted for a long time, but I have been saving this on my Pinterest board for christmas baking. I work full time so I always do my baking throughout December and make platters of mixed goodies in the freezer and pull them out as I need them, do we have any idea how these delicious creations freeze? They will be making an appearance this year for sure, but if I can get away with making the ahead of time you are darn tootin I will take advantage of it! Thanks so much for such am awesome recipe!

    26. I added a little salt to my caramel/cream. Ixture…yum-o! Thinking about maybe adding a pinch of cayenne next time…

      1. Hi Nicole. Sorry to have taken so long to get back to you!

        I’ve never tried freezing them, but I really don’t see why you couldn’t. Mine have always turned out just a little crunchy and crumbly (not to the point of falling apart). I think freezing and then thawing them might make them softer, but I don’t think it would affect the flavor at all.

    27. This is my second “Lulu recipe” and girlfriend, you are two for two! These were *amazing*. The smell of the caramel was mouth-watering, and the finished product was a huge hit at my cookie swap. Most definitely making these again!

    28. I am sooooooo gonna make these! Just wondering though if you used regular oats, or if one can use quick oats? (not instant though) Thank you πŸ™‚

    29. these are awesome! i also made some and added some shredded coconut…very good!
      these make a great gluten free recipe if you substitute rice flour {white or brown, or even oat flour}….A+++

      1. If you’re talking about the little Kraft caramel bits, I know there’s a conversion printed on the back of the bag. I don’t have a bag right now, so you might have to do a little Algebra! Good Luck!!

    30. These were the absolute best thing I have ever put in my mouth! I made them for 2 different parties and even non-dessert eaters(I didn’t know these people existed)- they even raved that it was the best dessert ever!!

    31. what kind of shelf like do these have? I want to bring some to our christmas party on 12/27, and wondering how far in advance I can make them (and then hide them so no one eats them!)

    32. I never heard of a carmelita but apparently it’s a “thing”. Your photo inspired me to try the recipe and considering it had chocolate and caramel how bad could it be?

      A few observations – you didn’t mention how to prepare the pan so I took a chance and buttered it (which worked). Although it was difficult to get them out of the pan. I don’t know if that was due to how I prepped the pan? Perhaps parchment? I found it much easier to cool them in the fridge and then cut them up to remove them. Also, I actually preferred to eat them a little chilled. It tasted better (to me). I also decided to double the recipe and it worked perfectly. Although unwrapping 64 caramels was a pain in the tush. I attempted my own caramel sauce but not being an expert candy maker I didn’t want to wreck a key ingredient.

      Overall, I found these to be really excellent. It was sweet but also had a hint of salt which helped with the balance of the flavors. Also, the oats gave it a real nuttiness. Since I do like to experiment I wonder what bittersweet chocolate would taste like (or a mix). Also, what about 1/2 regular and 1/2 whole wheat flour?

      These will certainly become a new staple in our house.

    33. This is the first time I have ever commented on a pin, but I HAVE to now. I made these last night and my husband loved them. They reminded us of potbelly dream bars!!! This is now a favorite in our home, Thank you….

    34. First off: Does anyone know if these ship well?

      What a bummer that you didn’t win! I’m glad I’m not the only the stumbles over words when baking turns you into a bit of a loon! πŸ™‚ Thanks πŸ™‚

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