Last year we planted three apples trees: Honeycrisp, Gala, and Granny Smith. All three are dwarf trees, so they won’t get very tall or take up too much yard space as they spread their branches, and each will take a few years to work up to full production. This summer the Gala apple tree had a nice crop of apples going and the Honeycrisp had a few, though the Granny Smith didn’t produce this year, but unfortunately the squirrels like the apples as much as we do and they fought their way through our protective nets and stole every single apple. They chewed the bags right off the trees and made off with their loot like thieves in the night. So much for the nets; now we need to figure out a more permanent mode of protection.
So we are buying apples again this year, but we haven’t given up hope of harvesting our own apples someday because autumn just isn’t the same without the aroma of apples and spices in the oven.
CARAMEL APPLE CRUMB BARS
Makes 24 bars.
stand mixer with paddle attachment
small saucepan or microwave safe measuring cup
9×13 baking pan
1 cup (110 g) brown sugar firmly packed
1/2 cup (1 stick/113 g) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup (97 g) shortening
1-3/4 cups (210 g) plus 3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour, divided
1-1/2 cups (120 g) quick oats
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 tart baking apples, such as Granny Smith, peeled and diced
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup (320 g) cajeta (goat milk caramel), or dulce de leche
1. Preheat the oven to 400° F/200° C.
2. In the bowl of the stand mixer, cream together the brown sugar, butter, and shortening. Stir in 1-3/4 cups of flour, oats, salt, and baking soda. Set aside 2-1/2 cups of the oat mixture, then press the remaining oat mixture into the bottom of the baking pan.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour and cinnamon together and toss with the chopped apples. Spread the apples over the bottom oat layer.
4. Warm the cajeta in the small saucepan or in the microwave just until it is easy to pour, do not boil or overcook it. Drizzle the caramel over the apples.
5. Sprinkle the reserved oat mixture over the caramel layer.
6. Bake in the preheated oven until the topping is golden brown and the apples are tender, about 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cut into bars while still warm, then allow to cool completely.