I was delighted to be invited to participate in the first Improv Cooking Challenge hosted by Lady Behind the Curtain. And even more excited to learn our October theme would be apples and caramel. I had already baked Pastry Wrapped Caramel Apples and my brain was buzzing with ideas of what to make next. I finally decided on Paula Deen’s Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars with Streusel Topping. I’d satisfy my apple, cheesecake, caramel and streusel cravings with one yummy bar.
I modified Paula’s recipe by making only a half pan (this is so I can REMAIN a skinny chick!), leaving out the oatmeal in the topping (picky hubby again), and microwaving my own caramel sauce instead of using a jarred version. My friend, Tracey, shared a super easy way to make caramel sauce in the microwave…it takes less time and effort than driving to the grocery store. My first batch scorched at the minimum cooking time of 5 minutes, so be sure to monitor carefully between minute 4 and 5. I added vanilla but otherwise followed the Cook’s Illustrated recipe exactly. See Tracey’s Culinary Adventures for detailed photos.
I hope you’ll try these gems. They are sinfully delicious. I took some to my knitting group and immediately was asked for the recipe. I know you’ll be glad to have it in your repertoire, too. And be sure to check out all the other caramel apple wonders listed below~
Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars…adapted from Paula Deen
1 cup flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick butter), at room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar plus 1 heaping T, divided
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 small to medium Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup Quick Oats (optional)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick), butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup+ caramel topping (jarred or use recipe below)
Preheat oven to 350º. Line 8 x 8 inch pan with non-stick foil or foil sprayed with Pam.
Combine flour and brown sugar. Cut in butter with pastry blender or two knives till mixture is crumbly. Press evenly into prepared pan. Bake 12 minutes or till lightly browned.
With mixer, beat cream cheese with 1/4 cup sugar till smooth. Add egg and vanilla and blend. Pour over crust and smooth top.
Combine apples with the remaining sugar and cinnamon. Toss to coat and sprinkle over cream cheese mixture.
Prepare streusel by combining all ingredients. Crumble evenly over apples. Bake for 30 minutes or till filling is set. Drizzle with caramel sauce.
Microwave Caramel Sauce…adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 tablespoons water
1/8 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 cup heavy cream, hot
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
Stir together sugar, corn syrup, water and lemon juice in a 2 cup Pyrex measuring cup or a microwave safe glass bowl. Microwave on high till mixture just starts to brown…it will be a very, very pale tan…5 to 8 minutes depending on the strength of your microwave. Mine took only 4 1/2 minutes so keep a close eye on the molten sugar between minute 4 and 5.
When the mixture just starts to brown, remove it from the microwave and allow to sit for 5 minutes. It will magically continue cooking and browning to a deep caramel color. Then, slowly and carefully add hot cream, one tablespoon at a time. It will bubble up, so take care not get get any of the liquid on your skin. Add butter and vanilla.