Apple crisp salted caramel bars

An apple crisp mixed with salted caramel sauce and then melted into a shortbread cookie base.

nestMeg
A cookie bar with a shortbread base and a delicious apple crisp topping.

Phew. Encapsulating the past year in a blog post requires a level of dedication that someone who just made a four-layer dessert does not possess.

Now that I’m settled in yet another (new) city, I feel ready to declare myself “baaaaaack.” I have my own kitchen with every gadget I could possibly need. (All that’s left is another oven.) I am entering fall, also known as prime baking season. And, most importantly, I am healed, both mentally and physically, from the challenging experiences of the past few years.

Now I just need some more friends to share these bars with….

About those bars: imagine if an apple crisp mixed with salted caramel sauce and then melted into a shortbread cookie base.

I know this recipe looks intense, but it actually comes together pretty quickly. Then again, I have a dishwasher again. I CAN DO ANYTHING.

Shortbread base:
1-1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9- x 13-inch baking pan with parchment paper.

2. Cut butter into 1/2-inch pieces. In a food processor, process the flour, sugar and salt briefly, then add the butter and process until the mixture begins to form small lumps.

3. Sprinkle mixture onto the baking pan and press the mixture evenly onto the bottom.

4. Bake shortbread in middle of oven until golden, about 20 minutes. Let cool completely while preparing other ingredients. Keep the oven at 350 degrees F.

Salted caramel sauce:
1 cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons salted butter, cut up into 6 pieces
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt

1. Follow these directions from Sally’s Baking Addiction.

2. Once the caramel has cooled and thickened, pour it over the cooled shortbread base and spread evenly.

Apple filling: 
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
10 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 cup cornstarch

1. Heat a large pot over medium heat. Add the butter and let it melt, then stir in the apples. Cook for about five minutes to let apples release their liquid.

2. Stir in the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Let cook for another five minutes.

3. Stir in the cornstarch and cook for another minute, until liquid has thickened. Set apples aside to cool, then spread them over the salted caramel shortbread base.

Crisp topping:
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup old-fashioned oats
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 stick (1/2 cup) cold butter, cut into pieces

1. Mix brown sugar, oats, flour and cinnamon in a mixing bowl. Use a pastry cutter or paddle attachment on a stand mixer to combine cold butter into the mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs.

2. Sprinkle crisp crumbs over the apples in the baking dish and press crumbs gently into the pan.

3. Place the baking pan on a center rack in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes, until apples are bubbling and crisp looks, well, crisp.

4. Let the bars cool completely on a cooling rack before slicing. You might even want to refrigerate them for an hour to make sure that they don’t crumble.

Related post on nestMeg: Oatmeal jumble cookies

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