October 20, 2011

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Squares {Improv Cooking Challenge}


Think apple crisp.  Drizzled with caramel.  Served over cheesecake with a brown sugar crust.  With a little bit more caramel for good measure.  And there you have Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars.  Are you drooling?  Well, you probably should be.

I made these bars for the first-ever Improv Cooking Challenge, orchestrated and hosted by the fabulous Sheryl at Lady Behind the Curtain.  Our challenge?  Bake up a dish using the two ingredients specified by our challenge hostess - this time around, apples and caramel.

Truth be told, I'm not a fan of apples and caramel together.  Apple desserts?  Love them!  Caramel?  Love it!  Together?  Not so much.  Those  ooey-gooey, oh-so-sticky, almost-pull-my-teeth-out caramel apples on  a stick?  Detest them.  So, probably needless to say, I wasn't just absolutely over-the-moon thrilled about this ingredient pairing (sorry, Sheryl!).

But, I really wanted to participate in the Improv Cooking Challenge, with this group of bloggers.  So off I went in search of a caramel-and-apple recipe that would pique my interest.  Oh, how I do love a challenge!
I came across several possibilities in my searching travels, but none grabbed me quite like these cheesecake bars from The Girl Who Ate Everything.  My mind and my eyes just kept on coming back to them.  So, these little gems are what I went with!  And I'm so glad I did.

I mean, basically apple crisp on top of cheesecake??  With caramel???  Come on!  What's not to love?

You build these little beauties in layers - starting with a brown sugar-based crust.  Then you pour on cheesecake batter, layer on cinnamon-coated apples, and top that with a buttery streusel layer.


Pop it in the oven until it's set and golden brown, and then drizzle on some caramel topping.


The only change I made to this recipe was to reduce the amount of butter in the crust and the streusel topping.  I think it could be reduced even more, if you would like.  It is, originally, a Paula Deen recipe, after all! ... and we all know how she loves her butter. 

When the bars are cooled, cut into 'em and drizzle on a little more caramel topping ... ya know, just because you can.  Then dig on in!  I shared these with my team at school, and almost everyone asked for the recipe.  Yes, this is one of those recipes.
And I have to say, this is one caramel and apple combination even a non-caramel apple lover can get behind!  And biting into it won't pull your teeth out.  I promise.



Caramel Apple Cheesecake Squares
Source: Adapted from The Girl Who Ate Everything (who adapted from Paula Deen)
Ingredients
Crust Layer:
2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 c. (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened

Cheesecake Layer:
3 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, softened
3/4 c. sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Apple Layer:
3 tart apples (such as Rome or Granny Smith), peeled, cored and finely chopped
2 T. sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

Streusel Layer:
1 c. firmly packed brown sugar
1 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. quick cooking oats
1/3 c. butter, softened

Caramel Layer:
1/2 c. caramel topping


Directions
1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Crust Layer: 
2.  In a medium bowl, combine flour and brown sugar. Cut in butter with a pastry blender (or 2 forks) until mixture is crumbly.

3.  Press evenly into a 9x13 baking pan lined with heavy-duty aluminum foil and sprayed with cooking spray. Bake 15 minutes or until lightly browned.

Cheesecake Layer: 
4.  In a large bowl, beat cream cheese with the 3/4 cup sugar in an electric mixer at medium speed until smooth. Add eggs, 1 at a time, and then add vanilla. Stir to combine. Pour over warm crust.

Apple Layer: 
5.  In a small bowl, stir together chopped apples, 2 tablespoons sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Spoon evenly over cream cheese mixture.

Streusel Layer: 
6.  In a small bowl, combine all streusel ingredients. Using your hands or a fork, mix until the ingredients come together and form small crumbs.  Sprinkle apples evenly with Streusel topping.

7.  Bake 40-45 minutes, or until filling is set.

Caramel Layer: 
8.  Drizzle baked bars with caramel topping and let cool. Serve cold. 

Enjoy!



The Improve Cooking Challenge

Click the pictures below to visit other Improv Cooking Challenge participants.  Looks like there are lots of creative and delicious caramel and apple dishes to choose from!

This post is linked with It's a Keeper Thursday hosted by It's a Keeper, Foodie Friday hosted by Designs by Gollum, Friday Favorites hosted by Simply Sweet Home, Sweets for a Saturday hosted by Sweet as Sugar Cookies, Sweet Indulgences Sunday hosted by A Well-Seasoned Life, Sundae Scoop hosted by I {heart} Nap Time, Cure for the Common Monday hosted by Lines Across My Face, Savvy HomeMade Monday hosted by Home Savvy A to Z, Tasty Tuesday hosted by For the Love of Blogs, Tea Party Tuesday hosted by Sweetology, Crazy Sweet Tuesday hosted by Crazy for Crust, and Tuesday Talent Show hosted by Chef in Training, Countdown to 2012: Best Desserts of 2011 hosted by Finding Joy in My Kitchen, A Themed Baker's Sunday hosted by Cupcake Apothecary.

28 comments:

  1. These look great! I made what looks like the same thing :) I am a fellow Improv Challenge participant and your newest follower.

    www.itsybitsypaperblog.com

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  2. Oh how I love cheesecake! Your photo is beautiful! I've added the Caramel Apple Scones #53.

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  3. I've been drooling over this recipe too -- so glad it's worth making (I didn't doubt that, but always nice to know!). Looks like I might have a new treat to take for an upcoming get-together. Stopping by from the Challenge!

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  4. Cheesecake drowning in a caramel sauce....yummy.

    Bibi @ Frugal Wannabe Cooks (recipe #7)

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  5. I LOVE your recipe! Thanks for participating in THE IMPROV COOKING CHALLENGE!! I can't wait to see what you do next month with Pumpkin and Cream Cheese. ---Sheryl---

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  6. This looks so yummy! I am over from the Improv (Im #30) and your newest follower!

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  7. Words cannot even describe how much I want to try this recipe.

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  8. Five layers of perfections, I can't wait to try this one.

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  9. I had to pin this before I could even leave a comment! What an incredible combination.

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  10. Oh my! This sounds fantastic. NEED. NOW!

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  11. This dessert sounds really yummy! I love the layers; I bet they taste so good together.

    Pinning on pinterest. :)

    Cheers,
    Tracy Screaming Sardine

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  12. Oh my gosh! These look heavenly!

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  13. Looks delicious! Drizzle caramel on anything and I'm there!

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  14. Yum, this looks too good not to pin to try very, very soon! Great recipe!

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  15. Yes, I will take a slice of this!! Wow! It looks amazing and I know it tastes that way, too. Thanks for sharing on Sweet Indulgences Sunday.

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  16. It looks and sounds absolutely delicious !

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  17. YUM! Looking at your post has made me hungry for these all over again! Great idea to reduce the butter...these were definitely packed with an abundance of delicious calories :)

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  18. I made this fabulous recipe with lots of butter and cream on it, this was such a yummy and delicious dish on last weekend. I freeze it one hour and after I served, Superb dish.

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  19. These look and sound amazing!! I definitely want to try them soon! Perfect choice for this month's challenge!

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  20. You have managed to combine some of my favorites, cheesecake, streusel, apples and caramel into one gorgeous dessert.
    Mimi

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  21. I was tempted to make this recipe from Christy, but I ran short on time lol. Yours looks great!

    http://steaknpotatoeskindagurl.blogspot.com/2011/10/caramel-apple-marshmallow-dip-improv.html

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  22. Hi there!
    I'd like to invite you to link this recipe up for A Themed Baker's Sunday, Where the theme is Caramel! See you there!
    Cupcake Apothecary
    http://cupcakeapothecary.blogspot.com

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  23. Hmmmm this looks amaaaazing!
    I'm going to start following you immediately, I never wanna miss out on this kind of recipes again ;)
    xoxo

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  24. Oh God! It looks and sounds so sinfully delicious!

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I love your comments. I read and appreciate each and every one. Thank you so much for visiting The Kitchen is My Playground! {NOTE: Captcha word verification is on to turn away the 'spambots' ... I apologize for the commenting inconvenience!}

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