Friday, January 26, 2007

Those Caramel Things, by Susie

I don't have a lot of heirloom recipes. Both my grandmothers were farm wives. Which means they cooked meat until it was good and dead, and vegetables until they were almost unrecognizable. They were both fabulous with pickles and yeast breads. The pickles are too much work (me, can?) and the yeast breads . . . well, I tried, even with their recipes, and I just don't have the touch. I've finally decided that the reason theirs tasted so much better than any I've had in years had something to do with the fact that the milk and butter came straight from the cows. It makes me sad, though, that my kids will never get a chance to taste them.

I don't cook like my mother, either. Even my mother doesn't cook like she used to, now that she has ready access to things like fresh ginger and salmon, which simply weren't stocked in our small town grocery stores.

There are two recipes of hers, however, that I'll never give up. One is meatloaf, which my 9 year old just asked last week to teach him how to make, so he can make it for his kids someday. The other is her caramel bars, a recipe I think she got from another woman in her church and which are, in a word, legendary.

In college, when she sent me a pail of them, I had to make sure to be home when the mailman arrived, or the entire ice cream bucket was demolished before I had a chance to hide any. (I lived in a house with five other girls, smack dab between a house that held a good chunk of the offensive line and the Farmhouse fraternity. I swear they could smell food from half a campus away.)

They've made an appearance in an article in the RWR by Eloisa James, and I"m pretty sure they're showing up in Connie Brockway's next book. And there are at least a couple of books out there that I am sure would never have been conceived if the writers hadn't been under the influence of sugar.

I don't make them often because, well, if I make them, I eat them. I dug out the recipe this week because a batch of young people who work for my husband have decided they must have a Guitar-Hero-II-off, and ours is apparently the appropriate house to hold it. If there's one thing I know how to feed, it's young people bent on gaming a night away. Since these are (kind of) actual grown-ups, I imagine there'll be cheap beer in the fridge by the Mountain Dew, but I'm certain the two basic food groups are still sugar and caffeine.

I've got the sugar covered.

Those Caramel Things:

1 pkg. caramels, preferably Kraft
1 can sweetened condensed milk ( the regular sized can)
2 tablespoons butter (spring for the real thing - this isn't the time to skimp!)

1/2 c. butter
1 c. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/4 c. flour
1 1/2 c. oatmeal (I've never used steel cut, but any other kind I've ever used works fine)
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg, beaten

Toppings: 1 c. chocolate chips, 1 c. cashews (okay, maybe a little more)

Preheat oven to 350. Mix the first six crust ingredients (butter through baking soda - I melt the butter, just to make it easy, but you can do it with softened). Mix in the vanilla and egg. Reserve about 3/4 c. of the crust mixture; pat the rest into a 9 X 13 pan and bake about ten minutes, until light brown.

Meanwhile, make the caramel filling. You just melt all the caramels, the butter, and the condensed milk together, either in a double bowler or a big bowl in the microwave. (I think the mic. is easier.) Note: peeling the caramels is an EXCELLENT task for young fingers, though be prepared to lose a few caramels on the way. Not that I ever sneak any.)

Pour the filling over the browned crust. Sprinkle with chocolate chip and cashews, then crumble the rest of the oatmeal mixture over it. Bake another ten minutes or so, until lightly brown. (If you bake too long the caramel gets hard!)

That's it.
Don't say I didn't warn you.



Christie Ridgway said...

Susie! I'm so excited to try these (and mad at you at the same time) that I had to run upstairs to ask my resident teen if his friends were coming over for poker tonight. (This is the current co-ed activity chez Ridgway). Nope, darn it. There's a basketball game. But I'm a-thinkin' about tomorrow night.

I'll go on a diet on Monday. Whoops, no. I'll give them all to the kids, right?

But...your mom sent them to you in an ice cream pail? This must be some sort of farm child thing. Help out your California girlfriend and do explain.

Kathleen Eagle said...

This looks like a recipe I'd better not try until I need something to take to a party at someone else's house. I'm saving it and looking for a chance to use it. Soon. Who's having a party?

Yum. For the recipe and the warning--thanks, Susie!

Betina Krahn said...

Susie, you wicked woman, you! Here I've sworn off carbs and you bring the mother load of all favorite flavors right into my computer! Caramels are my favorite weakness! Aghhhh.

Okay, I'll print it out and try it later, when the kids are around to eat them up. . . or when I'm trying to impress somebody with my culinary largess. . . ahem.

And I totally get the "pail" thing. On dairy farms ice cream pails are the equivalent of Cool Whip containers. . . always saved and used and re-used endlessly. They're perfect for care packages to kids away from home and for storage on the basement or cold cellar shelves. I still have a few I can't bear to part with, even though I haven't bought IC in 5 qt pails since the boys left home!

Thanks for the yummies, even if I don't make them just yet!

:) Betina

Susan Kay Law said...

Shoot! I don't know how to edit.

That would be a double BOILER.

Betina's got it right. Big, plastic, ice cream pails, which were used to store (and freeze) layers of cookies and bars and things like that. Like tupperware for farm appetites. Or college kids.


Debra Dixon said...


Argh! Evil Susie. Bad Susie.

::munching sounds::

Nice Susie. Pretty Susie.

We love Susie.

Cherie said...

Wow! Those sound addictive. Shame on you! Are you trying to ruin my diet. I already have very little willpower when it comes to sweets. Of course, my 3 year old and my hubby will love you. Thanks for sharing! :-)

Cherie J

Helen Brenna said...

Oh, oh! Caramel AND chocolate. I'm in trouble.

RubyDavis said...

This sounds so good. Will have to make them when my grandchildren are here so I won't eat them all by myself...

Helen Brenna said...

Or, Ruby, you could eat them all yourself and not tell your grandchildren!