I have a very Goldilocks and The Three Bears relationship with caramel.

Too light.  Too dark.

Too sweet.  Too burnt.

A whole lexicon full of “too” adjectives.


And the thing is that when you risk your life and the first ten layers of skin on your forearms in order to make it (hot sugar is HOT, people! ).

The only “too” it had better be is “too perfect”.

Am I right, or am I right?


Though I’m usually a proponent of the “melt sugar and add heavy cream while backing away from the stove as quickly as possible” method, I was intrigued when I stumbled across these caramel crumb bars and saw that they required condensed milk, brown sugar, minimal stovetop bubbling….and allowed you to keep every single epidermal cell on your body.


But Joanne! you may squeal.  How did your caramel turn that deeply beautiful amber color if you didn’t stand over it sweating bullets and stirring as if your life depended on it?

It’s called an oven folks.  Let it do the dirty work for you.

But do they taste as good as if you had poured your blood, sweat, and skin into the mix?  Given how quickly they disappeared at my friend Amma’s housewarming party, to which I brought them, I’d say hands down yes.  But there’s only really one way to find out…


Before you move on to the recipe, I have a favor to ask of you.  My recipe for Orzo, Arugula, and Butternut Squash Salad in a Maple-Balsamic-Coffee Vinaigrette was chosen to be a finalist in a Whole Foods contest, but I need YOUR votes in order to win!  If you wouldn’t mind stopping by this site and voting, I’d really appreciate it!  You do need to register in order to vote, but all that happens when you register is that you get delicious recipes sent to your inbox once a week.  Not a bad thing, if you ask me!

Also, I’d like to announce the winner of the Tate’s Bake Shop Cookbook and cookies…Theresa of the Food Hunter’s Guide to Cuisine!  Congrats Theresa! I’ll be emailing you.


Caramel Crumb Bars
Makes a 9×13-inch tray, adapted from The Modern Baker via Tracey’s Culinary Adventures 


  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups AP flour, divided
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk


  1. Preheat oven to 350 with a rack in the bottom third of the oven.  Spray a 9×13-inch pan with cooking spray, then line the pan with aluminum foil or parchment, leaving an overhang so bars can be lifted out, and spray again with cooking spray.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar, and salt on medium speed until soft and light, about 2-3 minutes.  Beat in the vanilla.
  3. With the mixer on low, add 2 1/4 cups of the flour, beating just until the dough is smooth and the flour has been absorbed.  Scrape the sides of the bowl as necessary.
  4. Transfer 3/4 of the dough into the prepared pan.  Press the dough evenly into the pan to form a bottom layer.  Transfer the pan to the fridge while you make the filling and the top layer.
  5. Add the remaining 1/4 cup of flour to the remaining dough.  Work it in with your fingers until large crumbs form.  Set aside.
  6. To make the filling, in a medium saucepan, combine the butter, corn syrup, brown sugar and condensed milk.  Bring to a simmer, whisking occasionally.  When the mixture begins to boil, whisk frequently until it begins to thicken and darkens in color slightly, about 10 minutes.  Remove from the heat and let cool for about 10 minutes.
  7. Remove the pan from the fridge and pour the filling over the bottom crust.  Use an offset spatula to spread it evenly.  Crumble the topping evenly over the caramel.
  8. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the filling is gently bubbling and has turned a dark caramel color.  Cool the bars in the pan on a wire rack until lukewarm, about 15-20 minutes. Use the foil to lift bars out of the pan.  Once completely cool, cut into squares.

I am submitting this to Bake with Bizzy!


You are reading this post on Eats Well With Others at Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and or owner of Eats Well With Others. All rights reserved by Joanne Bruno.
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113 Responses to Caramel Crumb Bars

  1. Simply Life says:

    wow! I’ve had one caramel DISASTER and have never tried since- this looks perfect!

  2. Hello YUM! You had me as soon as I read the words “caramel crumb.” Heading on over to vote for your recipe right now!

  3. These look delicious! Heading over to vote now…good luck!

  4. Sanjeeta kk says: in its best avatar! Love these crumbly creations.

  5. and now I am hungry and now I am craving this and now I am kinda mad at you for posting this so early in the morning because they look so darn good that NOW I must make them!

  6. I’ve always been scared of making caramel….but I don’t know if I can resist these.

    Hope you’re feeling better!

  7. Amy says:

    Oh my goodness. I wish I had one of these to go with my coffee right now.

  8. Lea Ann says:

    I agree with your description of caramel Joanne … it’s got to be “just” right.

  9. bellini says:

    Anything that makes life easier and still gives us delicious moments is alright by me!!

  10. girlichef says:

    Two of my favorite qualities in a dessert…caramel and crumb. This does sound like a delicious and fairly painless recipe to try. Wish I could just have a square of yours (so that I don’t wind up making it and eating the majority of the pan….)

  11. Elizabeth says:

    Caramel plus a buttery crumb topping is an intense combo. The only caramel I despise are those little wrapped squares you get in the grocery store, which I think do not deserve the name caramel.

  12. Oh my, those do look perfect! Can you please teleport a couple here for my breakfast? Thanks!

  13. These look great! I voted! Hope you do well!

  14. Good luck with your contest, Joanne… I didn’t know you were keeping recipes from us… it looks like a delicious salad!

  15. Very tempting and delicious bars!

  16. SnoWhite says:

    these look fantastic Joanne — love the caramel and crumbly buttery combo.

  17. Dawn says:

    I definitely could not be trusted around these.

  18. Beth says:

    I love these bars! I make them all the time and they always turn out perfectly.
    Congratulations to Theresa! And I must check out your contest entry. It sounds delicious.

  19. Joanne says:

    What a perfect Rx to this dreary, rainy morning. Write me out a Caramel Crumb Bar prescription, please!

  20. Catherine says:

    Dear Joanne, I am very happy that these delicious looking treats did not harm the baker in any way! I am not surprised that they were a hit! They look delicious and a perfect companion for a good cup of coffee. Blessings and have a beautiful day, Catherine xo

  21. yes, yes and YES. How perfect are these?!

  22. Patsyk says:

    Voted for you AND printing off this recipe NOW! Going to have to make these this weekend… can’t wait to taste them for myself!

  23. MM says:

    You are right! (Note: hand me a few of these and I’ll agree with you on anything)
    Off to vote…

  24. Hi Joanne, I just voted for you! Good luck!

    Camila Faria

  25. Faith says:

    Truly brilliant, is all I can say about these bars!

    I’m off to vote, my dear!

  26. Monet says:

    Caramel and Whole Foods? Perfect post…and you have my vote! These look so good…and I’m so glad that my arm is better and I can visit and comment again! Thank you for being such an inspiration. Your words, recipes and photos…yum, yum, yum! Blessings from Austin.

  27. This looks very unique and awesome. And congrats on making it to the finals, sounds amazing. You probably will get a few job offers as well, unless you did already

  28. You’re right! I won’t settle for than anything less than perfect. And this bars are definitely the sight of perfection! I will, for sure, be making these. I’ve always been a caramel girl. Fantastic work, Joanne…and fantastic photography! I’m off to vote for you now! Best of luck!

  29. yes there are caramels that are just too sweet–pointless i say.
    i knew you’d make it to the finals. congrats. you go girl!

  30. vianney says:

    congrats…of course i’ll vote your a doll!! loving these I personallyhave made these crumb bars and inhaled most of the pan, thanks for reminding me to make them again, lol

  31. Allison says:

    You got my vote. Good luck!!

    P.S. This is a recipe for caramel heaven.

  32. Amy says:

    I had to make sugared pecans for a salad this past weekend and I have blisters on my pointer finger from tasting it way too quickly. DOH! Yay for caramel that doesn’t burn your skin off! 😀 Caramel Crumb Bars… YUM-O.

  33. Jenna says:

    Those bars look amazing, and I love the oven method. Much safer.
    Registering and voting now–hope you win!

  34. Karen says:

    That looks like one flaky crust – delish! Off to vote!

  35. Christina says:

    These look incredibly good. I like the look of the crumb topping!

  36. Claire says:

    Oooo, girl! I love this kind of recipe. I think shortbread type stuff is my favorite…other people I know MUST have chocolate. I’ll take this one as is.

  37. sally says:

    I want one (or three) of these bars right now! I love anything with caramel in it!

  38. Adrienne says:

    I think I’m going to try these in the near future. Look delicious and I love any excuse to make caramel 😀

  39. Claudie says:

    “Looking too good to skip” — that’s my “too” about your caramel crumb bars 🙂
    Off to vote for you now!

  40. You and I and our similar love for all things sweet. Today I also posted a recipe with caramel (dulce de leche) – except mine came from a can hehehe. These look luscious!!

  41. wow, they look superb, love the tempting pictures.

  42. Oh man..landing your page is not a good idea especially when I m trying to diet..those bars look awesome!! Crumb & caramel together is such a great idea!

  43. Pam says:

    Joanne, these look great! I love caramel and have to try the recipe.

  44. Corina says:

    It sounds like great caramel and I love the idea of the crumble topping!

  45. Geni says:

    I, too have an issue with caramel. Maybe we should start a support group.It’s scary to make. These look awesome!

  46. debbie says:

    Oh wow…..I want one of those now. The pic that shows the layer of caramel is just perfect. Heading over to vote for your dish!!!!

  47. OohLookBel says:

    Gosh I love caramel. I don’t mind making it, either, and I can see that your caramel crumb bars are very nicely done. 10/10 to you, Miss Joanne!

  48. Pam says:

    They look amazing! I can’t wait to try these out – my kids will LOVE them.

    I am off to vote for you…

  49. I love these caramel crumb bars! Full disclosure: I have a post about them lined up for the near future. I just made them again recently for a bake sale. The crumb topping over the caramel is a winner.

  50. Mo 'Betta says:

    I voted, of course. These look fabulous, of course. 2 sticks of butter and condensed milk – how could you go wrong?!

  51. Gwen says:

    Shut the front door! Are you trying to send me into caramel cardiac arrest with those close ups?! ;)\
    Have not ever tried anything this sweet and delicious before… will have to give er a go.

    On my way to vote for you…..

  52. Candace says:

    I want one. Now. These look amazing! Just voted for you and will be giving these a try for sure. I love that this recipe doesn’t seem to be too intimidating for me. Caramel usually is.

  53. These looks delish! On the Goldilocks contrary, caramel is always just right for me 😉 These bars look wonderful. I just voted!

  54. i have the same feelings towards caramel.

    these bars look damn sexy.


    xo Alison

  55. Rona says:

    I voted for your recipe! Good luck!

  56. I annihilate this in one go. It looks ah may zing!

  57. Natalie says:

    i think i gained a few pounds just looking at the pictures!

    (or maybe it’s the sugar cookies i’m eating whilst looking at the pictures?! either way, I need these!! soon! :))

  58. betty says:

    making caramel is really dangerous, thank god this recipe is a lot more safe. I like the way how they look really crunchy on the bottom

  59. Reeni says:

    Caramel and crumbs are two of my favorite things in the entire universe! I’m a sucker for the two of them together! I’m off to vote!

  60. oh these look great all the best for the whole foods competition

  61. Miriam says:

    Well done with the bars! Good luck with the contest, I voted for you :), Miriam@Meatless Meals For Meat Eaters

  62. Ah congrats Joanne! I am headed over to vote right now. These bars look so wonderful…I have permanent scars from caramel making, usually only to be disappointed by some form of a “too…” statement”

    These, however, look perfect.

  63. Veronica says:

    These look SOOOO good! Maybe even “too” pefect. 🙂 I saw something similar (it might be a different recipe but it looks the same) on Keep it Sweet’s blog and I’ve been wanting to make it ever since. Is this a sign? 🙂 I voted for you!

  64. Johanna GGG says:

    caramel is what decadence is all about – gooey oozing sticky sweet – I love it – but I have discovered the microwave which not only means you shut the door on it but it is quick – am not at all a stovetop splatter kinda girl

  65. Nicole, RD says:

    Caramel in the oven? Hm, I like it! You’re very right about caramel…that stuff burns so easily! And definitely requires that uber watchful eye when done on the stove-top. The bars look…incredible. 🙂

  66. Kristen says:

    In my kitchen, sweetened condensed milk = love. Those bars are the bomb, Joanne.

  67. Pam says:

    These sound wonderful! I’m off to vote for you!

  68. Wow, those look phenomenal!! Definitely something that I would like. I love rich desserts like that.

  69. Hannah says:

    No-fuss caramel, and amazing bars like this with ease? I’m thinking of converting over to your caramel camp! Sigh, these look amazing. Just the kind of thing I want to bring to an upcoming dinner… Hmmm… 😉

  70. Cara says:

    voted! of course you totally deserve this 🙂

  71. Christin says:

    I’ve always shied away from making caramel. Definitely need to try these. Going over to vote for you!

  72. the shot with the whisk is too gorgeous!

  73. Lyndsey says:

    These definitely look like something that I might be able to “bake”. Lovely caramel, and you can’t beat sweetened condensed milk…anything is better with that in it!

  74. Shannon says:

    interesting way to make caramel! these look totally heavenly 🙂

  75. Mary says:

    I just voted! These bars look heavenly, Joanne! LOVE that you found a simpler way to make the caramel.

  76. Gloria says:

    what nice and yummy recipe Joanne! gloria

  77. Dana says:

    One of the only moments when I have seriously questioned my IQ is when I overcooked caramel and thought maybe it wasn’t *TOO* dark, so maybe I would taste it. Finger swipe and weeks of bandages later, I now know that yes, burning sugar is super crazy hot. That episode has not diminished my love for caramel though. These look amazing!

  78. Julie says:

    All I can say is Drool! I’ll go do some voting 🙂

  79. Ben says:

    I try to stay away from caramel as much as possible… but this post had me rethinking my relationship with it. The bars look delicious and if your friends loved them, that means they were delicious 🙂

  80. Mary says:

    These look and sound like the perfect treat. i love caramel and these bars have my name on them. I hope you have a great day. Blessings…Mary

  81. Swathi says:

    Delicious, love the addition of condensed milk in caramel, that is new to me. You are right, burning skin while making caramel is most frequent event to me. I am going to vote for you.

  82. Kelly says:

    You’re right. I hope you didn’t burn yourself… I gotta say though, looks worth it :0 DE.lightful.

  83. Added to the list of fall must-makes! Definitely thinking a few apples added to the bar would be awesome too.

  84. I really shouldn’t have read this at lunch time. This can’t end well. 🙂

  85. sophia says:

    I always found caramel too sweet, but I like it for its too-stickyness. These bars better arrive hand-delivered at my doorstep by this weekend.

  86. I apologize for not visiting my favorite blogs lately, and i promise to do some catching-up with everyone in the next few days. We are experiencing cooler weather starting today (Thursday) and as for myself I’m looking forward to falls return to the Lancaster Pennsylvania area. And are the color of the leaves changing your your way folks as they are mine. Hope everyone has a great weekend and enjoy the beautiful fall season that has now begun. Richard from Amish Stories.

  87. Sarah says:

    i am always a failure at caramel making but i think i could do this!! and i’m going to vote now. 🙂

  88. Carolyn Jung says:

    I know what ya mean about caramel. I feel the same way when it comes to caramel candies. Some are too gooey and sticky; others too hard. But hey, we caramel lovers may be hard to please, but we know what we like. 😉

  89. Erica says:

    I love caramel, but I it is hard to make! The bars look delicious.

  90. Julie says:

    Caramel can be so tricky. I think the weather has something to do with it as well. These look delicious. Hope you’re healing quickly.

  91. Raina says:

    I voted for you….good luck! Your recipe looks delicious. These bars look amazing too. My family and I would love them:)

  92. Judy says:

    Amazing recipe and amazing photo. Congrats to the cookbook winner and good luck with that contest!

  93. That Girl says:

    I’ll take caramel however it comes, as long as I don’t have to make it!

  94. They look great Joanne. I’d bring them to a house party too, just to keep myself from eating all of them!

  95. Sook says:

    Wow! I love caramel! These bars look so yummy!

  96. grace says:

    i’m kinda picky about my caramel too, but when it comes down to it, i’ll eat it in just about any form. great bars, joanne!

  97. Esi says:

    These bars look so great.

  98. I’m going to go cry now, while I dream about eating these =( lol

  99. Chris says:

    Well I went to vote for you and due to my tardiness, it already had you listed as the winner. Congrats!

  100. Kerstin says:

    I can see why these disappeared so quickly – caramel makes desserts so addicting!

  101. Lora says:

    These are gorgeous. I am a caramel freak. Bring em on.

  102. Gorgeous bars. And you got my vote! 🙂

  103. These look fabulous. A great idea on the caramel–I have cooked sweetened condensed milk in a pan in the oven to make a caramel sauce but this caramel sauce sounds even better. 😉

  104. elly says:

    I have these bookmarked from Tracey’s blog, too. They look so good! Now I have double the pressure to make t hem. Uh oh…

  105. Elizabeth says:

    Oh yum – these look delicious. My grandma used to make something similar with chocolate melted into sweetened condensed milk – they were delicious, but a little too sweet for me. I bet these are addicting.

  106. Anna says:

    I normally do away with caramel, although I love caramel that much…The thing is, it requires a lot of patience and skill to perfect caramel. If I can, I use ready made caramel syrup. I have to congratulate you for a perfect caramel masterpiece! Okay, i think I am in the mood to develop my skills and enhance my patience…LOL! Thanks for the post!

  107. I love the big crumbs on top!! Yumm these look amazing. Caramel is one of my favourite sweet things, and combined with crust and crumbs, my perfect treat.

  108. Ahhh…just right. 🙂 Caramel seriously tempts me, and these look delicious!

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