When you need to make apple pie for a big group, these pressed and baked apple bars make it easy. Plus, you can’t beat that sea salted caramel topping.
Without a doubt, the smell of apples and cinnamon evokes warmth and home. Make these ahead and you have a go-to Thanksgiving win.
To be frank, I can’t stand the flavor or texture of store-bought apple pie. So, I’ve adapted this recipe from one of my all-time favorite Frayed Apron recipes: this homemade salted caramel apple pie.
Rest assured, these bars deliver all the homey feels of apple pie with spiced apple chunks and a buttery shortbread crust. There’s even a streusel layer on top.
First things first. Let’s discuss the ratio of shortbread crust to filling. After testing and perfecting, my recipe will yield a slice-able, hold-able square.
The thicker the partially baked crust, the less soggy the final bars. Hence, easy to slice and easy to hold. No fork required!
Ready for the Shortcut? Apple Pie in Bar Form
I make apple pie every year, but I had no idea what I was missing with these bars. They’re a synch to make, and totally delicious.
You don’t need a rolling pin (so no big mess) and can simply press the crust directly into the baking pan with your fingertips.
Plus, these home-baked squares are FREE of artificial flavors, high fructose corn syrup, artificial colors, and hydrogenated oils. So, these taste 100 times better than anything storebought.
And, lest I forget, I insist you top your dessert with this sea salted caramel drizzle. Better yet, totally show off your baking skills and do this part right in front of whoever you’re serving (instant wow-factor).
Best Apples for Baking Apple Pie Bars
For the best texture and flavor, I recommend a firm apple that has a sweet, tart flavor. Since there’s caramel involved, I like to balance the sweet with the super tart Granny Smith.
Then, use either Pink Lady, Braeburn, or HoneyCrisp; you need 3 medium or 2 large apples total.
Bottom line — Don’t be afraid to try a combination of whatever apples you like with this recipe.
Best Way to Store and Serve Apple Squares
You can bake and refrigerate these bars up to 4 days ahead. To serve, just allow them to sit at room temperature for the best flavor and texture.
Saucing Tip: I recommend warming the caramel sauce and drizzling over top just before serving. Nothing beats warm, salty caramel.
3 Layers to Make and Bake (Step-by-Step Photos)
Layer 1: Make the Shortbread Crust
Prepare a baking pan with parchment paper. Press the shortbread mixture on top to form an even layer. Partially bake the crust, about 10 minutes.
Layer 2: Make the Apple Filling
Peel and cut the apples into thick slices, about 1/4-inch.
Toss the sliced apples with the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and some flour to help prevent the crust from getting soggy.
Spread the apples in a thin layer over the partially baked crust.
Layer 3: Make the Streusel
Combine the oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, and flour then cut the butter in with two forks or a pastry cutter to form sticky clumps.
Spread the streusel topping over the apples and bake until the streusel darkens, a sign that the oats have toasted and the sugars caramelized.
Bakers! Are you ready?
To start, you will need either an 8-inch square baking pan (recommended) or up to a 10-inch by 7-inch rectangle. If your pan is much larger, I recommend doubling the recipe and increasing the baking time.
*You can leave me a comment below with your baking pan measurements, and I’m happy to help you modify the recipe.
More Fall Recipes To Make Now
- Perfect Vegan Pumpkin Pie with Gluten-Free Crust
- Roasted Butternut Squash Pasta
- Southwest Roasted Pumpkin Stew
If you’ve tried this or any other recipe on the blog, please share how you got on in the comments below. I love hearing from you! You can also FOLLOW ME on FACEBOOK, INSTAGRAM and PINTEREST to see more delicious food and what’s happening on The Frayed Apron.
SEA SALTED CARAMEL APPLE BARS
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 cups all-purpose flour spooned & leveled
- 3 medium apples peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 pinch ground allspice or freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
- 1/3 cup packed light or dark brown sugar coconut sugar works, too
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour spooned & leveled
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter cold and cubed
sea salted caramel saucestep-by-step photos included
- Preheat the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper, leaving enough overhang to lift for easy removal. Set aside.
- Make the crust. Warm the butter until partially melted in the microwave on high, about 30 seconds. In a medium bowl, combine the softened butter, granulated sugar, vanilla, and salt. Add the flour and cut the mixture with two forks or a pastry cutter just until combined. Press the mixture into the prepared baking dish in one even layer. Par-bake for 15 minutes.
- Make the apple filling. In a medium bowl, combine the apple slices, flour, granulated sugar, cinnamon, and allspice/nutmeg. Toss to coat. Set aside.
- Make the streusel. In a medium bowl, combine the oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, and flour. Use two forks or a pastry cutter to cut the chilled butter in until the mixture starts to come together in sticky clumps. Set aside.
- Assemble the layers and bake. Spread the apples evenly over the par-baked crust and sprinkle the streusel mixture over the top. Bake until the streusel topping darkens, about 40 minutes. Allow to cool for about 20 minutes then lift the foil/parchment overhang and transfer to a cutting board. Slice into squares (16 smaller bars or 12 larger bars). Just before serving, drizzle with warmed sea salted caramel sauce.
- Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions: The bars will stay fresh stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. You can wrap and freeze the bars for up to 3 months; frozen bars may be thawed overnight in the refrigerator before serving.
- Apples: Just like my caramel apple pie, I like to include at least one Granny Smith apple for tartness. You can use a combination of Pink Lady or other sweet apple varieties. I recommend 3 medium apples, but you just want around 3-4 cups once sliced.
- Larger Baking Pan: Recipe can easily work in a 10-inch by 7-inch rectangular dish as-is. However, if you plan to bake in a larger dish, I suggest doubling the recipe (minus the salt) and baking for up to 55 minutes.
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