My mom has been making this dessert ever since, well, I can’t remember exactly. But it quickly became my favorite homemade sweet. My brother always favored her chocolate cake (which is amazing), but the Oatmeal Caramel Bars were always my thing. I recall peeling each caramel from its wrapper just so Mom would bake them. A couple of Christmases ago, I had just completed a post-graduate internship down in Birmingham, Alabama, with Southern Progress Corporation (the publisher of Southern Living, Cooking Light, Coastal Living, Health, Southern Accents and Sunset)—and more importantly where I met LG, so my mom surprised me with the 1985 Southern Living Annual Recipes cookbook. Oxmoor House is the book publishing division for all SPC titles, and each year, they publish an annual for each of their magazine titles that contains every recipe from the year. No need to hang on to pesky paper magazine clippings.
Here’s my mom’s inscription on the inside cover:
So I turn to page 247, and find this…the Oatmeal Caramel Bars recipe!
If that’s not destiny, I don’t know what is. The Oatmeal Caramel Bars were meant to be my favorite dessert since birth. I’ll share the recipe.
1 (14-oz) package caramels
1/3 c. milk
2 c. all-purpose flour
2 c. regular oats, uncooked
1 1/2 c. firmly packed brown sugar
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 c. butter, softened
1 (12-oz) package semisweet chocolate chips
1 c. chopped walnuts
Combine caramels and milk in a saucepan; cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until caramels melt. Set mixture aside.
Combine flour, oats, sugar, baking soda and salt. Add egg and butter, stirring until mixture is crumbly. Press half of mixture into a greased 13- x 9- x 2-inch baking pan. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with chocolate chips and walnuts; pour caramel mixture evenly on top. Sprinkle on remaining crumbs. Bake at 350° for 20 to 25 minutes. Cool and cut into bars. Chill 8 hours. Yield: about 3 dozen.
It’s not uncommon that a batch is waiting on the kitchen counter when I come home to visit. And if I’m lucky, half of the batch is reserved for me to carry home. So for Easter, my mom had done a good bit of cooking and baked these treats. They were as delightful as ever. Just one thing has changed about the Oatmeal Caramel Bars over the years. They have been sliced smaller. Seriously, a few bites of this treat is enough because it’s so rich. I suggest pouring a glass of milk to get the full effect. The oatmeal crust is both crunchy and chewy, the chocolate and caramel are sweet, but there’s a distinct saltiness that works with the walnuts.
And now I’m thinking back to other delicious family desserts. There’s strawberry cake, pound cake, berry or peach cobbler, chocolate chip cookies, chocolate bread pudding…I’ll have to stop there.