When you think of fall desserts, apple pie has got to be the first thing that comes to mind. And for good reason - it's timeless, classic, and between the soft, spiced apples and the flaky crust, it's hard to beat. There are a million and one different recipes and versions of apple pie out there, but between you and me, this Southern Comfort Caramel Apple Pie from The Pastry Queen is the best one.
Anyway, while apple pie is the quintessential fall dessert, there is something about pie bars that just make me so happy. They are cute, low-maintenance, much easier to make than a whole pie, and the smaller portions are nice when you're watching your calories -- although to be honest, that flies out the window if you eat four in one sitting..... um, no comment there.
I've had these caramel apple pie bars saved for over a year now, and I figured that between having a big batch of homemade apple cider caramels, and a gajillian apples on hand... it was just meant to be.
These bars are not only super easy, but they are now Joey's favorite dessert. They start with a quick crust of flour, oats, and butter, and it's spiked with just enough cinnamon and brown sugar for a subtle spiced undertone. The filling is a combo of melted down caramels and buttery, spiced apples. More of the crust mixture is sprinkled over the top along with just a little bit of sea salt, and the result is truly great.
I sent most of the batch to a friend who just had a baby, and Joey and I have managed to put away the rest. I would be sad that they're gone, but I'm making another batch this weekend for the twins' baptism luncheon.
Dare I say caramel apple pie bars > apple pie? Is that blasphemous?
Salted Caramel Apple Pie Bars
barely adapted from Annie's Eats
makes 16 bars
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup old-fashioned oats
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup lightly packed brown sugar
- 3/4 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- 12 Tbs cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- fleur de sel, for sprinkling
- 2 Tbs unsalted butter
- 4 large (or 5 medium) apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
- 3 Tbs sugar
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- dash of ground nutmeg
- pinch of salt
- 9 oz caramels, unwrapped
- 2 Tbs heavy cream
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line an 8x8 inch square baking dish with foil, leaving an overhand on 2 sides.
To prepare the dough, add the flour, oat, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon together in a large bowl, and whisk to combine. Scatter the butter over the top using a pastry blender (or 2 forks), and cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in the egg yolk and vanilla and mix or knead until a cohesive dough forms.
Press about two-thrids of the dough into an even layer in the prepared baking pan. Bake 12-14 minutes, or until it's light golden-brown.
Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the apples, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg, and cook the apples, stirring often, until they are softened and caramelized, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
For the caramel layer, melt the caramels and heavy cream in a medium saucepan, over medium heat, stirring often, until smooth.
To assemble the bars, spread the caramel over the baked crust. Arrange the apples over the caramel in a single layer. Finally, crumble the remaining dough mixture over the apples. Sprinkle lightly with fleur de sel.
Return the pan to the oven and bake until the caramel is bubbly and the top is golden-brown, 22-25 minutes. Cool completely before slicing and serving, or scoop it with a large spoon to serve it cobbler-style.