Recipe: Chocolate Caramel Turtle Bars (Vegan)

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Today, I had a bit of a milestone in my development as a food blogger: I successfully veganized the first recipe I ever posted here. I have cast off my shackles of dairy and eggs once and for all!

Dramatic descriptions aside, I’m pretty excited. I thought that my vegan baking would always be sub par compared to the creations I used to whip up; creations that had everyone ooh-ing and aah-ing and begging for more. I thought that my family, boyfriend, and friends would never be excited for my vegan food, always destined to elicit a resounding “well, they’re good for vegan food, I guess…” Not that I’d ever actually received that type of feedback, but I always feared it. I’m a perfectionist, you see.

However, after some wildly successful doughnuts, chocolate chip oat cookies, brownies, thin mints, cinnamon rolls, and now these turtle bars, I’ve finally found my vegan baking confidence. My fears of lukewarm responses are a thing of the past. I can now veganize recipes spontaneously and feel confident that they’ll turn out just as good as the dairy-filled versions!

I hope you guys will enjoy these bars as much as I did. Their familiar taste brought back happy memories of starting this blog–not to mention, they taste even better now because no animals were harmed to make them. (Okay, so the taste is pretty much exactly the same, but with the added psychological warm glow of not hurting cows.)

How ironic that my first post started with a silly disclaimer about not hurting turtles!

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Ingredients:

Dough and toppings:

  • 1.5 cups flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1.75 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup earth balance butter, melted
  • 1 cup pecans, chopped
  • 1.5 cups chocolate chips

Caramel ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup earth balance butter

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the chopped pecans on a tray and toast in the oven for 4-5 minutes until fragrant. Remove from oven and place in a heat-safe bowl with the chocolate chips when done (they’ll start to melt).

2. Prepare the crust: In a medium-sized bowl, stir together the flour, salt, baking soda, brown sugar, and oats. Add in the melted earth balance and stir until combined. Press 2/3 of the mixture evenly along the bottom of a 13×9″ pan, and bake for 10 minutes.

3. Prepare the caramel: combine 1/2 cup brown sugar and 3/4 cup earth balance in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, and let it bubble for about 5 minutes–it should turn darker brown. Then, pour it into the bowl with the pecans and chocolate chips and stir until combined.

4. Spread the caramel-chocolate-pecan mixture evenly over the crust you just baked–be careful not to dislodge any of the crust. Then sprinkle the rest of the flour-oat mixture evenly across the top, and bake for 12-15 minutes until golden.

5. Let cool, cut, and enjoy!

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Recipe: Chocolate Caramel Turtle Bars

DISCLAIMER: No turtles were harmed in the making of this dessert.

However, be warned: these bars tend to disappear quickly.

Years ago, before I had even begun my baking career, my dad bought me a book called “Baked Explorations.” At the time, I thought it was weird. He must have had a vision of some sort or simply a healthy dose of fatherly intuition, however, because I’ve managed to dig up all sorts of quirky and surprisingly tasty concoctions from that strange little book since that fateful day.

One of my favorites, these buttery Heartland Turtle Bars are a delicious combination of chocolate, oats, homemade caramel, and pecans. They’re quick and simple to make, and are sure to please chocolate-lovers everywhere!

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1.75 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup toasted pecans, chopped
  • 1.5 cups chocolate chips

Caramel ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 2 tbs heavy cream

Directions

1. Set your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and butter the bottom of a 13×9 inch pan. You can also line the bottom with parchment paper if you’re worried about the bars sticking.

2. Whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda in a medium-size bowl.

3. Rub the brown sugar into the flour mixture with your (clean!) hands, and then stir in the oats until evenly combined.

4. Using a wooden spoon, make a well–or an indent–in the center of the dry ingredients, and pour in the melted butter. Stir until wet and evenly combined.

5. Spread 2/3 of the oat mixture into the bottom of the 13×9 pan, and bake in the oven for 10 minutes.

6. Remove the pan from the oven. If you bought whole instead of pre-chopped pecans, chop them (I prefer them chopped fine) and spread them on a baking sheet. Put the baking sheet in the oven for 4-5 minutes, or until the pecans become aromatic. Be careful not to scorch them!

7. Spread the pecans and chocolate chips over the oat mixture in the 13×9 pan.

8. Now, make the caramel. Cut the butter in the “caramel ingredients” section into cubes and melt it with brown sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Let boil for 1 minute while stirring occasionally. It should foam up, so make sure it doesn’t overflow!

9. Remove saucepan from heat, and stir in the heavy cream. Pour caramel over the pecans and chocolate on the oat mixture.

10. Sprinkle the remaining 1/3 of the oat mixture on top, and bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.

11. Remove from oven, and allow to cool. I personally like to put it in the fridge after it’s cooled down a bit, because it tends to set better that way. Once it’s set, cut into bars and serve, and prepare for them to disappear quickly.

Let me know what you think! I always love to hear your reviews and/or modifications to the recipe.

Thanks for stopping by,

Michelle