It was my first time stepping foot in a mall since Christmas, when I bought a pair of pants. I had a one thing I needed to look at, namely sandals for Daughter #2's bizarrely-impossible-to-buy-sandals-for-narrow feet and the rest would be window shopping. As we walked through the mall, I found the clothes, images, and colors extremely jarring. The music was loud and unappealing and none of the window displays appealed. As I stood in the middle of a clothing store, flooded by loud music and full of nothing that I wanted to wear, I said to my friend "Are we no longer hip anymore?" She gave me a grave look of understanding but remained silent.
I'm no longer hip. I don't even know what hip is. I can't recognize if when it bites me in the butt. When I stare cluelessly at racks of clothes, it is hard to remember, that at one point, during Banana Republic's hey-dey, I was a top clientele specialist, busting out huge sales with a confident style, proclaiming my understanding and acceptance of what was cute, hip and what looked good. NO LONGER.
After walking aimlessly and shamefully out of place in all the hip stores, I was desperate for a place where I could feel at home. I decided to head to Williams-Sonoma and find a place where I knew what I wanted to buy and how I wanted to shop. As soon as I crossed the into the doors of the store, I felt that random sense of knowing that I belonged after feeling so out of place among the clothes. I walked slowly through the store, picking up different items of interest, and walked to the back where they had a pretty fun sale going on. There were beautiful dishes that called my name, new table linens that I imagined in my kitchen and suddenly I knew that I was never going to be hip with clothes, but perhaps in the kitchen, I would always find my sense of being with it. (I ended up buying some new dishtowels and a room fragrance diffuser for my bathroom...two lovely treats thanks to the ladies of GHC.)
These cookies are a further representation of where I truly feel hip and with it....baking. I like trying new recipes, experimenting with new flavors, and experimenting with a little bit of the funky and hip where baked goods are concerned. I can be food forward where I have no guts to be fashion forward, and I decided that it's okay if I can't do it for clothes. This is a twist on the idea of a "turtle", that lovely confection of pecans, caramel and chocolate. From the book Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented, this uses those three elements, but with a really delicious oatmeal cookie base and in a bar form. These are rich, sweet and totally delicious with a glass of milk. There isn't a huge layer of caramel (if that is what you're expecting with the name turtle) but the overall experience is delicious.
I chop my nuts in a bag, some part for convenience and other part to contain nuts in an orderly manner in my kitchen due to the nut allergies.
Oatmeal Turtle Bars
Adapted from Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito’s Baked Explorations
Makes 24 large bars (or 48 smaller ones)
Oatmeal Base and Topping
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon baking soda
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 ¾ cups rolled oats
1 ¾ sticks of unsalted butter (14 tablespoons), melted
1 ¼ cup pecans, chopped into large pieces
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
10 tablespoons (1 ¼ sticks) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease sides and bottom of 9X13 glass or metal baking pan. Line pan with parchment paper and grease.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking soda and brown sugar. Add the oats and stir until everything is evenly combined. Make a well in the center of dry ingredients and then pour in melted butter and stir until mixture is wet and combined.
Spread two-thirds of mixture across bottom of prepared pan and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until golden. Remove pan from oven and sprinkle pecans and chocolate chips. Leave oven on and make caramel sauce. (do not make caramel sauce ahead of time.)
In a medium saucepan over medium high heat, melt sugar, butter, and cinnamon together. Bring the mixture to a boil and boil for 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Caramel will darken). Remove pan from heat, stir in cream and vanilla extract. Pour caramel mixture over pecan chocolate layer and use an offset spatula to spread caramel evenly. Sprinkle remaining oatmeal mixture onto caramel and bake for 10 to 14 more, or until the top is golden brown.
Let bars cool in pan for 15 minutes and then place pan in the refrigerator and chill for 1 hour to firm up. Cut and serve. Bars can be stored, tightly wrapped, in the refrigerator or at room temperature for up to 3 days.
I can be hip...with these.
What you need for frosting and spreading caramel easily.