can you believe the summer is almost over? for some students, the summer is already over since many schools started this past week. my fall semester doesn’t start until next week but students have already been trickling in getting ready for classes. crazy! it has been a wonderful summer but i am ready for the cooler fall temperatures and of course amazing fall flavors like apples, pumpkin, and cinnamon. yum!
to welcome in the fall, i made these caramel apple cheesecake bars. well to be honest i first made them in the middle of summer, for my good friend’s going away party. she said she likes apples and cheesecake so i figured why not find a recipe that combines both. i found this recipe online and i think it’s a winner! a couple of our friends who came to the party especially liked them, so i made another batch to give to them as a happy anniversary present.
these caramel apple cheesecake bars have several layers – starting from the top… caramel, streusel topping, apples, cheesecake, and finally a cinnamon crust. phew! i’m not going to lie, you are going to use a lot of bowls and there are quite a few steps. but once you taste a bite of these bars, i think you’ll agree that it was well worth the time and effort. there is a great balance of crunchy, creamy, apple-y, caramel-y, cinnamon-y deliciousness. it may seem like there is a lot going on, but everything works together perfectly.
okay let’s get started. first up, the caramel sauce. i made the sauce in the original recipe the first time and unfortunately i wasn’t a fan. so the second time around, i used my favorite vanilla bean caramel sauce recipe instead – a definite winner. first, pour the heavy cream into a small saucepan. scrape the seeds out of 1 vanilla bean and add the seeds and pod to the cream. warm over low heat.
while the vanilla flavor is infusing into the cream, boil the sugar and water.
once it is an amber color, carefully pour the cream (sans vanilla pod) into the melted sugar. whisk well and then pour into a bowl. allow it to come to room temperature and then put in the refrigerator to cool completely.
on to the apples. you’ll need 3 granny smith apples.
peel and core the apples and then chop them into small pieces. combine the apple chucks with a little bit of sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. set the apples aside.
next the streusel topping. in a medium bowl, mix brown sugar, cinnamon, flour, and quick cooking oats.
add 1 stick of butter, cut into cubes.
using a pastry cutter, a fork, or your fingers cut the butter into the oat mixture until the streusel is nice and crumbly.
done! well this one part is done… set the streusel aside.
next the crust. it’s actually very similar to the streusel topping but no oats. put the dry ingredients in a bowl, mix them up, cut in the butter and then the crust is ready.
pour the crust mixture into a 9 x 13 baking pan, lined with parchment paper.
press the mixture with your fingers to form an even crust. bake the crust at 350 degrees f for 10 minutes.
while the crust is baking, whip up the cream cheese mixture. put 2 packages of cream cheese and some sugar in the bowl of your stand mixture. mix until well combined. then mix in the eggs 1 at a time.
add the vanilla (forgive the poor lighting, i promise the cream cheese isn’t yellow).
the cream cheese part is done.
once the crust has been baking for 10 minutes, remove it from the oven.
pour the cream cheese mixture over the warm crust and spread into an even layer.
do the same with the apples…
and finally the streusel topping.
bake for 30 minutes.
allow the bars to cool to room temperature. i actually made them the day before i needed them to allow them time to chill overnight in the fridge. this made it much easier to make nice, clean slices when cutting them into bars.
time for the finishing touch. pour some of the vanilla bean caramel sauce onto each bar. i put the caramel sauce in a squeeze bottle, but you could just use a spoon.
since i used majority of the original recipe, i’m going to send you over to mel’s kitchen cafe for the recipe. you could use the caramel recipe included in the original recipe or try my favorite vanilla bean caramel sauce.