Salted Carmelita Bars

This blog has seen a lot of kitchens. I started writing it while we lived in Madison, in an apartment with an L-shaped kitchen so small I had to store my KitchenAid mixer on a shelf in the bathroom. Then we moved to Boston, and I cooked out of a tiny kitchen that (astonishingly) had no drawers.

Our second apartment in Boston had an awesome kitchen with white cupboards and granite countertops that I still dream about, but we weren’t there for long. Our Minneapolis apartment has the biggest kitchen yet, but the countertop edges are so sharp I have actual scars from running into them.

So many kitchens. So many culinary trials, tears, and triumphs. And now, it’s time to move on to yet another kitchen. In a few short weeks, we’re bidding adieu to our beloved Minneapolis and moving to Los Angeles. Our belongings will follow on a truck a few weeks later, and I will be anxiously waiting their arrival. Because then I can start to organize yet another kitchen, and then it will start to feel like home.

Salted carmelita bars

Carmelita bars are a Minnesota classic, originating (as far as I can tell) in the Pillsbury Bake-off Contest in 1967. The original recipe is delightful, but then I discovered a version that calls for homemade salted caramel sauce and it knocked my socks off. So look out, California friends, because I’m bringing some good ol’ Midwestern cooking like this your way. But it’s gonna come with some long vowels and a lot of me yelling “Gladys, we need more bars!” Okay then? Ohh-kay.

Salted carmelita bars

Salted Carmelita Bars

Bars

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cups rolled oats
  • 1 1/4 cups lightly packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Salted Caramel Sauce

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream at room temperature (I used lactose-free half ‘n’ half)
  • 3 1/2 Tbs. unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 Tbs. all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350° F and lightly grease a 9×13 baking dish with butter. Set aside.

Make bars: In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together flour, oats, brown sugar, and baking soda. Chop the butter into pieces about 1/2-inch square. With the paddle attachment fitted to the mixer, add butter to the oat mixture and stir at low speed until the mixture is crumbly and the butter is broken into small chunks. Press about 2/3 of the oat mixture into the bottom of the 9×13 pan.

Bake crust for 10 minutes, then remove from oven and sprinkle with chocolate chips. Set aside.

Make caramel sauce: In a medium saucepan, stir together granulated sugar and water. Place over medium heat and let the mixture come to a boil, without stirring. Place a lid on the saucepan and continue boiling for three minutes, so any sugar crystals on the sides of the pan get steamed off.

Remove the lid and continue boiling the sugar mixture– still without stirring– until it’s a deep amber color. Remove from heat. Add the cream carefully; the mixture will violently bubble up. Whisk in butter and salt until smooth and well combined. If there are chunks of hard caramel in the sauce, stir constantly over low heat until they’re melted. Whisk in the flour.

Pour the caramel sauce over the chocolate chips and oatmeal crust. Sprinkle the remaining oat mixture over the caramel sauce. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the topping is lightly browned. Let bars cool completely before slicing and serving. Store in the refrigerator.

Makes 24 bars.

Source: Adapted from Erlyce Larson via Tracey’s Culinary Adventures. 

Cinnamon Streusel Dessert Pizza

I’m not so sure what to say about this recipe, except that biting into a slice of dessert pizza sends waves of nostalgia crashing over me. Memories of hanging out in a certain pizza chain with my family, and grabbing a slice of pepperoni at the buffet just so I could say I ate some lunch before rushing back for dessert.

Or memories of my twelfth birthday party, where I sat at the head of a long table of aunts, uncles, and cousins, eating dessert pizza while I unwrapped coveted N’SYNC and Britney Spears CDs.

Or of that time a blizzard was roaring into town and the wind whipped around my family furiously as we ran into the restaurant to order takeout. And making it home just in time to hunker down and share pizza.

There’s a lot I could say about a pizza that’s not really a pizza, but rather a soft dough loaded with sweet, crumbly streusel topping and drizzled with icing. But I think I’ll just leave you with some photos instead.

Cinnamon streusel dessert pizza

Cinnamon streusel dessert pizza

Cinnamon streusel dessert pizza

Cinnamon Streusel Dessert Pizza

Streusel Topping

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 4 Tbs. (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted

CRUST

  • 1 batch pizza dough, store-bought or homemade
  • cornmeal or semolina flour, for sprinkling
  • 1 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
  • ground cinnamon

Glaze

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 Tbs. milk
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 450° F, with a pizza stone set on a rack in the bottom 1/3 of the oven.

Make streusel topping: In a small bowl, stir together flour, granulated sugar, and brown sugar with a fork until well-combined. Add in 1/4 cup melted butter and stir until the mixture is moistened and large clumps form. Set aside.

Roll out pizza dough on a floured surface until about 1/8 to 1/4-inch thick. Transfer to a pizza peel sprinkled liberally with cornmeal. Brush surface of dough with melted butter and sprinkle lightly with ground cinnamon. Sprinkle streusel mixture evenly on top of the dough. Using the pizza peel, transfer pizza to heated oven.

Bake at 450° for 8-10 minutes, or until crust is golden brown.

Meanwhile, make glaze: In a small bowl, stir together powdered sugar, milk, vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt until smooth.

Remove pizza from oven and top with glaze in a swirl pattern. Slice and serve immediately.

Source: Slightly adapted from Rumbly in My Tumbly.