Baking – Carmelitas

I needed to make a little something sweet for a morning tea date this week I had and thought a slice would be the easiest thing to do, but I was bored by my usual chocolate-y slice repertoire. I did a little googling using the phrase “sweet slice” to see what would come up that wasn’t chocolate based, and ended up on Carmelitas. I had heard of them before, but had never had one. My impression is that they’re more of an American slice bar, but they seemed simple enough to make, and ticked all my non-chocolate requirements: oats, caramel, and just a little bit of chocolate through the middle. They ended up being a tad more involved than I thought they would be, only because I wanted to make the caramel myself, and after using THE WORST RECIPE IN THE WORLD and getting it wrong THREE TIMES, I found a different recipe that was much better and gave it one final shot. It worked thank goodness, because if it didn’t I’m pretty sure I would have burned my kitchen to the ground and walked away to start anew somewhere else. Anyway, here’s my attempt!

2 cups plain flour
1 3/4 cups rolled oats
1 1/4 brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
280 grams unsalted butter, softened
1 cup chocolate chips
3/4 cup pecans (I omitted these due to my daughter’s nut allergy)
1 cup caramel sauce (recipe below)
2 1/2 tablespoons plain flour

Caramel sauce
1 cup caster sugar
90 grams butter at room temperature, cubed
1/2 cup thickened cream
1 teaspoon salt (I omitted this as I didn’t want the sauce to be salted caramel)

Method – Caramel Sauce
– Heat caster sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly with a high heat resistant rubber spatula or wooden spoon. Yes, that’s right – just heat the sugar on its own in the saucepan. Sounds weird, but trust me, it works.
– First thing to note is that while you are heating the sugar, do not walk away from it! The sugar will become clumpy and start to melt into an amber/brown colour as you stir it. Once it clumps, it becomes amber coloured pretty fast so you need to be there the entire time to make sure it doesn’t burn.
– Once the sugar is completely melted, add the butter. The caramel will bubble and splutter when you do this, so be careful. Stir the butter into the caramel until it is completely melted. Note that I did this with the saucepan removed from the heat – the caramel was hot enough to melt the butter on its own. Just make sure you stir it constantly until the butter is melted.
– Slowly pour in the thickened cream. The mixture will bubble and splutter again. Put the saucepan back onto the medium heat and let it boil for one minute – it will rise up in the saucepan as it boils.
– Remove from heat and let it cool. It will thicken up beautifully on standing over the next hour or so.

Method – Carmelitas
– Preheat the oven to 160°C.
– Grease a rectangular slice pan or a square brownie pan (I used a square brownie pan and would probably use a rectangular pan next time)
– Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl and stir. Leave the additional 2 1/2 tablespoons of flour out for later.
– Add the softened butter and beat on low/medium until it’s combined and forms a dough like consistency.
– Divide the mixture into two separate halves.
– Spread half the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for about 10 minutes, or until just golden.
– Remove from the oven and let it cool down slightly, about ten minutes or so.
– Sprinkle the chocolate chips and nuts (if you’re including them) over the slice base.
– Mix the extra flour and caramel sauce together (I heated the sauce up in the microwave for about fifteen seconds to make it a bit softer as it does harden a bit on standing).
– Drizzle the caramel sauce over the chocolate chips and nuts.
– Top with the remaining crumble mix – there won’t be enough to completely cover the top. Rather it should just look like crumble topping. I did have to use the spatula to separate it a bit to make it look more crumbly and have enough to spread out over as much of the surface as I could.
– Bake again for 15 to 20 minutes. The crumble top should be a nice golden brown.
– Allow the pan to cool, then refrigerate. Since it’s so cold here at the moment, I just let the pan cool down and then covered it in glad wrap and left it on the bench overnight before slicing it up in the morning.
– Enjoy on their own, or slightly warmed with a dollop of cream or ice cream!

– Next time I will definitely use a rectangular slice tray. The square tray made them too thick and chunky, which is nice, but does make them seem a little unwieldily to hold and eat. Then I would also cut them into longer bars rather than squares.
– I would also probably just buy a pre-made caramel sauce next time to save myself the time and annoyance of buggering up the one I was trying to make. Plus, having a jar of pre-made sauce means I could whip these up on short notice, given that I always have all the other ingredients in the cupboard ready to go.
– The with the first caramel sauce recipe that went horribly wrong was that it included water and WAY TOO MUCH cream, so it was the consistency of water that never thickened up. I thought I kept getting it wrong, but after reading the comments at the end of the recipe I realised everyone was having the same problem. So the moral of the story here is READ THE COMMENTS (which on the internet is usually the thing you shouldn’t do, ironically).
– These are delicious slightly warmed up, but they do become very collapsible once you do so. Next time I would probably split the caramel sauce in two halves and spread a layer on the baked base, then put the choc chips on, then spread the rest of the sauce on top of them. I think having the caramel on the biscuit base might help it stay together a little more.

The end result is a delicious, hearty slice that isn’t overly sweet, despite all the caramel sauce! The biscuit base and biscuit crumble really cut through the sweetness, and the choc chips in the middle are just a nice, subtle taste of chocolate that comes through after the oaty, caramel-y goodness. A total winner for morning tea!

Until next time,

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