Caramel Apple Bars

Since my experiments in making caramel apples with homemade caramel all backfired, I found a new method of delivery for caramel apples – in the form of bars. This recipe brings all those flavors into an oat filled, crunchy, gooey, yummy little (or big) square.
I find eating caramel apples to be a little difficult. The caramel gets all over, I have the tendency to bump the apple into my chin, and the stick in the middle is hard to navigate. At the end, the apple often falls off into pieces.
With bars, there is no mess, no fuss, no muss. They are very sweet and a little bit salty, something lacking in caramel apples unless they had a sprinkling of sea salt (which would be a great addition). And now that I have the ideas flowing, adding peanuts or peanut butter would be awesome in this recipe. Some crunchy chopped peanuts on the top or using peanut butter instead of butter in the crust…I might have to revise this recipe at some point, but for now the caramel and apples work mighty well.
Ingredients:
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 1/2 cup quick cooking oats
  • 1 (14 ounce) package individually wrapped caramels, unwrapped (or 1 recipe homemade caramel)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 1/2 cups peeled, cored and diced apples (small dice)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • sea salt or fleur de sel for sprinkling (as much or as little as you want, I used about 1 1/2 teaspoons)
for caramel:
  • 1 stick unsalted butter butter
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 3/4 cup half and half
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt or fleur de sel
How To:
If you are making the caramel, take out an 8″ X 8″ glass baking dish. Your caramel will cool here. Dice butter into even sized cubes. Add sugar to a medium sauce pan and add 3 tablespoons water. Cook over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Add butter and stir slowly until combined. Add corn syrup and half and half; mix.

Cook and stir on medium for one minute, then to medium to high heat until boiling. Once boiling, clip on a candy thermometer. Reduce heat to medium and keep a steady boil, stirring occasionally. Watch the temperature – you want to reach 240 degrees. Remove from heat, add vanilla and salt and stir. Pour into baking dish and set aside.

For the bars, preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, cream together the brown sugar, butter and pumpkin until smooth. Combine flours, oats, baking soda and salt; stir into the creamed mixture until well blended. Set aside 2 cups of this mixture. Press the rest of the mixture into the bottom of an ungreased 9″ x 13″ baking pan.
In a medium bowl, toss diced apples with lemon juice. Add the 3 tablespoons flour and toss again. Spread apple mixture evenly over the crust. If caramel has set at all, microwave for 10 to 20 seconds, or until pourable. Spread over apple layer. Sprinkle the reserved oat mixture over the top of the caramel layer. Press down lightly. Sprinkle with sea salt or fleur de sel.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the apples are tender. refrigerate and cut when room temperature or cool. Refrigerate left over bars.

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