As a kid I could never finish a whole caramel apple. In fact, I was quite satisfied and finished after eating about half of it — the caramel half. I skillfully removed all of the caramel and, wouldn’t you know, didn’t have any interest room for the shiny green apple. Good thing I’ve grown up a little and not only can I finish off a caramel apple like a competitive eater (look out Joey Chestnut), I completely enjoy the caramel and apple alike. The first apple bars I made were awesome too, just different. Is it o.k. to have a tie for first place in the ‘delicious apple bar’ category?
If you want to know what Fall tastes like, this is it. Start peeling some apples, my friends. I just wish I had taken a better picture…
Caramel Apple Bars
adapted from King Arthur Flour
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup ground pecans or walnuts
1 large egg
4 to 5 medium tart apples, peeled, cored, and sliced, then chopped (about 5 cups, about 20 ounces prepared)
4 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup (10 ounces) caramel, from a block, or about 30 caramel candies
2 1/2 tablespoons (1 1/4 ounces) milk or cream
Heat the oven to 350. Grease a 9 x13 pan. Grind 1 cup nuts in a food processor and be sure to stop before the mixture becomes pasty.
To make the crust:
Beat together the butter, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, sugars, and vanilla till smooth. Add the flours, mixing until crumbly. Set aside half the mixture (about 3 generous cups, 15 ounces); add the egg to the remainder, beating to combine.
Press the crust with egg into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake the crust for 15-17 minutes, until it’s barely starting to brown around the edges. While the crust is baking, prepare the filling.
To make the filling:
Slice the apples about 1/4 inch thick, then chop into 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch pieces. An apple peeler/corer/slicer (my current favorite kitchen gadget) gives you a great head start on this task. Combine the apples with the remaining filling ingredients, and distribute over the crust. Spread the reserved crust mixture over the apples.
Bake the bars for 45 minutes. Remove them from the oven, and after 15 minutes cut them into squares, leaving them in the pan.
Cool completely, then place the already cut bars on a rack set over a piece of parchment or large sheet pan.
Place the caramel and milk in a microwave-safe measuring cup, and heat till the caramel is very soft. Stir (reheating if necessary) until the mixture is smooth and pourable. Drizzle it over the bars.