I decided to take a quick break from holiday baking. And by this I mean I finally resolved to do something about the pile of granny smith apples that have been staring at me accusingly from the fruit basket for weeks. When they went on sale at the grocery store I bought a ton, telling myself that I had a bunch of apple recipes on my list to try. Though this is true, it turns out I just wasn’t feeling apple desserts at the time. I eventually made Caramel Apple Cinnamon Rolls, and loved them enough that I was inspired to go ahead and make these bars.
To me, apple pie is just okay. I’ll eat it, but as far as fruit pies go I much prefer cherry, blueberry, peach, or really any other. Assuming these bars would essentially taste like apple pie, I wasn’t expecting a lot from them. They turned out heavenly! The shortbread crust is crisp, and the apple filling tender and spicy. I think the thin, tender layer of apples is key to my preference for them over apple pie. The crust, streusel, and salted caramel topping all play a role equal to that of the apple layer. If you’re ever at a loss as to what to bake, definitely give these a try!
Look at those pools of salted caramel goodness! I’m not ashamed to admit that I swiped the leftover caramel from the parchment and licked it off my fingers after putting the bars away. That salted caramel sauce is gooood stuff!
For the shortbread crust:
½ cup unsalted butter, melted
¼ cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
¼ tsp. salt
1 cup flour
For the apple filling:
2 large apples, peeled and thinly sliced
2 Tbsp. flour
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
For the streusel:
½ cup old-fashioned oats
1/3 cup brown sugar
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ cup flour
¼ cup unsalted butter, cold and cubed
1. Preheat oven to 300° F. Line bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper, leaving enough overhang on all sides. Set aside.
2. Stir melted butter, sugar, vanilla, and salt together in a medium bowl. Add flour and stir until everything is combined. Press mixture evenly into prepared baking pan. Bake for 15-18 minutes.
3. For the filling, combine sliced apples, flour, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg together in a large bowl until all of the apples are evenly coated. Set aside.
4. Stir oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, and flour together in a medium bowl. Cut in chilled butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside.
5. Remove crust from the oven, and turn heat up to 350°F. Tightly layer apples on top of the warm crust. Sprinkle with streusel and bake for 30–35 minutes or until the streusel is golden brown. Cool for 30 minutes at room temperature, then chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, or overnight.
6. Lift the foil or parchment out of the pan using the overhang on the sides, and cut into 12 large or 16 small bars. Drizzle with salted caramel sauce.
(Recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction)