Every Halloween for the last few years, I’ve tried my hand at a new doughnut recipe. I’ve struck gold in the past with flavors like Apple Cider and spiced Pumpkin, and had high hopes that these little guys – fashioned after the Girl Scout cookie classic, Samoas (also known as Caramel deLites) – would be just as yummy. Mission accomplished! The combination of sticky caramel, crunchy toasted coconut and semi-sweet chocolate was divine, if not a wee bit messy (which just means ooey-gooey delicious, right?). The recipe below makes 12-15 miniature doughnuts – perfect for a brunch treat or a morning meeting in the office. Enjoy!
Tip: Make sure that you use a slightly thickened (but still drizzly) caramel sauce rather than a caramel syrup. The thickness of the sauce helps the coconut adhere to the doughnut’s surface, preventing the whole thing from falling apart while eating.
This recipe – for Apple Pie Cheesecake Bars with Salted Caramel – is a huge family favorite, shared in honor of my husband’s birthday today. This is one of only two desserts he’s ever requested multiple times, and the only item he specifically asked for this year. Happy Birthday, my love – please save one of these for me!
APPLE PIE CHEESECAKE BARS WITH SALTED CARAMEL
Yields: 16 bars
For the bars:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons, divided
2 large fresh eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored + finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
For the streusel:
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup quick cooking oats
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
For the salted caramel:
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup heavy cream
3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon sea salt, crushed or kosher salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 degrees Celsius).
In a medium bowl, combine flour and brown sugar. Cut in butter with a pastry blender until mixture is crumbly. Press evenly into a 9 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan lined with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Bake 15 minutes or until lightly browned.
In a large bowl, beat cream cheese with 1/2 cup sugar in an electric mixer at medium speed until smooth. Add eggs, 1 at a time, and vanilla. Stir to combine. Pour over warm crust.
In a small bowl, stir together chopped apples, remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Spoon evenly over cream cheese mixture.
In a small bowl, combine streusel ingredients until crumbly. Sprinkle evenly over spiced apple mixture. Bake for 30 minutes, or until filling is set.
While bars are baking, make the salted caramel. In a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan, stir sugar and water over medium-low heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase heat and bring to a boil, without stirring. If necessary, use a wet pastry brush to wash down any crystals on the side of the pan. Boil until the syrup is a deep amber color, approximately 5 to 6 minutes. Remove the from heat and carefully whisk in heavy cream. Stir in the unsalted butter and salt. Transfer the caramel to a dish and cool slightly. Drizzle over warm apple pie cheesecake bars. Leftover salted caramel sauce will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.