Back to school season has been a little weird this year for me. It’s actually the first year in 20 years that neither I nor my husband are really going “back to school.” My hubby graduated in May, so he’s completely done. I haven’t actually graduated yet, but I’m already 4 months into my last year of clinical rotations. Your 3rd and 4th year of pharmacy school kind of run together with only a week break in between, so while I’m “in school,” I never really had to go “back.” I am not jealous because after 20 years I definitely don’t miss those late nights studying! I only have 3 more (big) exams left after graduation for licensing, and then I hope any remaining exams will be few and far between =)
With everyone headed back to school, these cookie bars would make a great after-school snack (or after exam treat…) for the student(s) in your life. I made these back at my parents’ house this weekend with my Dad to take as treats for the lake. The recipe comes from a lady that we know from the lake who first brought these cookies the end of the summer “festival” they have every year. They were a big both at the festival and on our little trip. Out of the whole pan, we came back with only a couple.
While making the bars, I noticed that the crust/topping was really crumbly. It did stay together when it was packed, so I just ended up squeezing the pieces together in my hand before sprinkling it on top to get larger pieces of crumbs. The bars were a little crumbly when cut but held their shape well, so I think they are just intended to be a little more crumbly. My only other modification was to leave out the pecans as most of my family (me included) prefers their desserts without nuts. Lastly, we melted caramels with the evaporated milk for our caramel topping. The substitution comes from the recipe as written, however I have not tried it. Not sure what I think about using flour in the caramel?
Adapted from Lin Willett
Ingredients:14 oz. pkg. caramel candies
1/2 c. fat-free evaporated milk
(can substitute a 10oz. jar of caramel topping mixed with 1/4 c. flour)
2 c. flour
2 c. rolled oats
1-1/2 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 c. unsalted butter, melted
1-1/2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 c. chopped pecans (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt caramels and evaporated milk in a heavy saucepan over low heat. Stir constantly until smooth. Cool slightly.
Combine remaining ingredients except chocolate chips and pecans in a large mixing bowl. Mixture will be crumbly. Press half the crumbs into the bottom of a greased 9×13″ pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with chocolate chips and pecans. Carefully cover the chocolate chips with the caramel mixture. Sprinkle remaining crumb mixture on top. You may have to press it together to get larger crumbs. Bake 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Chill 1-2 hours then cut into bars.