What can be better than flaky shortbread layered with luscious apple pie filling and a creamy caramel sauce? These apple bars are the perfect dessert recipe for fall.
If you are craving a dessert that feels like home, then these caramel apple bars are what you should make. These rustic but super rich-tasting bars feature the timeless combination of apples, caramel, and cinnamon.
Why you’ll love this recipe
If you don’t bake often because you find the process of baking to be time consuming, this is the recipe for you!
- Simpler than apple pie. As easy as pie? Making these caramel apple bars is even easier than making an apple pie!
- A year-round treat. Unlike many other fruits, apples are widely available year-round.
- Rich flavor. Layering apple pie filling and caramel over a crumbly crust creates a rich flavor that you won’t get enough of.
- Just 5 minutes prep. After making the dough and the caramel, there isn’t very much hands on time at all.
You will need to make a classic shortbread crust for these caramel apple bars and top it with caramel and apple pie filling. The latter can be either homemade or store-bought. Here’s the list of ingredients you will need for this caramel apple bars recipe.
For the crust:
- Butter. Room temperature, unsalted.
- Sugar. Granulated white and powdered sugar.
- Flour. White all-purpose flour.
- Vanilla extract. To taste.
For the filling:
- Apple pie filling. Homemade or store-bought.
- Caramel candies. Unwrapped.
- Heavy cream. For the caramel sauce.
- Cinnamon. Goes perfectly with apples and caramel.
- Vanilla. To enhance the flavor of the caramel sauce.
How to make apple bars
Despite the multiple layers, these caramel apple bars are very easy to make. You don’t have to have outstanding baking skills to make them.
Step 1 -Make the dough
For the shortbread crust, attach the paddle to the stand mixer and start mixing the butter with the granulated and powdered sugar on medium speed. Once mixed, add the flour slowly until a soft dough forms.
Step 2- Bake the crust
Bake for 20 minutes or until the edges are golden brown. Once baked, remove the crust from the oven and let it cool.
Step 3- Prepare the caramel filling
Make the caramel filling while the crust bakes. Microwave the unwrapped caramel candies and heavy cream at 15-second intervals. Whisk until smooth. Add the cinnamon and vanilla extract.
Step 4- Add the caramel and apple fillings
Pour the caramel filling over the cooled crust, followed by a thin layer of apple pie filling.
Remove the remaining dough from the fridge and crumble it evenly on the caramel apples.
Step 5- Return to the oven
Put the crust with the fillings back into the oven and bake for another 25-30 minutes. Remove from the oven when the fillings bubbles and the top layer of the crumbled crust gets golden brown.
Which apples are best to use?
Texture-wise, the best apples to use for the filling for these apple bars are the ones that are firm and will hold their shape well when cooked and baked.
If you are choosing based on the flavor, use Granny Smith, Jonathan, or Pacific Rose apples if you like tart apple flavor. Go with Jazz, Honey crisp, or Golden Delicious if you prefer sweeter apples.
If you are making the apple filling yourself and want to achieve a complex flavor, use a few different apples.
To store. Transfer caramel apple bars into an airtight container as soon as they cool. Stored at room temperature, caramel apple bars will stay fresh for up to 4 days. Refrigerate caramel apple bars to make them last up to 7 days.
To freeze. Place the baked and cooled bars in a shallow container and store them in the freezer for up to 6 months.
More apple dessert recipes to try
Frequently asked questions
If you’d like plain apple bars, you can omit the caramel.
For the crust
- Preheat the oven to 175C/325F. Grease a 9 x 13-inch pan with cooking spray and set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attached, mix the butter and two sugars together on medium speed. Add vanilla, then turn the speed to low. Slowly add the flour until a soft dough forms.
- Transfer ⅓ of the dough into the pan and cover the remaining dough and refrigerate.
- Bake the pan for 20 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown.
- While the crust is baking prepare the caramel portion of the filling. Place the unwrapped caramels into a microwave safe dish along with the heavy cream. Microwave for 1-2 minutes, or until the caramel is mostly melted. Whisk together until smooth, along with the cinnamon and vanilla.
- Pour the caramel over the cooled crust. Add a thin layer of the apple pie filling. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and crumble it evenly over the caramel apples.
- Return the oven to the pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling and it is golden brown on top.
- Let them cool completely before cutting into squares.
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