Thursday, October 18, 2012

Caramel Apple Pie Bars

I find it interesting how having time off of school actually leads to me being busier rather than actually taking time off. Somehow my mind plays tricks on me and convinces me that it's a good idea to try to get every little thing crossed off of my to do list that I have been putting off for one reason or another. The result is that I have set way too many goals of things I would like to accomplish by the end of the week, which is not a good thing considering that the weekend is about to start and then I'm back to school on Monday.

Regardless, today my friend came over and we spent time doing research for a big project we are working on. I know how much my friend loves my baked goodies, as does my family, and I thought I would use the occasion to bake these caramel apple pie bars which I first saw on my favorite food blog Annie's Eats about a month ago. The dessert seemed appropriate for fall with the lovely undertones of cinnamon, sweetness of the caramel, and the crunch provided by the nuts on top.

Although making the bars originally detracted from my research, once they were in the oven I got to work. Later on they provided the perfect little pick me up and boost of sugar we needed to keep ourselves going. I have to admit that we were a little impatient to wait for them to cool and slice, so we spooned them out of the pan and ate them as more of a crumble rather than a composed bar. My family enjoyed it too and my brother even said it was "glorious". By the end of the evening only a quarter of the pan was left. My conclusion: this recipe is definitely a keeper.

Caramel Apple Pie Bars

For the filling:
  • 4 large apples, peeled and sliced
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • ¾ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 9 oz (252 g) caramel soft chews
  • 2 tbsp milk
For the dough:
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  • cup sugar
  • cup brown sugar, lightly packed
  • ¾ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 12 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Optional: ½ cup chopped nuts, such as pecans or walnuts
  1. To prepare the filling, melt the putter in a large pan over medium heat. Stir in the apples, sugar, and cinnamon and mix to coat evenly. Continue to cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, and remove from the heat once the apples start to brown and the sugar caramelizes.
  2. To prepare the dough, combine the flour, oats, sugars, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl. Stir everything to blend then add the butter pieces. Use a pastry cutter or two knives (I actually used my hands) to cut the butter into the oat mixture until it resembles a course meal.
  3. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and knead just until a crumbly dough starts to come together. Press ⅔ of the dough into a 9" x 9" baking pan lined with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Bake for 12-14 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit or until the dough is lightly golden.
  4. Meanwhile, while the dough is baking, finish preparing the filling by combining the caramel soft chews and the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until completely melted and smooth.
  5. Once the dough is ready, pour the melted caramel and spread evenly over the surface. Strain the apple filling and spread over top the caramel layer. Crumble the remaining dough mixture evenly over the surface and sprinkle with chopped nuts if using. Return to the oven to bake for another 22-25 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Cool completely before slicing and serving (or spoon and serve if impatient like me ;)

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