For those of you who are not from the Minnesota northland, let me explain this dessert we like to call “bars.”  These treats are serious business.  They’re essentially the most decadent components of other desserts packed into one solid 9×13 piece–dessert concentrate.  Although bars are known to run with shadier characters like hot-dishes and jello “salads,” I’m convinced that they can also hold their own in an elegant spread.  Others seem to think so too.  If you don’t believe me, check out Bars Bakery in St. Paul!

There are lots of bars out there, but hands down my favorite kind is the kind that my great aunt Shirley makes–one full of carmel, chocolate, oats, and pecans.  After indulging year after year at family gatherings I finally asked her for the recipe and added a couple of my own twists.  Thanks, Shirley!

Melt these on a low heat, stirring as necessary:

  • 36 unwrapped caramels
  • 4 Tbsp. milk
  • 3 Tbsp. butter

Mix these together:

  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup softened butter

In a different bowl mix these and add to the butter and sugar:

  • 1 cup flour (can use white or whole wheat)
  • 1 cup oatmeal
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Take about 3/4 of the mixture and press it into a 9×13 pan–just enough to cover the bottom.  Bake it at 350 for 9 minutes (or until it is slightly browned).  Cool for a few minutes and then pour the melted caramel on top. Then spread

  • 1 cup dark chocolate chunks  (I like 70% cocoa but I’ve also used semi-sweet chocolate chips)

over the caramel, followed by the remaining oat mixture.  Finish it off with

  • 1/2 cup of chopped pecans or walnuts

Bake it for 15 minutes.

Enjoy some Minnesota goodness.