Oh fall, how do I love you? Let me count the ways. In pumpkin spice lattes, in chilly evening walks, in football games, and certainly in trips to the apple orchard. Each year I get overzealous and pick far more apples than we could ever need, but somehow we manage to find a use for them all. About half are eaten straight, many are used in applesauce, some atop waffles and now, some will always be earmarked for these bars. The simple crumble dough with oats and a dose of warm fall spices is used for both the base and topping of these bars. Sandwiched between the two layers is a combination of gooey caramel sauce and tender cooked apples. If you are a nut lover, sprinkle some chopped walnuts or pecans over the top for additional crunch. Fall in a bar cookie? I’ll take it.
Caramel Apple Crumble Bars
Makes 16 bars
For the filling:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 large (or 5 medium) apples, peeled and sliced
3 tablespoons sugar
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Dash of grated nutmeg
9 ounces caramel candies, unwrapped
2 tablespoons heavy cream
For the dough:
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
¾ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup chopped nuts, such as pecans or walnuts (optional)
Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Line a 9 x 9-inch baking pan with foil or parchment paper. To make the filling, melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in the apple slices, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Cook, stirring occasionally, under the apples are golden brown and caramelized, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Meanwhile, prepare the dough. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, oats, sugars, baking powder, salt and cinnamon and stir to blend. Add in the butter pieces and cut into the dry ingredients using a pastry cutter or two knives until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add in the egg yolk and vanilla and stir with a fork or knead very briefly just until a crumbly dough comes together. Transfer about two thirds of the dough mixture to the prepared baking pan and press down into an even layer. Bake until light golden, about 12-14 minutes.
While the base is baking, combine the caramels and cream in a medium saucepan set over medium heat. Melt the caramels, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is totally smooth. Remove from the heat. Once the base layer is baked, pour the caramel over the top. Layer with the cooked apple slices. Crumble the remaining dough over the top of the apple slices. Sprinkle evenly with the chopped nuts, if using.
Bake about 22-25 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool. Let cool completely before slicing and serving.
baking, bar, caramel, fall, pie
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