Nutty Caramel Crumb Bars

Makes 16 bars

For crust & topping:
1 cup salted peanuts, coarsely chopped & toasted (you can use any nut you like)
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/4 cups oats
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks) melted, plus more for greasing the pan

For caramel filling:
24 soft caramel candies, unwrapped (we used Kraft)
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Butter an 8-inch square baking pan and line the bottom and sides with parchment paper.

In a bowl, mix together the flour, oats, sugar, brown sugar, salt, baking soda and nuts. Mix in the melted butter until the oat mixture is thoroughly combined.  Press two-thirds of the mixture in an even layer on the bottom of the pan.  Use the back of the spoon to firmly press & compact the mixture.  Bake crust for 20 minutes.

While crust is baking prepare caramel filling.  In a saucepan over low heat, melt together caramels and cream until smooth, about 5 minutes.  Let cool slightly.  Remove crust from oven and let cool on rack for 5 minutes.  Sprinkle crust with chocolate chips and cover with caramel sauce.  Top with remaining crumb mixture.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden.  Transfer the pan to a rack and let cool completely.  Store bars in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.

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