We we see the word 'turtle' in a recipe title, we inevitably are struck with the urge to bake whatever said recipe is for. See Turtle Tart.
So, after a week of raisins, when we saw the Heartland Turtle Bars recipe in the fabulous Baked Explorations, we were ON IT.
I mean, really. Has anyone ever steered you wrong when it comes to chocolate chips and pecans? 'No' is the answer you are looking for. Especially not the boys from Baked.
Now, this particular recipe in the cookbook did not have an accompanying photograph. Which, we have to say, is sometimes annoying. Of course there are places you don't necessarily want to see explanatory photos because it suggests a certain quality or ambiance that is less than desirable. See Hunan Garden in Lexington, Virgina. Or, might we also reference most sushi restaurants on 8th Avenue in New York City. The exception here OF COURSE is Walker Brother's Pancake House in Illinois which is DELICIOUS but does oddly have photos on the laminated menu. But, we digress. In a cookbook, we generally like to see pictures. They are reassuring. They are often pretty.
You can imagine our surprise then, when as we re-read the recipe and undertook to make these bars, we realized that they were turning less turtle-y and more crumble-y.
WAIT. It's not that we are complaining, but we were just not expecting a crumble. We were expecting a gooey, oozy caramel bar with pecans and melty chocolate bits. Perhaps on a crust though we know turtles can be crustless.
You know, it's like when you pick a chocolate out of a mixed box expecting it to be filled with milk chocolate ganache but then it's actually filled with coffee flavored liqueur and you're all 'YUM! Not thinking this was a coffee one but I'll take it. And, in fact, forget the ganache where are more of those coffee ones...'
Yeah. So, um, that's what these bars are like.
Chocolate Pecan Crumble Bars
Makes 32-ish bars
Adapted from Baked Explorations
For the Oatmeal Base & Crumble Top:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar (though, whoops, we used light brown sugar)
1 3/4 cup rolled oats
2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
1 hefty cup lightly toasted pecans, roughly chopped
1 1/2 generous cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
For the Caramel Sauce Layer:
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and butter the bottom and sides of a 9x13-inch glass or lightly colored metal baking dish. Rip off a piece of parchment paper and lay perpendicular in the bottom of the pan with several inches hanging over the long sides of the pan. Butter this parchment as well. This just makes the whole thing easier to remove.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, and brown sugar. Stir in the oats. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the melted butter, stirring until combined and when the mixture is chunky. Like a crumble, duh. Lightly press about 2/3 of the oat mixture into the bottom of the pan and bake for 10-12 minutes or until light golden brown. 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 and the vanilla. 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 rather thin and instantly soaks into the crumb base so try to spread or pour as evenly as possible. If not, no biggie. The whole thing bakes together and tastes divine at the end anyway. Crumble the remaining oatmeal mixture over the top and bake for 10-12 minutes further or until the top is golden brown.
Allow the bars to cool in the pan for a few minutes and then refrigerate for about an hour. Cut the bars into squares and serve.
These bars will keep, covered tightly, at room temperature, for about 3 days.