As a physical therapy student, Bob has three clinicals he must complete. His current clinical is in acute care, and he works at a hospital with a big group of women. I had the pleasure of meeting them, and they seem like such a fun group! I decided to make these Caramel Apple Bars for Bob to take and and share with his coworkers.
Of course I had to try one to make sure they were ok :) and Bob participated too. We really like these alot! They are very gooey and moist, and the perfect balance of sweet and salty. We actually found out the next day, after they had chilled overnight in the fridge, that the bars stay together better and even the flavor is better, so I highly recommend following the recipe's suggestion to chill.
I found these Kraft Caramel Bits (pictured below step 3) and thought they were such an ingenious idea - who wants to unwrap an entire bag of caramels! I did some reading online to find out whether I still needed to melt them - the reviews were mixed. I decided to just dump them in the bars. While I think this was super easy and made for less cleanup, I'd like to try these with the caramel pre-melted and drizzled next time. The bits yield bars with little clumps of caramel, which is great, but I'd like to compare the two methods.
As far as the taste of the bits, they aren't quite as good as the wrapped caramels by themselves, but it's hard to tell a difference in these bars. I think they are a great alternative if you're in a time crunch or if the thought of unwrapping 45-50 caramels makes you run the other way!
Caramel Apple Bars
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, softened
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
4 1/2 cups chopped, peeled tart apples (3 medium or 4 small)
3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 bag (14 ounces) caramels, unwrapped, or 1 bag Caramel Bits
Preheat oven to 400F.
1. Mix brown sugar, butter, and shortening in a large bowl (I did this in my stand mixer). Stir in 1 3/4 cups flour, the oats, salt, and baking soda. Reserve 2 cups oat mixture; press remaining oat mixture in ungreased, 13 x 9 x 2-inch rectangular pan.
2. Toss apples and 3 Tablespoons flour; spread over mixture in pan.
3. Heat caramels over low heat, stirring occasionally, until melted; pour evenly over apples. Alternatively, evenly disperse caramel bits over the apples.
4. Sprinkle reserved oat mixture on top; press lightly.
5. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until topping is golden brown and apples are tender (mine took about 35 minutes). Cut bars while warm. Store covered in refrigerator.
Source: Adapted from Betty Crocker