This recipe makes bar cookies that need to be eaten with a fork or else made and served in a cobbler dish or in ramekins. Then you can make them more like apple cobbler or apple crisp. I went for the bar version for my dad's birthday party and they came out a little more delicate than I had anticipated.
For more sturdiness, I recommend you make the bottom crust a bit thicker (so use 1/2 to 2/3 of the crumb mixture for the bottom layer) and perhaps even pre-bake it for 10-15 minutes to give it a head start. Or you can make as is below and just accept the bottom layer will be soft.
I did like the apples and the thickened sugar syrup poured over them before baking. You know that thickened mixture of apple juices when you bake an apple pie? It's like that but without relying on the apples to bake in their own juice. The extra "sauce" gives them an extra boost. These were pretty delicious, especially as a fall dessert.
Spiced apple caramel crumb bars
From The Comfort of Cooking
3 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1-1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/4 cups cold butter, divided
5 cups (4-5 medium) peeled, diced apples
1 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup cold water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon (pinch) ground nutmeg
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 13 x 9-inch baking dish with foil and spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray.
2. In a large bowl, combine flour, oats, brown sugar, baking soda and salt. Cut in 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside 2 cups for topping.
3. Press remaining crumbs into prepared baking dish. Evenly arrange apples over top.
4. In a small saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch, water, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Bring to a boil. Cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thick and bubbly; spread over apples. Sprinkle with reserved crumbs. For large "crumbs", squeeze into clumps and sprinkle on top without breaking them.
5. Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until top is lightly browned. Let bars cool completely before cutting.
Related post on The Pastry Chef's Baking: Apple cake