Sunday, September 22, 2013

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Crumble Pie Bars

I remember begging my mom to let us make caramel apples, and thinking that there was nothing more wonderful than taking that first bite of a cold, tart crunchy apple, covered in sticky sweet caramel, dipped in nuts or candy.

They were usually too big to finish, and afterwards the kitchen table would be covered in a sweet and sticky mess of half-eaten apples, crushed nuts and caramel wrappers.  And of course, three sweet and sticky, but very happy children.

I haven't made caramel apples at any point in my adult life - maybe it's that the idea of them now is more appealing than the actual treat - but I do still love any combination of caramel and apples in the fall.

So for my caramel and apple craving, I baked a big pan of these pie bars with a buttery shortbread crust, tart apples cooked with brown sugar and plenty of spices, a layer of cheesecake and crumble topping.

All drizzled with homemade salted caramel sauce.

One Year Ago:   Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies and Pumpkin Bread
Two Years AgoBrown Sugar Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Crumble Bars

apple filling:
  • 6 large apples, peeled, cored and chopped (I used 4 Granny Smith and 2 Sweet Tango)
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 tablespoons cold water
crust and topping:
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) cold, unsalted butter, diced
cream cheese filling:
  • 1 pound cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
salted caramel: 
Click HERE for the recipe. 

Note, although pictured here, the cream cheese filling is on top of the apples, I've switched those layers in my instructions below as they bake better layered with crust, apples, cream cheese, then topping.

In a large saucepan, combine the apples, lemon juice, sugar and spices.  Simmer over medium low heat until juicy and the apples have softened, about 30-40 minutes.  In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and water to create a slurry.  Add to the apple mixture and simmer for 5-10 more minutes until the juices have thickened.  Let cool slightly.

Preheat the oven to 350.  Spray a 9x13 baking dish with non-stick spray.

In your food processor, combine the crust/topping ingredients until pea-sized pieces of butter remain.  Reserve two cups of the crumbs for the topping, and press the remainder of the crumbs firmly against the bottom of the baking dish.  (The crumb mixture will seem very dry, but it will bake into a shortbread cookie-like crust.)  Bake crust for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, beat the cream cheese, sour cream, eggs and vanilla bean paste until smooth and creamy.

Spread the apples over the hot crust, then pour the cream cheese filling over the apples.  Bake for 15 minutes, then sprinkle the crumb topping over and bake for another 20-25 minutes until golden brown.

While the bars are cooling, make the caramel.  Cool bars completely before cutting into squares, and serve with the caramel sauce.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen