Saturday, November 28, 2009

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Priorities and a Sticky Mess

Life is all about priorities wouldn't you say? I am constantly prioritizing and re-prioritizing things in my life. When I was younger my main priority was doing well in school. When I was planning my wedding my priority was making sure the photographer gave me all the images of my wedding. Now my priority is my family, specifically the one I am creating with Alex. If you have known me for a while you'd know that the concept of family was very low on my priority list. I didn't believe in family or in having that network of related individuals that loved {semi}unconditionally and supported wholeheartedly. That always seemed like something others had. Something make believe. But now that I am pregnant and planning for life beyond pregnancy, my priorities have shifted in the direction of creating and nourishing the type of family environment and relationships I always wish I had. Now is when I am starting to see the importance of family and now is when I am beginning to understand what family means in the first place. So why all this talk about family and priorities? Well, I blame it on an apple.
Cakespy had posted a Caramel Apple Pie Bar recipe. The recipe sounded great and the picture she posted look delicious. I made the bars as specified, however, I doubled the amount of caramel. Why? Because the caramel was so good and it was my priority. My bars ended up being 1/5 shortbread, 1/5 apple, 1/5 topping, and 2/5 caramel. I poured the caramel on real thick. The result was a sticky, gooey, sweet mess. It was more of an apple crumble than a bar and I have ZERO problems with that. Served warm with some ice cream and this dessert is sweet indulgence.
Caramel Apple Pie Bars
Source: Cakespy, adapted from Dana Treat
Makes about 24 bars

For the crust
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

For the filling
(optional) 1/2 cup caramel sauce (here) or caramel candies
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup light brown sugar
3 large Granny Smith apples, cut into thin slices
1 tablespoon cinnamon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

For the topping
1/2 cup walnuts
1 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats
1 cup flour
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and chilled

Procedure
  1. Make the crust. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease an 8x8-inch pan thoroughly. In an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the butter with the sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. At low speed, beat in the flour and salt until a soft dough forms. Press the dough over the bottom of the prepared pan, leaving the edges slightly higher (but still even all around). Bake in the center of the oven for about 12-15 minutes, until the crust is golden and set. Let cool on a rack.
  2. While this is cooling, make the filling. In a large skillet, melt the butter and brown sugar. Add the apples to the skillet and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Stir the cinnamon and nutmeg into the skillet, making sure it has evenly coated the apples. Cook until the apples are caramelized and very tender and the liquid is evaporated, about 10 minutes longer; scrape up any bits stuck to the bottom of the skillet, and if necessary add a small amount of water to the pan to prevent scorching.
  3. Make the topping. Lightly toast the walnuts in the oven for about eight minutes; let cool, then coarsely chop them. In a large bowl, mix the oats with the flour, light brown sugar, cinnamon, and baking soda. Using a pastry blender and cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in the walnuts and press the mixture into clumps.
  4. Assemble and bake. Spread the 1/2 cup caramel sauce (or caramel candies) over the bottom layer, ensuring even coverage. Spread the apple filling directly on top of the caramel. Scatter the crumbs on top, pressing them lightly into an even layer. Bake in the center of the oven for 30-40 minutes, or until the topping is golden; rotate the pan halfway through baking. Let cool completely on a rack before cutting into bars.

1 comment:

Ingrid said...

YUM! Love anything caramel-y and the kiddos love fruity desserts. win-win!
~ingrid