There Is Such a Thing as Too Much Butter: Heartland Turtle Bars

Continuing to bake my way through Baked Explorations, last night I tried the recipe for Heartland Turtle Bars -- an oatmeal bar with a layer of pecans, chocolate chips, and caramel in the middle. One of reasons I chose the recipe was that it didn't require a lot of time or fuss.

The oatmeal portion of the batter is made simply by combining flour, salt, baking soda, brown sugar, and rolled oats, and then stirring in melted butter. You spread two-thirds of the batter into the bottom of a 9- by 13-inch pan, bake it for ten minutes, and then let it cool. You sprinkle chopped pecans and chocolate chips onto the cooled crust, and then pour on some caramel (made by heating together brown sugar and butter, and then adding in some heavy cream). You sprinkle on the rest of the oatmeal batter, bake, cool, chill, cut, and serve.

I had one minor problem executing this recipe. The recipe doesn't make a lot of caramel (the caramel is made from 1/2 cup brown sugar, 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, and 2 tablespoons heavy cream). When I poured the caramel over the pecans and chocolate chips on the cooled crust, there wasn't really enough to cover the nuts and chocolate. I tried to spread out the caramel as directed in the recipe, but this ended up melting some of the chocolate chips and creating a bit of a melted chocolate-caramel mess. If I make this recipe again, I would probably pour the caramel directly onto the cooled bottom layer, spread it out evenly, and then sprinkle the chocolate chips and pecans on top of the caramel -- I think this would be the easiest way to achieve an even distribution of everything in the middle layer.

As far as the finished bar goes, I wasn't in love with it. I thought the oatmeal component was the most interesting part, as the oats gave the bar a very interesting flavor and substantial texture. However, the middle layer of chocolate, pecan, and caramel sort of all ran together, and the dessert had a very clunky, inelegant quality. Another complaint is that the oatmeal batter was too buttery. I should have guessed this might be the case, since there is actually a warning about the bar's high butter content accompanying the recipe ("This is quite a buttery dessert. I, personally, have never found anything too buttery... but if you want to cut back on the butter in the recipe, leave out a tablespoon or two in the oatmeal crust..."). I would definitely reduce the amount of butter from the two sticks called for in the oatmeal batter recipe if I ever make these again -- the bars were greasy to handle, and they had an odd waxy quality when chilled due to the high butter content. I can't believe I'm saying this, but really, there is a thing as too much butter.

Recipe: "Heartland Turtle Bars" from Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented, by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito.


Suelle said…
Despite your description of 'inelegant', I think this sounds really tasty and your photo makes them look appetising too. I've got similar oaty recipes with fruit fillings - trying chocolate caramel and nuts now sounds a good idea!
Anonymous said…
Do you think that some of that "waxiness" might disappear if you used Irish butter? I know chefs who swear by it to get rid of that waxiness that U.S. butter sometimes has.