I’ll just lay it out there for you straight up – I love oatmeal. I don’t think I’ve had a week (and even very few days if I’m being honest) in which oatmeal was not included as part of my breakfast since….I don’t know, probably since I discovered that the dreaded instant oatmeal packets (of which I’m decidedly not a fan) are not the only way in which one can partake in its hearty, filling deliciousness. If you are an oatmeal hater, I a) don’t know what’s wrong with you, but b) you will just have to deal with my waxing poetic about them for a little bit longer 🙂 .
But what to combine with my love of oatmeal? (ummmm…I believe the real question is what can’t you combine with oatmeal?) Well, last weekend was the “House of Cards” season four première, so obviously some sort of combination with that needed to happen. Ideally a dessert that would be at least a smidgeon “House of Cards” themed is what I’m saying here. So, on that note, I was thinking something along the lines of pecan pie (you know, Southern, delicious etc. Plus it would have the added benefit of needing caramel, aka a bit of candy making. Since candy is notorious for needing to be watched closely lest it burn, overcook, undercook etc. and thus, much like a real house of cards, it may collapse at any moment, I thought this would be a fitting choice).
Since I’ve done pecan pie tarts before though, I thought I’d better step out of that box a little (or at least stick a toe out 😉 ). Also, have I mentioned my overwhelming love for all things oatmeal? (you know, in case you missed my love affair with it from the first paragraph? 😉 ). And thus the pairing was born. Besides, how can you not want to eat these? They’re delectably delicious, Southern-ish with the pecans, stuffed full of bourbon salted caramel (you know, and oats in case you care about that the way I do. Mmmm…all those toasty oats soaking up rivers of bourbon salted caramel and providing that scrumptiously hearty yin to the pecans yang. The carmelly goodness clinging to the pecans in a satisfyingly sweet candied-esque way. Sheer bliss…sorry, I need a moment. As Kevin would say, I’m getting a little verklempt here).
I don’t make bars that often because, although they’re super easy to make, I always find them a little less visually appealing than cookies. But oats and bars, they’re just meant to be (also oats and cookies and oats and pie and oats and….well you get the idea 😉 ). In fact, they go so well together, that I’m going to take this opportunity to Weird Al-ify the eponymous Raffi song “Oats and Beans and Barley”. Please enjoy (also, here are the real lyrics if you’re interested):
Oats, pecans in bars to go,
Oats, pecans in bars to go,
Combine them together, is anything better than oats, pecans in bars to go?
(not funny in any way whatsoever, but a kick back to childhood. Also, I have still totally managed to get this stuck in my head, so it can’t be that bad?)
My only mistake in making these was thinking “these’ll take me 5 seconds, so starting them at 10:30pm on a Friday night (yes, apparently that’s what I do late Friday nights. While others are out at the bar, or dancing, or hanging out with friends, I’m hangin’ with my drug of choice, sweet sweet sugar as well as my other sweet sweet sugar, Kevin – I know *groan* 😉 ) should be no problem at all!”. Now it’s true that the actual bars are not that time consuming to make (and you don’t need to babysit them once they’re in the oven, so you can totally do other things while you’re waiting….like sitting in front of the oven and smelling the intoxicating scent of bubbling caramel as it percolates and ingratiates itself throughout the entire pan of bars), the caramel unfortunately took longer than I had anticipated. For which I have no excuse really because I’ve made variations on this caramel about a hundred million times, so I should really know how long it takes. Clearly my juvenile dementia is kicking in 😉 .
I felt kind of guilty because Kevin and I, in anticipation of binge watching season four this weekend, decided to watch the season finale of season 3 to catch ourselves up. “Don’t worry Kevin, I’ll be ready to start watching in like 5 seconds!” An hour later, we actually started watching it. Ahem *embarrassed face*. Then to add insult to injury, I had to be a huge jerk when Kevin was like “well, we’re starting to watch this later than I thought, but totally worth it because I can’t wait to try those bars the minute they come out of the oven! They smell delectable!” and I had to smack his hand and say “No! You must wait until tomorrow. Amber has decreed it!!!” I know right? I wouldn’t stay married to me either 😉 . Unfortunately, these need a little time to set due to the ooey gooey caramelly-ness, so if you are completely impatient, then I recommend just eating them out of the pan with a spoon and calling it “Bourbon Salted Caramel Pecan Oat Crumble” and maybe tossing a bit of vanilla vegan ice cream on top. Zero judgement.
Yield: 16 large bars or 25 smaller bars
- 3/4 cup melted vegan butter
- 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup flour
- 1 cup old-fashioned oats (not instant)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- pinch of salt
- 1 cup bourbon salted caramel sauce (see recipe below)
- 3/4 cup chocolate chips
- 3/4 cup pecans
- Preheat oven to 325F and line an 8×8 pan with tinfoil (you don’t have to do this, but with the sticky caramel, I was a little worried it would be hard to get out after. Safety first 🙂 ).
- I recommend getting started on the caramel first (recipe below).
- While you’re waiting for the caramel to heat up to 248°, in a medium-sized bowl, add the melted butter, brown sugar and vanilla and blend with an electric hand mixer until combined.
- Add the flour, oats, baking soda and salt and stir until combined.
- Take about half of the mixture and press it into the bottom of the pan and bake for 12 minutes (don’t forget to check on your caramel!!!).
- After 10 minutes, remove from the oven and sprinkle the chocolate chips and pecans evenly on top. Ideally you will let you’re caramel cool at least slightly before using so it has a chance to thicken up a bit. Pour caramel evenly over the top of the chocolate chips and pecans.
- Cover with the remaining crumble mixture.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until caramel starts to slightly set and the edges of the bars start to brown.
- Allow to cool before placing covered in the fridge for a couple of hours (or overnight), before slicing into 1 1/2 -2 inch bars.
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup bourbon or whisky
- 2 Tbsp agave
- 1/4 cup vegan butter
- 3/4 cup canned coconut milk
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
- In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the sugar, bourbon and agave
- Bring to a boil, and let cook, swirling the pan, but not stirring, until it reaches 248° on a candy thermometer.
- Add the canned coconut milk, vegan butter and vanilla. FYI – it will start bubbling like crazy for a minute when you add the coconut milk and butter.
- Continue cooking, but stirring this time, until mixture reaches 220° (or higher if you want it thicker. I accidentally “overcooked” mine – i.e. it was fine, but I’d intended it to be a little saucier…much like my personality 😉 ).
- Remove from heat and stir in sea salt. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before pouring over bars.