A carmelita (or caramelita) is an oat-based bar cookie that has a ribbon of caramel sauce running through its middle. Its filling typically contains chocolate chips and nuts as well. It’s a sweet and rich treat that’s almost a cross between a cookie and a candy bar. With vegan candy bars few and far between, desserts like this can be a nice alternative.
If you’re a real caramel fan, feel free to double the caramel filling. You could double any of the other filling ingredients (the chocolate chips, the coconut, or the slivered almonds) if you wish also.
Vegan Oatmeal Carmelitas
2 cups old fashioned oats
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 ½ cup turbinado or demarara sugar
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
½ tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg (optional)
1/8 tsp cardamom (optional)
¾ cup oil
1/3 cup water
1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp maple extract or mapelline (optional)
¼ tsp almond or coconut extract (optional)
1 cup agave nectar
1 cup soymilk
1 tsp lemon juice
½ tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp vegan margarine or vegetable oil spread
3 Tbsp flour (more whole wheat pastry would be fine)
½ cup vegan chocolate or carob chips
½ cup shredded coconut
½ cup slivered almonds OR any other nut you like
Preheat to 350 degrees F.
To make the base: Mix together dry ingredients (oats through cardamom). Mix together wet ingredients (oil through almond extract). Using your fingers, combine dry and wet mixtures until well incorporated. Press 2/3 of this dough into the bottom of a sprayed 9 by 13” pan (or two 8” or 9” square pans), reserving rest of dough. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Pull out of the oven and set aside.
To make caramel filling: Mix soymilk and lemon juice and let sit for a minute or so. Add soy-lemon mixture to a tall-sided saucepan along with agave nectar. Clip a candy thermometer on the side of the pan so that its tip is submerged in the agave-soymilk liquid but not touching the bottom of the pan. Cook over medium to medium-low heat, stirring frequently and scraping the bottom of the pan until you reach 230 degrees F. Pull pan off the burner and quickly stir in the 3 Tbsp of flour, salt and cinnamon. Put pan back on burner and cook 1 minute more, stirring constantly. Pull it off the heat again and stir in vanilla and margarine.
Sprinkle chocolate, nuts and coconut over baked oat base. Pour caramel sauce on top. Pour carefully because it will not be easy to spread. Sprinkle reserved oat dough on top, breaking up any large clumps. Press down gently into an even layer with your hands, taking care not to touch any hot caramel sauce. Bake 20 minutes more, until lightly browned.
Let cool for at least an hour before attempting to cut, or the caramel will be oozy. Slicing is somewhat difficult, but may be easier if you score the pieces most of the way through and then break them apart with your hands. I like to cut them into somewhat small pieces because of their richness.
Note: The caramel sauce, minus the flour, can be made on its own and used for anything you would use store-bought caramel topping for, including vegan ice cream sundaes.
Edited to add: The last time I made these, I increased the proportion of caramel by 1/3, and added 1/2 tsp maple extract/mapelline to the caramel. They were even better!