This recipe is my own version of the Pillsbury Bake-Off winning recipe for Oatmeal Carmelitas. They are delicious at room temperature, chilled (for a firm, chewy treat), or warm with a scoop of ice cream. These bars are truly the ultimate in decadence! Warning...these bars are extremely rich, so they may not be for everyone. I often reduce the amount of butter or chips. My preference is to make the bars with all dark chips. Enjoy!
Preheat oven to 350 degrees (325 degrees for glass or dark non-stick pan). Lightly grease 9x13 inch pan.
In large bowl, blend all crust/topping ingredients until crumbly. Press half of the crust mixture into pan. Carefully spread caramel onto crust with offset spatula.
If using more than one type of chocolate chip, empty chips into small bowl and mix together to combine (this step is not necessary, but does ensure an even distribution). Sprinkle chocolate chips over layer of caramel topping. Sprinkle optional chopped nuts over chocolate chips. Distribute remaining crust/topping over chocolate chips and optional pecans by pinching off portions and evenly distributing. It's okay if the filling shows through the topping in parts.
Bake 25-30 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool bars enough to put pan in refrigerator. Chill in refrigerator several hours or until caramel and chocolate layer is set. If filling is not firm enough before cutting, the bars will be messy to cut and may not retain their shape or look as attractive when served later. After caramel and chocolate layer is set, it is helpful let bars come closer to room temperature before cutting (when chilled, the cold caramel and chocolate can be difficult to cut). Enjoy!