Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Caramel apple pie cheesecake bars

A thick and hearty bar featuring chunky caramel apples, cheesecake and lots and lots of crumble. You'll want to go apple picking just to make these irresistible bars!
We live in a fairly quiet neighborhood. We only see our direct neighbors once a year (on Halloween, when we go over to trick-or-treat). There aren't too many elementary school kids around, so things are generally pretty calm.

We were fortunate enough to meet one set of neighbors the next street over one year. Their neighbors held their annual pig-pickin' and we got to talking. They have two girls around the same age as Addie, and we became fast friends. Their oldest daughter is in 1st grade so we see them at the bus stop every day.

These generous friends of ours went apple picking one weekend and shared some of their loot with us. I was fortunate enough to be the recipient of 2 pounds of Granny Smith apples. Although I had apple pie on my mind, I wanted to make sure that I made something that was easily shareable, and pie was not one of those things. Can you imagine me trying to give our friends a few slices of pie at the bus stop? Yeah, me neither.

I baked these caramel apple pie cheesecake bars with the sole intent of sharing them with our friends. They had all the flavor of apple pie, plus a cheesecake layer and were slice-able. I could easily pack up half of the bars and give them to our friends at the bus stop.

I found that the crust/topping recipe made plenty. I generously topped my bars and they still spilled over. Once I cut into the bars, I lost some crumble on the bottom of the pan. So feel free to omit some of the topping and save it for another recipe or just pile it on and enjoy it to your heart's delight.

These bars did not disappoint. The crust was thick, sturdy and slightly crunchy. The cheesecake layer was smooth and velvety, and the caramel apples were reminiscent of a freshly baked apple pie. And the topping? Well, that's always the best part.

Our friend loved these so much that she claims to have eaten 3 bars in one sitting. Looks like this is another winning recipe. (P.S. Don't be intimidated by the number of steps below. The food processor does most of the work for you.)

Caramel apple pie cheesecake bars
Crust and topping
  • 2 and ½ cups old-fashioned oats, divided
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup (1 and ½ sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
Caramel apple filling
  • 2 pounds (about 6 medium) Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 2 Tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 Tablespoon water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 and ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
Cheesecake layer
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup full-fat Greek yogurt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons light brown sugar
  • pinch of salt
Directions 
Make the crust layer: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease or line an 8x8-inch square baking dish. Set aside.

In a food processor, pulse 1 and ½ cups of the oats until finely ground. Add in the brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt and process until combined. Add in the butter pieces and pulse about 8 times or until the mixture resembles wet sand. Add in the remaining 1 cup of oats and pulse 5 times.

Transfer half of the crust mixture into the bottom of the prepared baking dish and press down with your spatula or the bottom of a cup. Bake the crust in your preheated oven for 18 minutes and allow it to cool slightly.While the crust is baking, prepare the caramel apple layer. Transfer the remaining crust mixture to a medium sized bowl and do NOT wash the food processor (you will be using it again shortly).

Make the caramel apple layer: Place all of the caramel apple ingredients into a medium sized saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir constantly until the apples are soft, about 15 minutes. Set aside until ready to use.

Make the cheesecake layer: Combine all of the cheesecake layer ingredients into your food processor. Process until everything is smooth and creamy.

Assemble the bars: Once the crust layer has finished baking and is slightly cool, pour the cheesecake mixture on top and smooth it out with a spatula. Add the caramel apples to the top in an even layer. Finally, top with the remaining crust/crumble mixture.

Bake in your preheated (350 degree F) oven for 40-45 minutes. Allow it to cool completely and then place it in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours before cutting and serving.

Leftover bars should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Yield: About 16 bars

Source: Kristine's Kitchen

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