Nov 23, 2012

Caramel apple cheesecake bars

A thanksgiving greeting to all of you who have been so supportive during my hiatus. I am hoping to have regular posts from now on (maybe I shouldn't have put that in writing =P). On this thanksgiving, I am most thankful for my friends. When my family moved from Hong Kong to Hawaii, we left most of our family. It is the friends that I've made since that have become my family. So from me to you, THANK YOU!

This is a great dessert for the holidays! It isn't too hard to make, and it's such a great fall dessert. It's a nice change to pumpkin pie, I think. The most time consuming part is cutting the apples in small dices. Don't skip it though, it's worth the effort. The small dices of apples complements the creamy texture of the cheesecake perfectly. I love the crispy streusel and crusts too! For the caramel sauce, I decided to make the caramel sauce from Ina Garten instead. It's just a personal preference, I don't tend to like caramel sauce made with brown sugar. I think it's because the brown sugar caramel sauce is not as smooth and creamy as the granulated sugar variety. That's just me...

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars
adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

Cream Cheese Layer:
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Streusel Topping:
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup quick cooking oats
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened

Caramel sauce (recipe below)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. In a small bowl, stir together chopped apples, two tablespoons sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside.

3. In a medium bowl, combine all the streusel topping ingredients and mix until crumbly. Set aside.

4. In a medium bowl, combine flour and brown sugar. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or two forks until mixture is crumbly but combined. Press evenly into a 9X13-inch baking pan lined with aluminum foil. Bake for 10 minutes or until lightly browned.

5. While the crust is baking, in a large bowl, beat cream cheese with 1/2 cup sugar until smooth. Then add eggs, one at a time and then the vanilla. Mix well. Pour over the warm crust.

6. Spoon the apple mixture evenly over the cheesecake layer. Sprinkle the streusel topping over the apples. Bake for 30 minutes until the filling is set.

7. Cool the bars to room temperature. Drizzle with the caramel topping (or plate individual slices and drizzle with topping one by one).

Caramel Sauce (1/2 recipe)
from Ina Garten

3/4 cups sugar
1/6 cup water
3/4 cups heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Mix the water and sugar in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over low heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until the sugar dissolves. Do not stir.

2. Increase the heat to medium and boil uncovered until the sugar turns a warm chestnut brown (about 350 degrees F on a candy thermometer), about 5 to 7 minutes, gently swirling the pan to stir the mixture. Be careful – the mixture is extremely hot! Watch the mixture very carefully at the end, as it will go from caramel to burnt very quickly.

3. Turn off the heat. Stand back to avoid splattering and slowly add the cream and vanilla. Don't worry - the cream will bubble violently and the caramel will solidify.

4. Simmer over low heat, stirring constantly, until the caramel dissolves and the sauce is smooth, about 2 minutes. Allow to cool to room temperature, at least 4 hours. It will thicken as it sits.

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