Another recipe that went straight from my Instagram feed to my to-bake list are the "Espresso Carmelitas" from Mike Bakes NYC, which he describes as: "A buttery brown sugar and oats cookie bar that is stuffed with chocolate chips, pecans, and espresso caramel." There are so many good things in this bar, but he had me at "espresso caramel."
The caramel doesn't include any water; it starts with a pan of dry sugar that you melt in a pan. After the sugar melts into an amber liquid, you add butter, followed by heavy cream; boil the mixture briefly; and take it off the heat and add salt and instant espresso powder.
The same oat mixture serves as both the base and top layer of the bars; you make it by stirring together melted butter, brown sugar, vanilla, flour, old-fashioned oats, baking soda, and salt. You press half of the mixture into the bottom of a parchment-lined pan and bake it briefly. Then you top the partially-baked crust with chocolate chips, pecans, and the caramel, before crumbling the rest of the oat layer over the top and baking the bars.
There seemed to be a crazy amount of caramel in these bars, and as I play back the experience of making the recipe in my mind, I'm thinking that I must have made a serious math error somewhere. The recipe is written to be baked in a 8-inch square pan, and I made a quadruple batch to bake two 9-inch by 13-inch pans of bars. While I routinely scale up recipes and am pretty meticulous when I do so, I can't come up with any other explanation for why I had enough caramel to completely drown the chocolate chips and pecans.
I cooled and chilled the bars before cutting them, and the caramel infused through the entirety of the bars made them slightly pliable. I wasn't happy with the way the bars looked (and they did not resemble the recipe photo at all), but holy cow -- they were so delicious! Fortunately, the caramel was not brittle at all, but wonderfully chewy. I felt like I was eating a candy bar, full of decadent caramel, chocolate, and nuts. At the same time, the salt and espresso powder in the caramel nicely balanced out the sweetness. I stored the bars in the fridge and I loved the super firm texture of the chocolate chips; I used regular chocolate chips, not couverture, so they maintained their shape during baking.
I want to try this recipe again (just a single batch in an 8-inch square pan, reducing the opportunities for error) to confirm whether I really did screw something up this time. But honestly, even if the bars come out exactly the same, I would be delighted.