Sniff, sniff, cough, cough. Everyone and their mother (literally) is sick at my house. Do I sense a sniffle or two coming from your direction as well? I, doctor of nothing, prescribe to you a healthy dose of apples, topped with caramel, tucked inside sweet and tender, slightly salty crumbles.
What can one count on more in a germ laden, tissue box tug o’ war grabbing home than a beautiful pan of sweet, delicious Caramel Apple Crumb Bars? Apples are the legendary curative, no?
Wait, were you thinking chicken soup was in order or perhaps my “Take Care of Yourself” Spinach Soup? Nah, this bevy of blahs at my house called for the big guns—something all four of us would eat and something sweet and homey that would cheer us up and tell us once and for all that life is what you make of it and to stop wallowing in our Nyquil inspired, hallucination filled nights.
These babies are exactly what the doctor ordered or, at the very least, what we needed for a quick pick-me-up. The simple, simple crumbly mixture on top and bottom is made up of those good-for-you oats (see, healthy all the way…just don’t tell Joanne from Eats Well With Others…she might beg to differ) and a couple of bad boy ingredients like butter and sugar to make such a soft and sweet, yet slightly salty and crunchy perfect outer layer.
The filling…you and I could get into lots of trouble with this filling. My daughter and I got in our fair share of tiny spoonfuls of trouble with the left over drips of the caramel sauce that gets slathered over the chopped, tart Granny Smith apples.
I am hard pressed to find any health value whatsoever in the caramel sauce, but it definitely took the edge off of our weakened state and ramped us up a bit (perhaps that was the sugar high?) as we stuck our finger in for one more taste.
What? You think in your sorry state, that you are not capable of baking ANYTHING from scratch? I call BS. Do you remember that card game? Notice the short, very short list of ingredients. I was sick and miserable yesterday and managed to pull off these babies hopped up on cold medicine so I feel confident that any of you can whip this up in no time flat.
Yep, it’s a challenge. I have officially thrown down the gauntlet. If I even had the slightest idea how to “trash talk” you, I would at this very given minute, but truthfully, I am much more of a hugger than a fighter so instead I will use my imaginary pom poms (I have never, ever had my own), and jump up and down and shout from the rooftops that YOU CAN DO IT.
Now go make your own batch of my apple bar prescription. See if it makes you feel better, and if it doesn’t, you still end up with a delicious caramel apple cookie bar. Win, win.
Caramel-Apple Crumb Bars
Taken from Nancy Baggett’s All-American Cookie Book
Makes about 16-18 bars
2 2/3 c. all-purpose white flour
1 2/3 c. quick-cooking oats (not instant oats)
2/3 c. light brown sugar, packed
1/4 t. salt
1 c. unsalted butter, melted
2 c. peeled and chopped Granny Smith or other tart apples (4 medium)
1 c. heavy (whipping) cream
1/4 c. light corn syrup
3/4 c. light brown sugar
1/4 t. salt
1/4 c. all purpose white flour
1 1/2 t. vanilla extract
For the crumb mixture: Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray coat a 9×13 pan, preferably glass, on the bottom and sides. Combine the flour, oats, brown sugar, salt and butter with a rubber spatula or best yet, with your hands. The mixture should end up as course crumbles. See photo above.
Press 1/2 of the crumbly mixture firmly in the bottom of your prepared pan. Bake for 10 minutes and then set on a wire rack.
While the crumb mixture is baking, make your caramel sauce: In a heavy, medium saucepan, combine the cream, sugar, corn syrup and salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. DO NOT LEAVE THE POT! I mean it. Adjust the heat so the mixture boils mildly briskly. It should boil about 6-8 minutes, until it reaches 244 degrees F. on a candy thermometer. Immediately, remove the pot from the heat when it reaches the desired temperature. Stir in the flour and mix until evenly combined. Stir in the vanilla.
Peel and chop your apples into a 1/2 inch or so dice. See photo above. Sprinkle your apples evenly over the pan and then pour the caramel sauce over the apples, trying to disperse the caramel in equal amounts. Top the apples with the last half of the crumb mixture. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the edges turn a little darker than the center. Transfer to a wire rack and carefully run a butter knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the caramel from around the sides. Let stand until completely cooled and then cut into bars.
Serve with a tall, icy cold glass of milk. It will just be that much better.