Tender, buttery shortbread doused in rich salted caramel, covered in tart Granny Smith apple slices, and dotted with crumbled shortbread. Now that’s what we call Prize-Winning Salted Caramel Apple Pie Bars! Ladies and gents, get your stretchy pants out for this one.
You may remember the time we submitted our Salted Caramel Apple Pie Bars recipe to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Apple Dessert & Pie Contest. You may also remember the time we won said bake off! Now it’s time we share our award-winning recipe with you.
These Salted Caramel Apple Pie Bars are over the top both in flavor and texture. We’re talking buttery crust, firm apple slices cut by tangy lemon juice and sweetened with gooey salted caramel, and crunchy shortbread crumbles. The bars are sticky and chewy, yet worth every bit of the mess (not to mention the calories).
Mmmm, butter, caramel and apples … what could be better?
The epitome of fall baking, the Salted Caramel Apple Pie Bars are decked out with notes of nutty caramel, warm cinnamon and tart apple, all marrying together beautifully to strike a perfect balance of salty and sweet. These are decadent in every sense of the word.
Oh, and that homemade salted caramel? Pure liquid gold.
Don’t let the thought of cooking salted caramel from scratch scare you off just yet. This recipe is so simple that it’s virtually foolproof. Better yet, you don’t even need a candy thermometer! Instead, you’ll use your eyes to determine when to add the next ingredient. The salted caramel comes together in about 10 minutes, though it will need to cool for a good half hour or so to thicken before you use it in the bars.
The Salted Caramel Apple Pie Bars recipe makes about a cup of salted caramel, but you’ll only end up using three-quarters of that for the bars. Save the leftover sauce for drizzling over the top of the bars before serving or, you know, for eating straight out of the jar with a spoon. ← Guilty as charged.
The bars themselves are pretty easy to prepare, too. You’ll mix together a few simple ingredients to form a dough, spreading two-thirds of it in a pan as the base and saving the other third for the topping. Prebake the base, then pour over the salted caramel and sprinkle with some extra sea salt if your heart so desires. Next, you’ll strategically layer on the apple slices (mixed with lemon juice and cinnamon to elevate the flavor) and crumble the remaining dough on top. Finally, the bars go back into the oven where they’ll bake to a golden brown hue.
Honestly, the most difficult part of this recipe is waiting for the Salted Caramel Apple Pie Bars to cool completely before cutting into squares. Do not skip this step! Letting the bars cool down to room temperature allows the caramel to set so you can cut neat little squares without filling oozing every which way.
The Salted Caramel Apple Pie Bars taste best the day they are baked, but after one bite, you’ll quickly realize that won’t be a problem. For those feeling less adventurous, the bars will keep stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a few days.
What are you waiting for? Go forth and bake these Salted Caramel Apple Pie Bars. Enjoy the scent wafting from your oven that only other a Bath & Body Works fall candle can evoke. Impress your friends. Wow your family. Receive endless compliments from your colleagues. Who knows, you may even win a bake off!
Prize-Winning Salted Caramel Apple Pie Bars
Tender, buttery shortbread doused in rich salted caramel, covered in tart Granny Smith apple slices, and dotted with crumbled shortbread
For the salted caramel:
- 1 cup sugar
- 6 tablespoons butter cut into six pieces
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 2 teaspoons flaky sea salt such as Maldon
For the shortbread:
- 1 ½ cups unsalted butter room temperature
- 1 ½ cups sugar
- 1 ½ tablespoons vanilla extract
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 3 cups flour
For the filling:
- ¾ cup salted caramel (see above)
- 2 Granny Smith apples peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
- ½ lemon juiced
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
Cook the salted caramel:
Add the sugar to a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves and turns into a liquid that’s amber in color, stirring frequently with a nonstick spatula. This should take about 10 minutes. Once the sugar has liquified, add the butter. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes until the butter melts completely. Add the heavy cream and boil for 1 minute. Remove the caramel from the stove and add the salt. Allow to cool completely before using.
Prepare the shortbread:
Preheat the oven to 325° F. Line a 9- x 13-inch baking dish with aluminum foil and lightly coat with cooking spray.
In the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, or using a handheld mixer, beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed for about 2 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and salt, mixing until incorporated. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour and mix just until combined.
Press two-thirds of the dough into the prepared baking dish. Refrigerate the remaining one-third of the dough until later needed.
Bake the base crust for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the edges begin to lightly brown. Let the pan cool on a wire rack while you prepare the filling, but leave the oven on.
Make the filling:
Toss the apples, lemon juice and cinnamon in a bowl. Pour ¾ cup of the salted caramel over the prebaked base crust, spreading evenly. Sprinkle with extra flaky sea salt, if desired. Layer the apple slices on top of the caramel, overlapping as needed. Remove the reserved shortbread dough from the refrigerator and crumble evenly on top of the apples.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned and the caramel is bubbling. Turn the oven’s broiler to low, and broil for an additional few minutes until the top is golden brown. Keep a close eye so as not to burn.
Allow to cool completely in the pan (usually a couple of hours) before removing and cutting into 24 bars.
This recipe yields 1 cup of caramel, but you’ll only use about ¾ cup for the bars. Reserve the extra caramel for drizzling on top of the bars, if desired, or for another use.
It's very important to let the bars cool completely before slicing to allow the caramel ample time to set.
The bars are best the day they are baked, but will last two to three days stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.