Perhaps my favorite part of having 50 apples in my house has been that in my search for apple goodness I've stumbled on a bunch of new foodie blogs that I officially love. This particular recipe is from Picky Palate - who has quickly become a new favorite read. I think that a lot of her recipes will allow for some tweaking and experimenting, which I think will continue to help my confidence in the kitchen.
I'm somewhat busy at work... so here's the link to the original recipe... and below is my adaptation, and a summary of what I changed from the original recipe. Go make it. Now.
Caramel Apple Cream Cheese Cookie Bars (renamed much more simply by Lauren, but not appropriate for the readership of this blog) :)
3/4 stick of butter, divided
1 package of graham crackers, crushed (about 7-8 crackers)
1 roll Pillsbury Sugar Cookie dough, cold and cut in half
12 oz cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
3 large apples, peeled, cored and cut into small chunks
heaping 1/3 cup brown sugar
several generous dashes of cinnamon
1 teaspoon corn starch and/or 1 teaspoon flour
1/4 cup quick oats
handful (about 12) of Kraft caramels, unwrapped
splash of milk
1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease an 8x8 baking dish (I used my trusty square Pyrex). Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter and mix with the graham cracker crumbs in a bowl, then press into the prepared dish. Bake for 8 minutes and remove from oven.
2. Crumble half of the sugar cookie dough over the partially baked crust.
3. Beat softened cream cheese, vanilla, and sugar until smooth. Spread over cookie dough layer in dish, bake for 25 minutes, and remove from oven.
4. Meanwhile, melt the remaining butter in a medium sized pot, stir in corn starch and/or flour until smooth. Add diced apples to the pot, then add brown sugar and cinnamon a little at a time, mixing to combine. Cook over medium heat for 7-8 minutes, until apples are coated and start to soften. Spread mixture over cream cheese layer in dish.
5. Crumble remaining sugar cookie dough over apple layer. Sprinkle with quick oats and bake another 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick comes clean from the center.
6. Melt caramels with splash of milk in a small bowl in the microwave - about 2 minutes stirring once. Stir until smooth and drizzle over cooled bars.
7. If you have any leftovers... cover and refrigerate. :)
1. I made a graham cracker crust instead of using crushed up golden grahams cereal.
2. I made 1.5 times the amount of cream cheese mixture than the original recipe since I didn't think the suggested amount looked like enough once I spread it in the dish.
3. I needed to use up some apples!! So, instead of a can of apple pie filling (which may be quicker but honestly just doesn't sound good to me), I made my own with the cinnamon, brown sugar, and diced apples.
4. I didn't have any granola bars, so I substituted the quick oats.
5. I didn't want to buy half and half just for this, so I melted the caramels with milk... I'm sure that didn't make any difference at all in the end.
And as always... a few things I learned while making this:
1. 8x8 is not nearly big enough for something this amazing. I'm seriously tempted to make it again, and double the recipe. Although, the 8x8 was so tightly packed and layered high that the slightly overflowing end result was beautiful.
2. I'm not very good at "drizzling" anything - such as melted caramel. It's always a mess and gets all over the counter, and doesn't end up looking as nice as I would like. In this case, it didn't matter, it was still delicious in the end.
3. I have a difficult time following recipes that list a bunch of different things in one step. When transferring recipes to my blog or recipe book, I often re-write the steps to make more sense for me and to split up what to do with the separate ingredients.
4. Umm... I didn't really learn much else while making this except that I love cheesecake-like desserts, and I apparently also love them mixed with apples and sugar cookie dough. There's not much else to say, really, it was just that good!