Hye Thyme Cafe: Caramel Apple Bars

Welcome to the Hy
e Thyme Cafe. Although not all of my recipes are Armenian, the name is a little nod to my Armenian grandmother who is no longer with us. The Hye refers to all things related to her homeland, and she represents all things food-related to me, so the two just seemed to go together. I can't even claim that my Armenian recipes are truly Armenian, since Greece, Turkey, Armenia, Lebanon, Syria, and even Egypt share so many foods that they've all sort of morphed into one over thousands of years.

Whether you like to cook, bake, have never done either, or just like to play with your food...come on in and join me! :)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Caramel Apple Bars

At dinner the other night, my brother-in-law suddenly pronounced that he wanted some sort of chewy apple bar. My sister and I just sort of looked at each other. We've made apple cakes, apple muffins, apple pancakes, probably apple breads, but never a bar per se. I got volunteered for the job.  ;)

The pic looks like a took a bite, but an apple jumped off my spatula and I didn't want to cut into a new row at the moment. Having no idea how to go about a chewy apple bar, I settled on starting from your basic Congo Bar recipe and working out from there...not that Congo Bars are particularly chewy, but I know we all like them. ;)

I was also thinking about the Apple Chips I made last week and got it into my head to partially dehydrate the apples first. I had four leftover, and I think it was two Rome and two Fuji. Can't say for sure since I took all the stickers off and washed them all when I was making the chips.

3-4 apples
ginger and cinnamon
2 2/3 c flour
2 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t ground clove
2/3 c butter 
2 1/2 c brown sugar
3 eggs
2 t vanilla
16 caramels
2 T butter
3 T milk

I started off by dicing the apples and slightly dehydrating them by tossing them on a parchment-lined tray in a 250 oven for about an hour and a half - flipping them half way through. When I pulled them out, they hadn't shrunk down as much as I was anticipating, so I ran a knife through the bigger pieces, then tossed them all with cinnamon and a sprinkling of ginger.


Preheat your oven to 350, then stir together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and clove, and set aside.  

Melt the butter, then stir in the brown sugar and let that sit for about 10". While you're waiting, you can go ahead and unwrap your caramels. FYI - I didn't end up using all of the caramel, so depending on what size pan you will be using, you might want to make a smaller batch - or keep and extra apple handy for dunking slices ... or a cup of coffee that might need a kick ... or ...     :)

Add the eggs, one at a time, then stir in the flour mixture, a little at a time. If your pot has straight sides, be sure to scrape all around the bottom edge so you don't end up with pockets of flour stuck there. Once that's all incorporated, stir in the vanilla and apple pieces.

Either grease and flour your baking pan, or give it a shot of Pam for Baking. That's what I usually use. The original Congo Bars recipe I started from called for a 9x12, but I opted to use an 11 3/4 x 7 1/2. That's why I didn't end up using as much caramel - smaller surface area. Once your pan is appropriately lubed up, go ahead and spread half of your batter into it, then set that aside and switch gears for a minute ...

Over low heat, stirring frequently, melt together the caramels, 2T butter, and 3T milk until smooth, then drizzle over the batter in the pan.

Top with the remaining batter. I spooned it over the top then sort of tapped it down to smooth it out with my spatula rather than just pouring it on and trying to spread it - I was assuming I would be dragging the caramel all around with it otherwise.

Bake until a toothpick tests clean. Depending on what size pan you use, whether it's glass or metal, how much apple is in your batter, etc., that will run anywhere from 25-40", so right around a half hour, start keeping an eye on it. Since I was baking in glass and using a smaller pan than called for, when the top started to brown, I moved an empty rack over the pan and put a sheet of foil on that rack to cover my pan without sticking to it, to prevent it from browning too much before the middle was set.

We all really liked this, and it had a nice texture. I liked the consistency of the apples having been partially dehydrated - not too wet, not too dry. To me, it seemed a tiny bit on the salty side for some reason. I never thought of caramel as being salty, so unless I grabbed the wrong size measuring spoon for the salt and didn't notice, I think next time I'll use unsalted butter to melt with the caramel. Overall, I was very pleased. More importantly, it got the thumbs up from the big guy.  ;)

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