Let's right to the down and dirty, shall we? The winner of the Best-Ever Cupcake Icing Kit is according to random.org is...
Congratulations to Katie, and may her Thanksgiving be free of tomato-flavored Jell-o and full of gorgeously frosted cupcakes. Katie - please e-mail me at orangeelle (at) gmail (dot) com to claim your prize.
Now that we've got the formalities aside, I need to talk to you about turtles. Not the reptilian kind, no, I stay away from those due to a traumatizing experience in the fourth grade. We went to some sort of science center with different stations where you could touch a horseshoe crab or starfish or, in my case, a small turtle. Well, the parent volunteer instructed me to "hold the turtle like a hamburger" and when I did, it started moving its feet/fins/claws really fast and the tiny nails scraped at my hands. Did I bleed? No. Did I cry? Yes. Was I a wimpy child? Yes. Have I eaten a hamburger since then? No.
What I'm talking about here are turtle candies - a combination of crunchy, toasted pecans stuck together by a swath of chewy caramel and doused in a chocolate bath before making a nonstop trip to your tummy. I've splurged on the fancy turtle at the beach this past summer, and with only four turtles in my hand and twenty-five dollars out of my pocket, I couldn't help but feel a little jipped.
Thankfully, there are ways around such a dilemma. You can have the turtle experience in the privacy of your own home. And if you're feeling a little crazy, you can add some brown sugar and oats to the mix and watch the wonderful marriage of oatmeal cookie and turtle candy take place. Love is a beautiful thing.
Perhaps it's the 3 1/4 sticks of butter, or maybe it's the toasted pecans and their dizzingly delicious aroma, or there could be something magical that happens when you close the oven door on the combination of butter, chocolate, silky smooth caramel and pecans but you must listen to me - the scent of it will make your head spin. As soon as it was out of the oven, I spent ten minutes just leaning over it, inhaling the sugary haze and hoping my hair didn't singe from the heat. I'm a thrill-seeker that way - anything for a rush.
One quick note - I went a little overboard on the filling. I used 2 cups of chocolate chips and 1 1/2 cups of pecans. While it increased the thickness of the bar, the slim ratio of caramel to chocolate/pecan left me without lovely threads of caramel pulling out with each bite. Follow the measurements as listed below and you'll be in good shape.
Heartland Turtle Bars
Adapted from Baked Explorations
For the bar topping and base
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 3/4 cup rolled oats
2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
1 cup toasted pecans, chopped into large bits
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
For the caramel filling
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
2 tablespoons heavy cream
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and butter the bottom and sides of a 9x13 inch glass baking dish. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom of the pan with a bit of overhang on the ends and butter the parchment.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, and dark brown sugar. Stir in the oats. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the melted butter in, stirring until well combined. Press about 2/3 of the oat mixture into the bottom of the pan and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven to cool on a wire rack for a bit, leaving the oven on. Sprinkle the chopped pecans and chocolate chips over the somewhat-cooled crust.
Meanwhile, make the caramel filling. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt together the butter and light brown sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil and allow it to boil for one minute, stirring constantly. After 1 minute, remove the pan from the heat and quickly whisk in the cream (careful, it spatters a bit). Immediately pour the caramel evenly over the pecans and chocolate chips, taking care to cover as much of it as you can. (The caramel is somewhat thin so it seeps down into the nooks and crannies rather quickly, you won't have time to go back and spread it out later.) Crumble the remaining oatmeal mixture over the top and bake for 10-12 minutes or until the top is golden brown. (Mine was closer to 12 minutes, but start checking after 10.)
Allow the bars to cool in the pan for a few minutes and then refrigerate(or set it on your back deck because it's so freezing outside) for about an hour. Cut the bars into squares or triangles and serve.
These bars will keep, covered, at room temperature, for about 3 days.