Apple Caramel Oatmeal Bars

apple caramel barsJust last week was Guy Fawkes day.  It is an annual commemoration observed on November 5, primarily in Great Britain. Its history begins with the events of November 5, 1605, when Guy Fawkes, a member of the Gunpowder Plot, was arrested while guarding explosives the plotters had placed beneath the House of Lords. Celebrating the fact that King James I had survived the attempt on his life, people lit bonfires around London, and months later the introduction of the Observance of 5th November Act enforced an annual public day of thanksgiving for the plot’s failure.

Settlers who came over to Newfoundland brought this tradition of lighting bonfires and it has continued ever since.  The town of Grand Falls-Windsor hosts a bonfire night and it has become quite the celebration.  People donate their wood and paper and a large bonfire is created, safely away from people’s houses.  Bonfire night is another ‘old world’ tradition that Newfoundland keeps alive.

Some rural communities also have bonfires with no connection to Guy Fawkes.  There may be a connection to ancient pagan customs instead. In Great Britain fires would be lit for Samhain (pronounced Saw-win) to appease the Celtic gods and bring light back to the dying sun.  Samhain becomes our modern Halloween, so it’s easy for the bonfire tradition to blend together, being only five days apart.

Because I’ve been playing around with molasses and apples and made the apple pandowdy, I found another great recipe you can carry with you.  These apple caramel bars are perfect as a snack sitting by the bonfire or later in the year when your bonfire is indoors. (Note: I mean your fireplace.  Please, for the love of God, don’t make a bonfire in your house.  Are ya stunned?)  These bars are moist and chewy from the oatmeal and the molasses gives it that unique Newfoundland taste.

Preheat your oven to 350F.  Combine flour, oatmeal, brown sugar, and baking soda in a bowl.  Add melted butter and molasses.  Mix until combined.  Press about half of the mixture into a parchment lined 9X13 pan.  Make sure to have the parchment come up the sides.  It will be easier to remove later.  Press down to make even layer, extending completely to all sides.  Bake for eight minutes.  Remove from oven to let cool slightly.

Peel, core, and slice apples.  I used Granny Smiths because I like the tartness against the sweetness of the molasses and caramel.  If you want to change it up, just make sure it’s a good baking apple.  Place apples on top of baked oatmeal layer.

Remove lid from caramel sauce and microwave for 30 seconds to one minute.  This will make it easier to pour over apples.  Use a glove to remove sauce from microwave.  This is warmed sugar.  It can get very warm.  Pour evenly over the apples.  If needed spread the sauce so it covers most of the apple layer.  I used President’s Choice Dulce de Leche sauce, but any caramel sauce will do.  Sobey’s has a Whiskey Caramel sauce which would be lovely.

Add remaining 1/2 cup flour to the leftover half of oatmeal mixture and combine.  Sprinkle topping on the caramel, remembering to cover all the dessert.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Let cool on rack completely before removing from pan.  If you like you can cool in the fridge and then cut.  If so, let it warm to room temperature before serving.  Enjoy as a bar, or cut larger pieces and serve with whipped cream.

Apple Caramel Oatmeal Bars

These bars are a great treat after a cold day. Sit by the fire and have a bite.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 32 bars

Ingredients

  • 2 cups All purpose flour
  • 2 cups quick cooking oats
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup butter melted
  • 1/2 cup fancy molasses
  • 3 cups apples sliced thinly
  • 1 jar caramel sauce
  • 1/2 cup All purpose flour

Instructions

  1. Combine flour, oatmeal, brown sugar, and baking soda in large bowl or mixer.
  2. Melt butter in a microwave safe bowl. Add molasses to butter to combine. Add oatmeal/flour mixture and mix until no flour is showing.
  3. Press about half of the mixture into a prepare 9x13 pan lined with parchment. Make sure there's an even layer going all the way to the sides of the pan. Bake for eight minutes in a 350F oven. Remove and let cool slightly.
  4. Peel, core, and slice 3 cups of apples. Place sliced apples on cooled, baked oatmeal layer. Spread evenly.
  5. Microwave jarred caramel sauce until it's soft enough to pour: about 30 seconds to one minute. You want the sauce to still be thick, so soft enough to pour and spread. Pour evenly over apples.
  6. Add 1/2 cup flour to remained oatmeal mixture. Mix until flour is incorporated. Crumble mixture on top of caramel/apples layer. Make sure to coat evenly and cover the top completely. Bake for 25-30 minutes.
  7. Remove from oven and let cool completely before cutting into bars. Makes 32.

Whata ya at?

When I told people that I wanted to write and start a blog, the first question is “What are you going to write about?” Blogs are funny things.  They can be a bit narcissistic, but revelationary.   You have to be a bit vulnerable in letting people into your world as well as outgoing enough to want to tell people about things that you consider interesting.

That’s why I wanted to blog about two things that I consider a big part of my identity.  Firstly, I was born in Gander, Newfoundland and spent most of my childhood on the island.  There was a couple of years living in Labrador, but overall the majority of my upbringing has been on the Rock.  Talk to most Newfies and they will say that they consider themselves a Newfoundlander first and foremost.  Canadian yes, but Newfoundlander definitely.  We have a staunch pride in our province, our lives, and our unique outlook.  We have a particular sense of humour, sometimes bordering on the macabre.  The late Newfoundland writer, Ray Guy, commented that Newfoundlanders will talk about how Aunt Martha got eaten alive by lobsters without batting an eye as they are having their Sunday dinner.

“Some sin, ain’t it?  She went quickly d’ough.  Give us some of those pototoes, my ducky.”

That quirky sense of homour has launched the career of many islanders.  Look up Codco on Youtube, or more recently This Hour has 22 Minutes, and you’ll see the loving and self-effacing comedy that we’re known for.  Many say it comes from our Irish roots who have the same way of looking at life.

Secondly, I love baking.  Ever since I was a youngster I would create things in the kitchen.  Sparked by watching my grandmother make bread, I have always liked to create things in the kitchen.  I received my baking certificate a while back now, but the love of bread and baking hasn’t diminished.

whitebreadBread is essential to most people’s existence.  For the largest part of the last couple millennia, bread kept people alive.  Bread is still part of Newfoundland’s identity.  Pick up any Newfoundland cookbook and you’ll still find recipes for white bread.  It’s such a simple thing, but it was a mainstay of my, and many others’, upbringing.

Bread is simple, inexpensive, hearty, and comforting.  For the latter part of the last century it has been almost compulsory to know how to make bread.  Alan Doyle, in his book Where I Belong, remembers his mother making bread once a week, eight to ten loaves at a time.  By his admission, he grew up fairly poor.  And while we weren’t considered poor, my mother was the eldest of twelve children, so any way to save a bit of money was appreciated.  Why buy bread for 50 cents a loaf, when you could make it for less than half that?  Nowadays, it’s a matter of convenience for most, but I still make my own bread instead of buying it from the store.

I’ve found that I like working with bread and dough.  I love the slightly acidic smell of a sourdough.  The crackling bread makes when I first comes of out a hot oven and starts to cool.  Even the soft, buttery texture from a good fresh loaf of white bread.  That’s what I grew up with.  Fresh white bread made into three buns and placed in a loaf pan.  When it came out of the oven, you would quickly brushed some butter on the top so it would get soaked into the loaf when it cooled.

While bread is common in most people’s lives.  It’s ingrained, so to speak, in Newfoundland.  Diane Tye of Memorial University comments that bread “touched all aspects of life” and is eaten at practically every meal.  Sometimes if vegetables were scare, bread and tea may be the meal.  Even now, when you visit, you’re offered tea with bread of some kind.  Maybe a slice of homemade white or a buttered bun.   Bread is community.

That’s part of our history I want to share with you.  Come with me, grab a cup of tea, and we’ll journey together.