At the school where I work, it is tradition to have a chili cook-off on the first teacher grading day of the year. It works a little something like this. You make a chili. You bring the chili to school in a crock-pot. You drop it off and someone gives you a number; that, hopefully, will be the lucky number of the day. You let it simmer all morning. You then wait for the announcement that lunch is served and the blind tasting begins. You taste all the other chilies–the traditional ones, the non-traditional ones. And then you vote for your own chili and pray you win, getting all the glory–and the silly trophy–that comes with it.
Actually, even though this tradition is all fun and games, it was a little more stress than I could handle on a grade day. It’s enough for me to agonize over giving final grades; I can’t agonize on how my chili will be stacked against others.
So I decided on the less stressful option–dessert. My mom had picked up a variety of apples from her friends’ orchard, and I thought they’d be perfect in this recipe. I served these bars cold, but made homemade caramel that I drizzled on top. The warm caramel is quite complementary with the cold, tart, and delicious bars. What’s great about this recipe is you can make it the night before, which saves time when you have to bring it to a chili cook-off. Or when you’re procrastinating finishing up grading those last essays. Or when you want to share something wonderful, rich, and heavenly with a friend. Enjoy! xoxo
Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars
2 c flour
½ c packed brown sugar
¾ c cold unsalted butter, cubed
2 8-oz packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 t pure vanilla
½ c + 2 T sugar, divided
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 medium tart apples, finely chopped
½ t ground cinnamon
½ t ground nutmeg
¾ c flour
¾ c packed brown sugar
½ c quick-cooking oats
⅓ c unsalted butter, cubed
⅓ c caramel syrup, store bought or homemade
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×13 pan and set aside.
In a medium bowl, add the brown sugar and butter. Using a pastry blender, or two knives, cut the butter into the brown sugar until it resembles coarse crumbs. Press into the greased pan. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until the top is golden brown.
While the crust is baking, in a small bowl toss the apples with the cinnamon nutmeg and the 2 T sugar. Set aside. To make the streusel layer, in a separate bowl gently mix the brown sugar and oats. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until crumbly. Fold so that the butter is incorporated throughout the mixture.
Using a mixing bowl with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese, remaining ½ c sugar, and vanilla until smooth and there are no lumps. Add eggs and mix on low speed until fully incorporated. Using a rubber spatula, pour over warm crust. Top with apples. Sprinkle with streusel topping.
Bake for 25-30 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight. Before serving, heat the caramel sauce and drizzle over the bars.
from Taste of Home