caramel crumb bars

When you have 10+ recipes to blog about, sometimes a recipe comes along that needs to cut the line.  This one here is a line-cutter.  Don’t hate the line-cutter.

How could you hate a line-cutter like this one anyway?  These caramel crumb bars will rock your world.  Seriously.  I was wondering if my co-workers were disappointed when I walked in with these bars for a potluck last week instead of my originally planned cupcakes but they disappeared in the blink of an eye.  Nobody missed those cupcakes.

Chances are, you’ve already got all the ingredients for this recipe in your house. The bars may look complicated but the top and bottom layers are made from the same batch of dough and the caramel center couldn’t be easier and more satisfying to make on your own.  So yes, a 3 layer bar that you can pull together and walk out the door with in about 1 hour…love it!   Be sure to leave yourself a piece or two at home before they’re out the door to your potluck du jour.  You’ll thank me that night when you get home and find this little surprise sitting on the counter waiting for you.  It certainly made my night!

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Caramel Crumb Bars
source: adapted from Nick Malgieri, The Modern Baker


For the Dough:
1 1/4 cups unsalted butter (2 1/2 sticks or 20 tbsp), softened, divided
3/4 cup sugar, divided
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided

For the Filling:
6 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp light corn syrup
1/4 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1 (14oz) can sweetened condensed milk

1. Using butter or baking spray, grease the bottom and sides of a 9″x13″ baking pan (glass or aluminum).  Line the bottom and sides with either parchment paper or aluminum foil and grease the paper (or foil).

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and set an oven rack to the bottom third of the oven.

3. For the dough: Beat 1 cup of butter, 1/2 cup of sugar, and salt in an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium speed until soft and light, about 3 minutes.  Beat in the vanilla.

4. Mix in 2 1/4 cups of flour, scraping down the sides of the bowl and continuing to mix just until the dough is smooth and flour has been absorbed.

5. Scrape 3/4 of the dough into the prepared pan and press the dough evenly into the pan with either your palm or the flat bottom of a measuring cup. Take care not to press too firmly.  If the dough is soft, chill while you proceed to the next couple of steps.

6. Add the remaining 1/4 cup of butter, 1/4 cup of sugar, and 1/2 cup of flour into the remaining dough and work the dough with your fingers just until the dough forms pea-sized crumbs.   Set the dough aside.

7.  For the filling: Combine butter, corn syrup, sugar, and condensed milk in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally with a wire whisk.  When the mixture begins to boil, whisk frequently until it starts to thicken and darken slightly.  This should take about 10 minutes.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes.  The mixture will thicken as it cools.

8.  Remove the pan from the refrigerator and pour the filling over the dough.  Spread into an even layer with a off-set spatula.  Sprinkle the crumbs evenly over the filling.

9.  Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the filling starts to bubble up through the crumbs, turning a deep caramel color, and the crumb topping is fully baked.

10.  Remove the pan from the oven and set atop a wire rack to cool for 20 minutes.  When the pan is lukewarm to the touch, pull the uncut bars out of the pan with the parchment paper (or foil) and move it to a cutting board to cool completely.  Once cooled, cut into 2″ square pieces.  The bars will keep at room temperature for 1-2 days.

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  • September 13, 2010 at 8:44 AM

    I love cookie bars. Caramel sounds scrumptious!

  • September 13, 2010 at 9:02 AM

    I have never seen a crumb bar with a caramel layer. I may have just died and gone to Heaven!

  • September 13, 2010 at 9:28 AM

    Haha, I know what you mean about line-cutter recipes. 😉 These look amazing!!

  • September 13, 2010 at 9:49 AM

    We don’t know what else you have in the blog line up to come…but these totally desereved to be line cutters! They look amazing…the caramel and crumb?! Delicious.

  • September 13, 2010 at 10:38 AM

    I absolutely LOVE caramel anything. These are a must try! Thanks!

  • September 13, 2010 at 10:59 AM

    my boyfriend loves caramel and I love to cook not necessarily bake but I’m working on it.

    The picture looks amazing and the recipe does not look to difficult so I think some experimenting is about to happen .

  • September 13, 2010 at 11:04 AM

    These look amazing!

  • September 13, 2010 at 11:06 AM

    You had me at caramel and crumb solidified the deal.

  • September 13, 2010 at 11:15 AM

    looks yummy

  • September 13, 2010 at 11:20 AM

    Love anything with caramel and you really can’t go wrong with cookie bars either! Beautiful picture, I’m bookmarking this :o)

  • September 13, 2010 at 2:37 PM

    yum yum yum!

  • September 13, 2010 at 5:15 PM

    I could never hate anything filled with homemade caramel. These wouldn’t last an hour in my house!

  • September 13, 2010 at 9:07 PM

    I do have these ingredients in my house! I can’t wait to try em out!!

  • September 13, 2010 at 10:25 PM

    Fabulous!! I can’t wait to try them!

  • September 13, 2010 at 11:44 PM

    These sound great! One of my all-time favorite cookies is a similar one we call the oatmeal carmelita… as the name implies, it has an oatmeal-based crust and crumb, with chocolate and caramel layers in the middle, but I haven’t made it in quite a while because I don’t buy caramel topping at the store anymore. Time to figure out a homemade version, I guess!

  • September 14, 2010 at 6:15 AM

    Um, yeah, I need these like NOW. Thanks for this one!

  • September 14, 2010 at 7:41 AM

    Just had dinner and now im hungry again!

  • September 15, 2010 at 1:03 AM

    Congrats! You are in Top 9! Your caramel crumb bars just looks too tempting.

    • smellslikehome
      September 15, 2010 at 5:45 AM

      Mary, Thanks for your comment and for the head’s up on Top 9! I hadn’t received an email yet so you could imagine my surprise when I read your comment and went to FoodBuzz!

  • September 15, 2010 at 8:01 AM

    These look so good! It’s early buy I’m drooling.

  • September 15, 2010 at 10:17 AM

    These look great. I have a crumb bar recipe that I love, but can’t wait to try this one!

  • September 15, 2010 at 11:31 AM

    My son is a caramel lover! These will be right up his alley. Love how easy everything is to put together, and that the ingredients are “pantry friendly” as I frequently do things spur of the moment without much planning. Nicely done! Congrats on a well deserved Top 9!

  • September 15, 2010 at 11:39 AM

    Now I have a dilemma, I do have all of the ingredients for these bars, I don’t however have a place to take them! I love caramel and I know I would eat the entire pan by myself if given the opportunity! 🙂

  • September 15, 2010 at 12:32 PM

    Congrats on the Top 9! Miss cupcakes? Hell, no – not with those caramel crumb bars! Delicious and easy – I love it. Congrats on the Top 9!

  • September 15, 2010 at 1:08 PM

    I heart bar cookies with crusts. These look tasty for any time of the day! Congrats on the Top 9. 🙂

  • Char
    September 16, 2010 at 10:44 AM

    I so agree with Melissa – I will absolutely have to wait to make these until I have to share them! Hey, my book club meets next week so I will have an excuse. Thanks so much for sharing this scrumptious recipe!

  • September 16, 2010 at 5:35 PM

    Just found your blog – these look great!

  • September 16, 2010 at 10:06 PM

    Ohhh…these look amazing!!! I bet they would be a hit at the next elementary school bake sale!

  • September 24, 2010 at 3:47 PM

    These are amazing! I made them a few days ago and they were a hit at work.

  • September 30, 2010 at 7:09 PM

    These look amazing! I think they’ll be cutting the line here too!

  • October 3, 2010 at 5:11 PM

    I believe I do have everything I need to make these bars and guess what I just think I will:) I am a huge caramel fan, so I will definitely have to give these a try:)

  • October 4, 2010 at 1:34 PM

    i love crumb bars…and with caramel…that’s a winner!

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