I was in a used bookstore the other day when I happened across a small baking book devoted to coffeehouse treats. I had tried and true recipes for everything in it, except for carmelitas. Which I had never heard of and which sounded amazing. I could not really justify buying the book for just one recipe (when I had ALL of the others) so I called John and asked him to do an internet search on carmelitas. Once I had ascertained that there were, indeed, plenty of online recipes to choose from, I closed the book and went home.
After doing my own search, I finally settled on this recipe from Food and Wine, created by Louis Lambert for Lady bird Johnson. The recipe calls for pecans, however, which I love in oatmeal but don’t like as well with chocolate (weird, I realize). So I subbed in hazelnuts. My other changes are minimal (more salt, rolled oats instead of quick-cooking, and I accidentally left the flour out of the dulce de leche to no detriment and don’t see a reason for it, hence I have not called for it).
Be warned this recipe is huge. Although it makes a deceptively standard 9X13 pan, the bar is much thicker and dense than most bar recipes. In that single pan of cookies is a pound of butter. Half of the pan immediately went into John’s work–and based on how much I cannot keep eating them, I probably should have sent more. (Update 2015: after avoiding these bars for a long time–because if I make them I eat them, as in all of them–I finally made them again–you can check out updated pics here and I am sharing an example now:)
Which brings me to my next point. These are just awesome. The base (and middle layer) is kind of like crisp topping, which I love, and less like the shortbread base we see in most bar cookies. Not that I don’t love shortbread, but I really love crisps too, and this was unique and really tasty. The whole thing is great texturally and taste-wise, a real home run.
3 cups (378 g) AP flour
1 1/2 t baking soda
1 t salt
4 sticks (1 lb) unsalted butter, softened
3 cups rolled oats
2 1/4 cups light brown sugar
One 16-ounce jar dulce de leche (1 1/2 cups) (I like the same brand I used here)
9 oz chopped semi sweet chocolate
3/4 cup chopped hazelnuts
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line with foil and butter a 9-by-13-inch metal baking pan.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk the flour with the baking soda and salt. Add the oats and brown sugar and mix until combined. Add the butter and mix on the lowest speed (or by hand) until the butter is uniformly mixed in–it will remind you of crisp topping, quite buttery and clumpy.
Pat half of the oat mixture into the prepared baking pan. Bake for 15 minutes.
Scatter half of the chopped chocolate and half of the hazelnuts over the crust. Drizzle half of the dulce de leche mixture on top of these. Crumble the remaining oat mixture evenly into the pan–it will be a fair amount, basically a second layer of the crust. Pat it gently, so that it is level but not smashed in. Cover this second layer with the remaining chocolate, hazelnuts and dulce de leche, in the same manner as the first layer. Bake for about 35 minutes, or until the edges are set. Let stand uncovered at room temperature overnight. After slicing the next day, store tightly sealed.