Apple crumble bars — melt-in-your-mouth buttery shortbread crust, soft caramel apples, crispy crumble topping. These apple bars are delicious, easy to make and will make your home smell like fall.
(Love cooking and baking with apples? Check out this collection of sweet and savoury apple recipes to kick off apple season.)
I first shared this recipe two years ago. It’s one of our favourite apple desserts and I figured it was time for an update. Plus, I’ve had requests for step-by-step photos so here they are!
Hope you enjoy these apple crumb squares. They are easy to make, packed with caramel apple flavour, just the thing we need to kick off fall baking. They are shut-the-front-door awesome.
How to make apple crumble bars
These apple crumble bars have 3 components: the shortbread crust, the caramel apple filling and the crumble topping. (For the detailed recipe, please scroll to the bottom of the page for a printable recipe card.)
How to make the shortbread crust
First thing you do is prepare the shortbread crust. Start by combining flour, butter, sugar, salt, an egg yolk and vanilla extract in a bowl.
Using a handheld electric mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the flour mixture until it resembles a course meal.
Transfer to a 9×9 inch baking pan and press to the bottom with your hands. Make sure to pack it in and get to all the corners.
Bake for 10-15 minutes or until it turns a light golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
How to make caramel sauce
This recipe uses Kraft Classic Caramels.
I usually make my own salted caramel sauce but my co-worker Momma C (who is a baker extraordinaire) introduced me to these little squares of heaven.
What you do is while your crust is baking, melt your vanilla caramel candies in a heavy bottom pan over low heat. When they are almost completely melted, add half and half, and salt.
Stir to incorporate and remove from heat.
How to make apple crumble topping
Next you can turn your attention to the oat crisp, which is the easiest thing ever.
Simply mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl until combined and evenly moist. That’s it!
How to assemble your apple bars
Now that you have everything ready, you just need to put everything together.
Put apples on top of your baked shortbread crust.
Drizzle with your prepared caramel sauce.
Top with your prepared oat crumble.
Then bake for 30-45 minutes or until the apple filling is tender and the crumble is crisp and golden brown.
Ingredients for apple crisp bars
The ingredients for this recipe are simple and easy to find. You probably already have most of them sitting in your pantry.
- All purpose flour
- Unsalted butter
- Granulated sugar
- Brown sugar
- Rolled oats
- Ground cinnamon
- Egg yolk
- Vanilla extract
- Caramel squares
- Half and half
And apples, of course. (Plus, ice cream! These bars are amazing topped with ice cream.)
Tools you need to make these apple squares with crumb topping
Other than that, all you’ll need are:
- A 9×9 inch baking pan
- Measuring cups
- Measuring spoons
And I always recommend investing in an oven thermometer — they are inexpensive and so useful! It’s so important to bake at the correct temperature and you might be surprised just how inaccurate your oven temperature is.
Apple crumble bars FAQs
The key to making these delicious apple squares with crumb topping is mis en place, which is really just a fancy way of saying be organized.
Here are other tips to help you make this easy recipe even easier.
What is the best kind of apple to use for baking?
When picking the kind of apple to use when baking, remember that the best variety is sweet as well as tart and, more importantly, firm and crisp enough so it doesn’t turn into mush when you bake it (unless you want it to turn mushy, of course).
My default is granny smith apples, and this is what I use when making these bars. They are crisp and bake really well. They are also more on the sour side and that provides a nice balance for desserts.
You shouldn’t limit yourself to just one apple variety though. You should experiment and see what kind of apple you like. Mix and match until you find your favourite, tastiest apple combination.
Tips when using vanilla caramel candy to make caramel sauce
I learned 2 things when using vanilla caramel candies for making caramel sauce.
One: they harden faster.
But don’t worry. You can just zap them in the microwave for 20 seconds or so, stir and you’ll have lovely caramel sauce again.
Two: they are stickier. But that is not a bad thing at all. In fact it’s a great thing.
It worked so well with these bars that I don’t think I will sub my homemade sauce for this particular recipe. The bars — already crispy and soft to begin with — take on another layer of texture (stickiness!) — for one amazing bite.
What to do with extra egg whites
You’ll notice that this recipe only uses 1 egg yolk. Don’t throw that egg white away! There are so many things you can do with it (in addition to an egg white omelette).
Check out this recipe collection that gives you several ways to use leftover egg whites.
Other delicious apple desserts
Apples are available year-round but they are amazing in the fall. And there are so many apple varieties to choose from!
I love baking with apples; if you do too, check out these delicious apple desserts:
- Salted caramel apple cheesecake with pecan crisp topping is sure to be the star of your thanksgiving dessert table.
- If you want something a little low key, why not make apple parfaits and get everyone involved?
- For a simple, everyday apple treat, rustic apple galette fits the bill nicely. It’s your favourite apple pie without all the work!
These apple crumble bars are so easy to do. Make and bake the crust, put chopped apples on top, pour caramel sauce, top with crumble, then bake again.
Before you know it your kitchen will be smelling of caramel apples and, to borrow from Martha Stewart, that’s a good thing!
Apple Crumble Bars (with step-by-step photos)
For the Shortbread Crust:
- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter room temperature
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1 pc egg yolk from a large egg, room temperature
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
For the Apple Filling:
- 2 pcs Granny Smith apples peeled, cored and roughly chopped
- 20 pcs caramel squares
- 2 tbsp half and half
- 1/4 tsp salt
For the Crumble Topping:
- 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter melted and cooled
- Preheat oven to 400F. Lightly grease a 9x9 inch baking pan and set aside.
- Using a handheld electric mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine 1 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 cup butter, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/8 teaspoon salt, 1 egg yolk and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract.
- Beat on low speed until it resembles a coarse meal.
- Press to the bottom of your pan using your hands. Make sure to really pack it in and get to all the corners.
- Bake for 10-15 minutes or until it turns a light golden brown. Remove and let cool. Don't turn the oven off; lower the oven temperature to 350F.
- While the crust is baking, melt 20 caramels in a heavy bottomed pan over low heat. When they are almost completely melted, add 2 tablespoons half and half and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Stir to incorporate and remove from heat.
- Next turn to your oat crumble: simply mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl.
- Stir until combined and evenly moist.
- To assemble your apple crumble bars, place chopped apples on top of baked crust.
- Drizzle with caramel sauce.
- Then top with oat crumble mixture.
- Bake for 30-45 minutes or until the apples are tender and the crumble is crisp and golden brown.
- Cool in the pan before cutting into squares. Drizzle with more caramel sauce and top with ice cream if desired.
Did you make apple crumble bars? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.