Apple pie is my favorite dessert, but baking this classic dessert as bars is so much easier!
Happy 4th of July weekend! It’s officially been one year since I posted my most favorite dessert on the planet. If I had every single dessert on my blog on the table in front of me (can you imagine?! gluttony.) and could only choose one… this dessert would win. By a landslide.
Apple pie is my favorite dessert; it’s also an American classic. And to celebrate our country’s independence, I vow to make an apple pie recipe on the 4th of July every year. A new tradition to celebrate this patriotic holiday. And my excuse to eat apple pie things.
I have a confession. I made and shot these salted caramel apple pie bars 2 weeks ago and have made them 3 more times since. They are THAT good. Imagine a slice of apple pie, but better. A buttery shortbread crust. A brown sugary oat streusel. Gooey cinnamon apples. And silky smooth salted caramel.
…all in one.
By the way, I didn’t eat all three batches. Though after running 7 miles one day, I definitely wanted to. One batch was a hit at a book signing, another batch went to Kevin’s friends, and I froze the 3rd batch for a party tomorrow.
(I am so excited to dig into these.)
These apple pie bars are a cinch to make. A few steps and you’ll be ready to go. First, make a simple shortbread crust. Nothing fancy here! Butter, flour, sugar, vanilla, salt. Nothing more, nothing less. Simplicity is key when you are making shortbread.
The buttery shortbread crust is just like my favorite pie crust recipe, only easier. And perfect as the base layer for all your favorite bar desserts. I use this shortbread crust in a few of my cookbook recipes – I’ve heard nothing but great feedback. Plus, it’s easy.
Next, add the apples. Tons and tons and tons of ’em. Use your favorite variety. I like to use two different kinds for more depth of flavor. Think… a tart Granny Smith and a sweet Pink Lady. You’ll need two apples for the filling.
S–T–R–E–U–S–E–L. Yes, I am a streusel cheerleader. I’m also a huge nerd for just typing streusel that way, but whatever. It’s a holiday, forgive my silliness. Brown sugar cinnamon oat streusel is the third layer on top of the apple pie bars. It’s a heavy layer.
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: the more streusel, the better.
Salted caramel is my love language. It also takes these incredible apple pie bars to a whole other level. Have you ever made salted caramel before? You must.
Make my recipe for simple salted caramel sauce and you will be a super hero in your family’s eyes. Seriously. This stuff is liquid gold. Dangerously good.
Be warned: your loved ones will have to pry the spoon from your hand. My good friend Megan made it about 5 times during the holidays last year. She gave it to friends and family as gifts. Wouldn’t YOU like to receive a jar of this stuff?
Pour it generously over the apple pie bars and get ready to dig in.
There is so much going on in these salty ‘n sweet caramel apple pie bars, that you will HAVE go back for seconds. But who’s complaining?! Happy 4th, everyone.
*Don’t be overwhelmed by the ingredient list. A lot of the ingredients are repeated in each layer.
Salted Caramel Apple Pie Bars
- 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, melted
- 1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (125g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
- 2 large apples, peeled and thinly sliced (1/4 inch thick)1
- 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 cup (40g) old-fashioned oats
- 1/3 cup (70g) packed light or dark brown sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 cup (30g) all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup (60g) unsalted butter, cold and cubed
- homemade salted caramel sauce (step-by-step photos included)
- Preheat the oven to 300°F (149°C). Line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper, leaving enough overhang on all sides. Set aside.
- Make the crust: Stir the melted butter, granulated sugar, vanilla, and salt together in a medium bowl. Add the flour and stir until everything is combined. Press the mixture evenly into the prepared baking pan. Bake for 15 minutes while you prepare the filling and streusel.
- Make the apple filling: Combine the sliced apples, flour, granulated sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg together in a large bowl until all of the apples are evenly coated. Set aside.
- Make the streusel: Whisk the oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, and flour together in a medium bowl. Cut in the chilled butter with a pastry blender or two forks (or even with your hands) until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside.
- Remove the crust from the oven, and turn the oven up to 350°F (177°C). Evenly layer the apples on top of the warm crust. It will look like there are too many apple slices, so layer them tightly and press them down to fit. Sprinkle the apple layer with streusel and bake for 30–35 minutes or until the streusel is golden brown.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least 20 minutes at room temperature, then chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours (or overnight). Lift the foil or parchment out of the pan using the overhang on the sides and cut into bars. I usually cut them into 16 smaller bars, but you can cut them into 12 larger bars. Once cut, drizzle some salted caramel sauce on top of each. These apple pie bars can be enjoyed warm, at room temperature, or even cold.
Make ahead tip: The bars will stay fresh in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 days. You can freeze the bars for up to 3 months. Then, thaw overnight in the refrigerator before serving and drizzling with caramel.
- I like to use two different kinds of apples for a more complex flavor. I typically use 1 tart apple variety such as Granny Smith, and 1 sweeter apple variety such as Pink Lady. You'll end up with about 3-4 cups. A little more or less is OK, based on your preference of filling.
Larger batch: Recipe can easily be doubled and baked in a 9x13 pan. Bake for 45-55 minutes and cool completely as directed in this recipe.
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