Every Christmas that I can remember, my mom's friend Stephanie brings over a plate of miscellaneous holiday cookies. She bakes all kinds of cookies-- sugar cookies, fudge, Hersey Kisses cookies-- they are all on the plate. This plate of cookies is highly anticipated each and every year... but the cookie that is most coveted, and sparks a race to the plate? A cookie she calls: The Turtle.
A layer of oatmeal crumble, a layer of chocolate, a layer of caramel, and a second layer of crumble. Pure heaven in a bite. The only problem? There are only three of them. Growing-up, my brother and I would battle as to who would be home on cookie day, so that we could remove, re-plate, and hide the turtles. Chores would be negotiated, bribes would be made. They are that good.
So good, that for the last five years, I've been attempting to recreate them, so that I can have a whole plate of these bad boys, all to myself. I've seen similar cookies called carmelitas, I've seen turtle candies that look and taste nothing like the originals. What follows below, is my own adaptation, and a pretty close approximation of what I imagine the original must be... my own version of "Stephanie's Turtles."
40 square caramels
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream (don't skimp- really cream is a MUST)
12 Tbs butter, melted
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup uncooked rolled oats
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
8oz semi-sweet chocolate chips (avoid nestle, use a high quality chocolate such as Ghirardeli, or Scharffenberger... it will make a difference, trust me).
Peel individual caramels and place in a rounded bottom sauce pan. This sounds tedious, and it is, but it's a great task to give to your kids. My two-year-old takes this job VERY seriously, and it occupies her for close to 10 minutes (a feat in and of itself!). Add cream, and heat on low until caramel is completely melted and combined. Set aside to cool slightly.
Preheat oven to 350. In a bowl, combine oats, sugar, flour, baking soda, salt, and melted butter. Using a fork, combine until ingredients form a crumble-- similar to the texture of a crisp topping.
Grease a 8x8 baking dish with butter, bottom and all sides. Press approximately 2/3 of the mixture into the bottom of the dish.
Bake for 20 minutes. You will notice that the mixture will puff up and double in size. Make sure it does this, before you remove it from the oven.
Remove dish and cover the oatmeal mixture with the chocolate chips. They should form an almost solid layer.
Pour the melted caramel over the chocolate chips.
This will create three distinct layers, however, don't worry if the melted caramel oozes around the spaces between chocolate chips-- trust me, it will all work out evenly in the oven.
Sprinkle the remainder of the oatmeal mixture over the caramel - you should be able to see caramel peeking through. Just like the bottom layer, this top layer of crumble will puff up, and completely cover the top when finished.
Return to the oven. Bake for 20-30 minutes at 350. You want to make sure that the chocolate has completely melted, the top of the crumble has puffed up and has turned a golden brown.
Trust me, once you've had these? You won't want to stop making them. For this reason, I don't recommend doubling the recipe. You won't stop eating them until you've eaten them all... it's better to keep temptation at a minimum, and stick with an 8x8 pan.