Caramel is one of my favorite dessert treats. It’s kind of underrated because not many people think of it as a stand alone thing. It tends to be baked into cakes or brownies or cookie bars like these. Or slathered on top of cake or drizzled over ice cream. Sure now and then ooey gooey chewy caramel candies get their moment in the sun, but caramel is thought of mostly as the sidekick to a hero dessert.
That’s too bad because it’s rather finicky to make and always turns out a little differently depending on the weather or the exact heat of the stove since it has to be watched and cared for, unlike something to be popped in the oven and forgotten for some time.
And the flavor of caramel is so rich and complex. It’s sweet and bitter, rich and just a little salty if you add a nice amount of sea salt. It changes the flavor of anything it comes in contact with (I’ve even had caramel chicken wings) and on its own can be quite the finish to a meal.
I love caramel so much, I almost named my blog caramel and characters instead of Pies and Plots, but I only liked the ring of it when pronounced care-a-mel and most people just say car-mel, so I took another path. That’s a writer’s brain for you 😉
Caramel is a sidekick in these cookie bars, I suppose, but they also wouldn’t be the same without the bittersweet complexity playing with the almonds and a hint of spice given I used Carrot Cake Almond Butter from Big Spoon Roasters, one of my favorite places to buy almond butter in unique flavors that aren’t too weird but are just plain tasty and addictive.
You can see the perfectly crackly top on these bars and the dense, almost gooey interior. Now imagine deep, dark caramel, nutty almond butter, and just a hint of spice, accented by carob chips for a cookie bar that deserves a spot at every picnic and party and random rainy afternoon sitting at home. Just make sure you put more caramel on top!Print
Crispy on the outside, dense and chewy on the inside, these cookie bars are loaded with caramel, almond butter, and a hint of warm spice.
½ cup coconut oil
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup maple sugar
½ cup coconut sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon espresso powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
2 large eggs
2 ¼ cup paleo flour blend (2 cups almond flour, 1 ¼ cup tapioca starch, ¾ cup coconut flour)
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ cup almond butter
¾ cup homemade salted caramel sauce
¾ cup carob or dark chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F/325 degrees F convection. Oil a 9 by 13 inch pan.
In a large bowl, beat oils, sugars, vanilla, espresso, cinnamon, and ginger until light, fluffy, and fully combined. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Stir in the flour and baking soda. Stir in the carob chips. Spread half the batter in the prepared pan.
In a small bowl, stir together the almond butter and caramel. Spread into an even layer over the batter. Dollop the remaining batter on top, spreading it out as much as possible. Bake about 25 minutes until golden brown and set on top. Cool completely in the pan before slicing and serving. Cookie bars may be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days or frozen, wrapped in parchment and foil, and placed in a zipper bag for up to 3 months. Thaw about 1 minute in the microwave.
Recipe adapted from Dinners, Dishes, and Desserts