How is it that moms always make the yummiest cookies?
My mom was always known for making some of the best cookies in town when I was a kid. I’ll never forget the giddy feeling we’d get when hearing the sound of her kitchen-aid mixer turn on. It’s a sound that still brings joy to our household, only now it’s usually me behind it making the cookies.
Chocolate chip cookies will probably remain the family favorite forever, but sometimes she’d make peanut butter or m&m. Oh, and she also made a killer oatmeal cookie. I remember the first time she taught me all of her tips and tricks for the perfect batch and then I slowly became the main baker in the family a few years after that.
Surprisingly, caramelitas were one of the few things that Mom didn’t make. However, they’re a classic southern treat. When I was a kid they’d show up at nearly every party or event with friends and family. I’m not sure if this is just a southern thing, but the ladies in my mom’s circle of friends always liked to keep their famous recipes under lock and key.
Luckily I grew up in the age of the internet where a simple search brings up about a million versions of caramelita recipes to choose from. Of course, you know I can’t leave well enough alone when it comes to recipes. Which brings me to how I came up with this recipe. It’s basically a cross between all the cookie flavors my mom taught me to make and a classic caramelita. This has become a go-to when we have guests and it’s a recipe I’m so excited to share with you!
Crunchy Peanut Butter Caramel Oat Bars (Vegan+GF)
Take an already decadent treat like caramelitas to the next level with these loaded cookie bars.
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 2/3 cup brown sugar
- 2/3 cup coconut cream
- 1 1/2 tablespoons strong black coffee
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/4 cup natural creamy peanut butter
- 1/4 coconut oil melted
- 1/2 cup organic cane sugar
- 2 tablespoons plant-based milk
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons organic cornstarch
- 2 cups quick cooking oats GF if needed
- 1/2 cup roasted salted peanut (roughly chopped)
- about 1 1/3 cups dairy free semi-sweet chocolate chips or chopped chocolate divided
First make the caramel. Combine brown sugar, coconut cream, syrup, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium low heat. Bring to a soft boil and stir occasionally, scraping sugar from sides of pan, for about 12 minutes or until it reaches 240 degrees F (115C) and starts to get thick and develop a dark amber color. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and coffee then cool for about 5 minutes while you make the cookie dough.
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F (180 C) and grease a 8x8 inch glass pan. Cream peanut butter, coconut oil, and sugar together in the bowl of a stand mixer. Scrape sides of bowl, then add milk and mix until combined. Add vanilla, baking powder, and salt until mixed, then add cornstarch, oats, and peanuts and stir to combine. Divide the dough in half and press one half into prepared pan in an even layer. Bake for 10-12 minutes until it begins to brown on the edges. Remove from oven and pour on the caramel.
Sprinkle on the chocolate chunks and then crumble the second half of the dough on top. Return pan to oven and bake for 22 - 25 minutes until the edges are browned. Cool completely before cutting and serving. (You can place the pan in the fridge as soon as it's cool to the touch to cool them faster.)
If you have trouble finding coconut cream at your local grocery store it's completely fine to use full-fat coconut milk and scrape the cream off of the top. Just be sure that it's cold enough to separate.