Caramel Apple Cheesecake Crumble Bars – 2015 Youth 13-17 – 1st Place Winner

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Crumble Bars
By Noah Richard

Crust
1 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 c. light brown sugar, packed
1/2 c. unsalted butter (1 stick), softened

Cheesecake
8 ounces cream cheese, softened (use brick-style, lite okay)
1 large egg
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 teas. vanilla extract

Apples
About 2 cups small dices apples (from about 2 med apples, peeled and cored; I used 1 Fuji and 1 Gala)
2 T granulated sugar
1 T cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

Crumble
1/2 c. light brown sugar, packed
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c.p old-fashioned-whole rolled oats (not quick-cook or instant)
6 T unsalted butter (3/4 of 1 stick), softened

Caramel
1/2 cup+ (salted) caramel sauce, for drizzling homemade salted caramel, or store bought; use a thick caramel sauce and not thin, runny ice cream sundae topping
Ice cream, optional for serving
Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8-inch square pan with aluminum foil leaving overhang and spray with cooking spray, or grease and flour the pan; set aside.

Crust – In a large bowl, add the flour, brown sugar, and cut in the butter with two forks. Keep working until mixture is combined and pea-sized crumbly bits are present. Turn mixture out into prepared pan, hard-packing it with your fingertips in an even, smooth, flat layer to form a crust. Bake for 14-15 minutes, or just until set (set a timer). Remove from oven; set aside. While crust bakes, prepare the remaining layers.

Cheesecake – In a large bowl (same one used for crust is okay, just wipe with a paper towel), add all ingredients and beat with a hand mixer (or whisk vigorously by hand) until smooth and combined, about 2 minutes on high power; set aside.

Apples – Peel, core, and dice apples and place in a medium bowl. Sprinkle with sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and toss well to combine; set aside.
Crumble – In a medium bowl, add the flour, brown sugar, oats, and cut in the butter with two forks. Keep working until mixture is combined and pea-sized crumbly bits are present. If necessary, add an extra tablespoon or two of flour or oats for preferred consistency if mixture is loose. After removing pan with the crust layer from the oven, pour cheesecake mixture over the crust, smoothing the top lightly with a spatula. Lightly and evenly sprinkle the apples. Evenly sprinkle with the crumble mixture. It looks like a lot, but it sinks some while baking. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes (I baked 48 minutes), or until crumble topping is just set and very lightly golden browned. Place pan on a wire rack to cool for about 30 minutes.

Caramel – After 30 minutes, evenly drizzle with (salted) caramel sauce. Allow bars to cool, in pan, on wire rack for at least 4 hours, or overnight. Cover with foil if cooling overnight. Don’t slice bars too early because you’ll have a literal hot mess and bars will likely fall apart. Prior to slicing, lift bars out using foil overhang, slice, and serve. Bars will keep airtight at room temp for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 6 months. Optionally serve with ice cream.

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