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I know what you’re probably thinking. “Why is she posting pumpkin desserts in January?” You have a point. I could have waited until Fall rolls around again, and posted this then. But, that would have meant that you, my loyal followers, would not know the existence of this little squares of heaven for almost another year. I just couldn’t have that.
The funny thing is, I made these bars on a day that I fully intended to make something else. However, upon getting home from work, I realized that I was out of milk. I had promised my colleagues treats for the following day. I couldn’t show up to work empty-handed, so I looked around for anything else and found a can of pumpkin in the cupboard. I mean, why not? Let’s get to work!
You’ll want to start by mixing all of your dry ingredients (except the nuts, if you’re using them) in a large bowl. Then, pour in the melted butter and mix by hand until the mixture is crumbly.
Divide the mixture in half, and set one half aside for now. Add pumpkin and vanilla extract to the other half and blend thoroughly, then press into the bottom of a rectangular pan lined with parchment. You can also use foil to line the pan, but make sure you grease it well.
While you’re mixing the dry ingredients, you’ll want to have your caramels and milk (I used half-and-half) melting on the stove. When they’re all melted, spread the melted caramel over the pumpkin-oat mixture in the pan. Leave a gap around the perimeter of the pan.
If you’re using pecans, mix them into the remaining mixture that had been previously set aside, then sprinkle that mixture evenly over the top of the caramel layer. Give it a few gentle pats to press the crumble topping into the caramel, then pop it into the oven.
When it’s done, you should be able to see traces of the caramel bubbling to the surface. Yum!
Resist the urge to dig into the caramel pumpkin oatmeal bars immediately, and allow them to cool completely. Then, cut them into bars. These are great for potlucks and other group activities. And, once you try them, you won’t want to wait until fall to make them again.
Caramel Pumpkin Oatmeal Bars
(Adapted from McCormick.com Recipe)
- 2 cups flour
- 2 cups old fashioned oats
- 1 1/2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 slightly heaping tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice
- 1 cup (2 stick) butter, melted
- 1 cup canned pumpkin
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 7 ounces (about 24) caramels, unwrapped
- 2 tablespoons milk or half-and-half
- ¾ cup chopped pecans (optional)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix flour, oats, sugar, baking soda, salt and spices in large bowl. Add butter; stir until mixture is well blended and forms coarse crumbs. Reserve 1/2 (about 2 1/4 cups) for the topping. Add pumpkin and vanilla to remaining mixture in bowl; stir until well blended. Press evenly into bottom of a parchment-lined 13×9-inch baking pan. Set aside.
Melt caramels and milk according to package directions, stirring after every minute. Let stand 1 minute. Pour over pumpkin mixture in pan, spreading to within 1/2-inch of edges. Add pecans (if using) to reserved crumb mixture. Sprinkle over the caramel and press down lightly.
Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until light golden brown. Allow caramel pumpkin oatmeal bars to cool completely on a wire rack, then lift from pan. Cut into bars.