Sunday, October 21, 2012

Step 1: Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars

My intent is not to write a famous blog with thousands of subscribers and advertisers and comments that scroll for days and days. This isn't what we're doing here.

What we're doing here, my dears, is baking up something good! You will not find sugar substitute here, nor margarine. No canned frosting, because that stuff is scary. If we're going to break our calorie bank, we're breaking it all the way, my friends.

And we're starting with Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars, by Closet Cooking! I didn't have or couldn't find all the ingredients, so there were some changes. Also, I've doubled the original recipe here, and baked it in a 9x13 casserole dish; most of it is going to work tomorrow for my boss's birthday, but I wanted to keep some for myself.  (Do you see this? How could you not want to keep it for yourself!)

Before we start, here's a couple of tips:
When you're making bars or brownies, you can line the pan with aluminum foil and put your batter into the lined pan. When it's all cooled, gently lift up on the foil and it should all slide out easily.
And, if you forgot to take out your butter to thaw ahead of time, you can microwave it on full for 8 to 10 seconds, and it'll soften up just fine. One stick of butter for 8 seconds, 2 sticks of butter for 10 seconds, no more than two at a time or it won't soften evenly.


-Group 1-

2 sticks of butter, room temp
2 cups flour
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed (I always use dark brown sugar, for maximum flavor)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

-Group 2-
4 apples
2 tablespoons ordinary white sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice

-Group 3-
1.5 sticks of butter, soft but still a little chilled from the fridge
1 cup flour
1 cup oats (the kind that comes in tub you used to use as a drum when you were a kid)
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

-Group 4-
1/2 cup sugar
2 packages of cream cheese, room temp
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

Now let us begin!

-The crust
1) Turn on your oven, and set it to 350 degrees.
2) Combine Group 1 ingredients in a mixing bowl until it resembles sugar cookie or shortbread cookie dough.
3) Press this out into your baking dish (either 2 8x8s or 1 9x13).
4) Bake until light golden brown at 350F, about 12 minutes or so, then set it aside on a wire rack to cool.

-The apples

5) Peel and core and chop up your apples into small pieces.
6) Mix all Group 2 ingredients together in a second mixing bowl.

-The streusel
7) Take the first mixing bowl (which you used for group 1) and roughly mix all Group 3 ingredients together. This should NOT be a smooth mixture.

-The cheesecake 
8) In a 3rd mixing bowl, cream the sugar and cream cheese together until smooth.
9) Beat in eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each egg.
10) Mix in vanilla.

-The construction
11) Retrieve your cooled shortbread base and pour on the cream cheese mixture, covering the whole crust.
12) Slowly drop the apples on top of the cream cheese mix, covering it evenly.
13) Layer on your streusel topping (that's the oatmeal mix); it should cover the apples completely.
14) Bake at 350F about 30-35 minutes, until the cream cheese has set. Let cool completely.

At this point, many people use regular caramel sauce that they bought at the grocery store. Drizzle it over, cut it up, serve it out, and you're done. But if you're feeling adventurous, you can make your own:

-The caramel sauce
3/4 cup of brown sugar
1/3 cup of butter, room temp
2/3 cup of evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 good pinch of coarse salt

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat & bring to a boil. Once it boils, turn down the heat and let it simmer until nice & thick. Try not to stir it too much, as the secret to caramel sauce is letting the sugar and butter melt together.

You want some pictures? We can do pictures!

So to start, I tried mixing the shortbread crust with a wooden spoon, but quickly gave up on that. Yeah, it didn't want to play with the wooden spoon. This worked a lot better just using my hand and folding the mixture over and over into itself like it was bread dough.

This is what it looked like in the bowl once I was done mixing it. Nice & smooth, all of the flour was mixed in, and it easily came off of the sides of the bowl.

Spreading it into the foiled pan was interesting, since the foil wanted to go with the dough wherever it went. This meant that I couldn't just use a spoon to mush the crust around since the foil would follow. I eventually discovered that I could use my hand as a sort of rolling pin, and slowly push the dough out to the edges of the dish.

Yes, the crust has fingerprints in it. Whole handprints, actually. What? I washed my hands! It's getting covered up with yumminesss! No one is going to see the handprints!

No, really, it's fine. 

 For maximum cooling in the shortest amount of time, I put the baked shortbread crust on a wire rack in the coldest room in the house. I didn't want the cheesecake mixture to start cooking on a hot bed of baked cookie beforetime. 

I didn't wait too long, either. The casserole dish was cool enough to hold with my bare hands when I started putting on all of my layers. Here we're layering on the apples.
 Now, this is the caramel sauce that I made using the recipe up top. I made a couple of mistakes here; first of all, the butter wasn't warmed up enough to start with, and secondly I stirred it too much.This means that the fats in the butter separated, and I was left with a grainy, lumpy mess instead of caramel sauce. There are ways to save separated caramel, but this sauce refused to be saved.

Yes my friends, it looked like a hot mess. Ooooh, but it tasted delicious. And did you see that streusel topping? NO ONE IS GOING TO KNOW. 

That's right.

I put it on anyway. Excelsior!

The finished product. Ooey. Gooey. Warm. Delicious. I can't tell if it's breakfast or dessert. I don't care. You want to eat this. You really do.


  1. I am in love with your pictures! And I like the fact you are putting lots of options in your steps. I want to bake now...

  2. OMG! I want some of those soo badly right now. YUM YUM!

  3. Thanks ladies! Appreciate the love!