When I was a child, we had a great big apple tree in our garden. It grew Bramley apples, which are a cooking variety of apple, so super sour. Every autumn, when apple season arrived, we would climb the tree and pick apples. My mum worked (and still does!) as a childminder, and so we always had loads of kids around to help us climb the tree. I was the tallest so I climbed the highest and reached the top apples, and threw them down to whoever was waiting on the floor to catch them. My brother, lover of all things sour, would eat the apples raw despite warnings, and then moan of stomach ache later. We might also go and pick some blackberries from the bushes in the fields behind our house – or maybe not, and just have the apples on their own in a pie or a crumble. The apple tree is long gone now, but there’s something unmistakably autumnal about baking apples.
The final #MiniMofo challenge is to make something to welcome in Autumn, and I knew I had to do something with apples. A pie, or a crumble, would be the obvious choice, but I wanted something a little more portable and snackable than a big dessert. One flavour combination that is a classic is apples and caramel – and I decided to incorporate that into my dish too.
These bars are made with a shortbread base, which is baked while the apples are caramelised on the stove top, and then spread on top of the freshly baked biscuit. To finish it off, an oaty crumble topping is added and the whole thing is baked until crispy and golden brown. The tarter the apple you use in this recipe, the better, to balance out the sweetness of the caramel. If you don’t have golden syrup, use corn syrup, or agave, or even maple, but the latter will give it a more distinctive taste.
Caramel Apple Crumble Bars
- 150g vegan butter
- 80g sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 225g plain flour
- 35g cornflour (cornstarch in the US)
- pinch salt
- 50g vegan butter
- 350g peeled, cored, and small-diced apple (about 4 apples)
- 75g brown sugar
- 2tbsp golden syrup (or substitute corn syrup)
- pinch salt
- 100g plain flour
- 50g vegan butter
- 50g oats
- 50g brown sugar
For the Shortbread
For the Apple Filling
For the Crumble Topping
- Preheat the oven to 175C/350F
- First, make the shortbread. Cream together the butter and sugar until well mixed, then mix in the vanilla.
- Add the flour, salt, and cornflour to the butter/sugar mix and combine. The mix will be quite dry and crumbly – use your hands to bring it together into a dough.
- Press the dough into a baking tin – mine is 9×13 inch – and squash it down to make it level.
- Bake the shortbread in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, or until lightly golden brown.
- Now, make the apple filling. In a medium saucepan, melt the vegan butter.
- Add the apples, sugar, syrup, and salt to the melted butter, and cook, stirring regularly, for 15 minutes until the apples are soft and golden. Taste to adjust sweetness, and remove from heat.
- Now, prepare the crumble topping. Add all the crumble ingredients to a bowl, and mix together with your fingers until they resemble coarse breadcrumbs.
- Once the shortbread is cooked, pour the apple mixture over the still-warm biscuit, and spread, making sure it’s all covered.
- Sprinkle the crumble mixture on top of the apples, again making sure it’s all even, and put the whole thing back in the oven for 30 minutes, until the crumble is golden.
- Remove from the oven, and leave to cool on the countertop before transferring the whole thing to the fridge. Let cool completely before slicing.