I am so excited to be part of Improv Cooking Challenge. The first challenge requested that we make something combining apples and caramel. Since I am the Cookie Monster's grandmother and love cookies, particularly bar cookies, that is where my mind went. I couldn't find a recipe for what I had in mind so adapted a couple of recipes to make Caramel Apple Crunch Bars.
Most recipes I found called for a layer of melted caramels or caramel ice cream topping. What I wanted was little pockets of caramel scattered through out a cookie bar. I ended up cutting each caramel into six pieces and scattering the pieces over a cookie base. I then covered the caramels with chopped apples and nuts and scattered a crunchy topping over them. This is a little more work, so if you don't want to do that, melt the caramels with 2 T. of milk in the microwave for a minute or so. Layer the melted caramels over the apple/nut layer instead of underneath. You may need to use a whole package of caramels if you do this. If so, increase the milk to 1/4 c.
These can be cut for bar cookies or cut larger and served as a dessert topped with whipped topping or (better yet) ice cream and caramel sauce. I made these with toasted walnuts, but I think that they would be wonderful with toasted pecans; and that is what I would used if making these for company. Of course, the nuts could be left out completely it the need dictates it.
Caramel Apple Nut Bars
25 caramel (about half of a 14 oz. pkg.)
2 c. all-purpose flour
2 c. quick-cooking rolled oats
1 1/2 c. firmly packed brown sugar
1 t. baking soda
1 1/4 c. butter or margarine, melted
4 medium apples, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/2 c. toasted walnuts or pecans
Unwrap caramels and cut each one in half. Then cut each half into three pieces. Use wet kitchen shears to do this. You may have to clean the blades and rewet the shears a couple of times. Put caramel pieces in a shallow container. Set aside. Place flour, oats, brown sugar, and baking soda in a mixer bowl. Add melted butter or margarine and mix at low speed until crumbly. Dump 1 cup of mixture into each half of a greased 10x15-1-inch baking pan. Pat each cup of mixture out to evenly cover half of baking pan. Reserve remaining mixture for topping. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 minutes. While base is baking, peel and chop apples. Set aside. When base is done remove from oven. Scatter caramel pieces over the hot base. Return to oven for 5 minutes or until caramels begin to soften. Remove from oven. Scatter chopped apples evenly over the top of base/caramel layer. Scatter nuts over apples. Sprinkle remaining sugar/flour/oat mixture over the top of the apples and nuts. Press down slightly with hand. Return pan to oven and bake 20 to 25 minutes longer or until golden brown. Remove from oven. Cool in pan on rack for 30 minutes. Cut into 1 x 1 1/2-inch bars. Let cool another 30 minutes. Makes about 48 bars.