When I was seventeen I moved from San Diego, CA up to Seattle, WA. While Starbucks at the time was gaining popularity in Southern California, Seattle was the hub/birthplace/mecca and it had already been in full swing for a decade. I needed a job while I was still in school and Starbucks seemed like a good idea at the time. I was already dropping so much money there on a daily basis I thought I might as well try to recoup some of it. I ended up with a job as a barista there for the next couple years, and it was the perfect job while I finished school and started traveling the world.
In time, my preferences changed and I came to value the less commercialized and really incredible artisan coffee roasting scene in Seattle and discovered there was life (and really good coffee!) beyond Starbucks. But to this day, I still look back fondly on my years there. I was well treated and valued as an employee, learned some very valuable multitasking and customer service skills, and ate A LOT of oat fudge bars. There we go. That’s why we went down memory lane. This recipe is an ode to those old school oat fudge bars from Starbucks: rich, gooey, chewy nostalgic goodness. I don’t think Starbucks even sells them anymore, but honestly once I realized how easy they were to make at home I felt silly for ever buying them. Some of you may remember them, but if they were before your time or you never tried one, now you get to try an even better version, so you really haven’t missed out on anything!.
I started thinking about ways I could jazz up the original version, and since booze and salt are my favorite additions to... well, anything, a little bit of both here certainly does the trick. And then there’s browned butter. Which no one in their right mind has ever snubbed. So we have deep, dark, buttery, brown sugary oats, bourbon spiked fudge, and sea salt to finish. What’s not to love here? You can whip these up in just 15 mins of hands-on time with ingredients you most likely already have in your pantry. Great for giving that half-bag of chocolate chips in the pantry and already-opened can of sweetened condensed milk in the fridge a greater purpose. These are a perfect party dessert because they are best at room temp and travel well because you can stack them on each other.
WHAT YOU'LL NEED
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter, divided
3/4 cup flour
2 cups quick cooking oats
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 cup chocolate chips
2 tsp vanilla, divided
3 Tbs bourbon*
Flaky Salt for sprinkling, optional
*If you aren’t a bourbon fan, coffee liquor would be a good substitute.
WHAT YOU'LL DO
First, take 1/2 cup (1 stick) of the butter and put it in a medium shallow skillet (you want more surface space than height) on medium heat. Melt the butter and swirl the pan occasionally. You will see it start to change color from yellow to a very light amber and the milk solids will separate. The butter will start to foam. Turn the heat to low and watch it closely. Remove from heat as soon as the milk solids or “bits” on the bottom start to burn and the butter is a light caramel color. Strain your brown butter through a fine mesh sieve (or don’t, if you like the flavor of those burnt bits) into a small bowl and put in the fridge to cool slightly. Wipe your pan out with a paper towel and set it aside. You'll use it again and there's no need to wash it.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Prep an 8x8 square baking dish by lining it with parchment, leaving two of the edges longer to form “handles” to help you lift the bars out later. Spray or grease the other sides lightly.
Mix your egg and both sugars in a medium sized mixing bowl until fluffy and lightened in color. Drizzle in your brown butter (hopefully slightly cooled at this point) slowly and beat to combine as you do. In a small, separate bowl mix your oats, flour, salt, and baking soda. Then slowly add in your dry mixture to the wet.
Spread about 2/3 of this mixture on the bottom of the prepared dish, pressing it down into an even layer with your fingers or the back of a spoon.
Next, melt the remaining 1/4 cup (4 Tbs) butter, sweetened condensed milk and chocolate chips in your pan on medium-low heat and stir until smooth and glistening. If the mixture starts to bubble, turn the heat down to low. Once completely melted and smooth, remove from heat and stir in your vanilla extract and bourbon.
Pour your hot fudge mixture over the oat crust. Then drop the remaining oat mixture down on top of the fudge. (I usually make 9 to 12 somewhat evenly sized blobs, so that when I cut the bars into squares later, each square has a nice crunchy oat cap). Sprinkle with flaky salt, if using.
Bake the bars at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes.
Remove from oven and allow to cool in the pan completely before trying to remove. Once cooled and set, lift the two sides with the longer parchment for leverage, and then slice into 9 or 12 squares. Personally I like to chill them for an additional hour in the refrigerator before slicing to make it even easier. Serve slightly chilled or at room temperature.
Serves 9-12. This recipe can also be doubled and baked in a 13x9 tray. They also freeze well if you want to save some for a rainy day.
Adapted from this recipe from Genius Kitchen.