Since moving to the Bay Area, my understanding of mainstream has come under daily assault. There are a shocking number of folks sporting full face tattoos, public walls are painted with urine repelling paint, I’ve seen more than one couple wearing matching spandex pants and have been forced to change my route to steer clear of pedestrians walking ferrets. I appreciate the opportunity to expand my perceptions of normalcy (though I’m still struggling with the rationale behind a full, Iron Man-like face tattoo) and gain perspective on the new, NorCal ways in which I am not cool or hip or mainstream in any modern ways, but an experience I had a few weeks ago took things a little too far.
Browsing a beauty supply store downtown, a young and eager saleswoman offered her assistance. “This,” she said, pulling a box off the shelf, “is your best option. It’s light, natural looking…organic, gluten free, dairy free and vegan.” I laughed, chortled really, assuming it was a “aren’t we all so hip it’s absurd” joke. It wasn’t. And the fact that she was wearing some kind of vampire/zombie/fairy princess hybrid make-up for Halloween made it all the more difficult to contain my honest reaction to her compelling pitch.
Y’all…NO. This madness has got to stop! We’ve taken it far enough. Except those of you with true celiac disease – you’re excused. But as for the rest of us: ENOUGH! ‘Tis the season for gluten and dairy to be celebrated! And not just in our makeup (I mean seriously, people – is this a thing?!?!), but in our kitchens, holiday parties, guts and arteries. So in the spirit of the season, I bring you all the perfection that happens when my favorite things collide: Salted Caramel Apple Crisp Bars.
A fall-inspired spin off of Brown Butter Salted Caramel Chocolate Bars, this version replaces the chocolate with rows of sliced apples coated in spice and saturated in caramel. Think caramel apple meets apple pie meets apple crisp without requiring a trip to the state fair. Topped with a little vanilla gelato and you have the next best thing to happen to fall since fleece lined leggings. At their debut, they received the toddler seal of approval – one of casual cooking’s highest honors and one that quickly escalated into sugar fueled, post-bedtime spontaneous combustion. His parents may never bring him over again, but the recipe is here to stay.
So children, beware, but adults and adults in progress? For the love of all things good and holy, throw your gluten and dairy caution to the wind and just enjoy.
Salted Caramel Apple Crisp Bars
Inspired by Pinch of Yum’s Addicting Apple Crisp Bars
- 1½ cup all purpose flour
- 1⅓ cup rolled oats
- 1 cup brown sugar
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¾ teaspoon cinnamon, divided
- 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, browned and slightly cooled
- 4 medium apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
- 1 cup homemade salted caramel sauce
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Stir together flour, oats, sugar, baking soda, salt and 1/2 tsp cinnamon in a large mixing bowl.
- Once cooled, add the browned butter to the dry ingredients and stir until combined. It should be crumbly, but hold its shape when pressed together. You can add a few tablespoons of milk or cream if it feels to dry, a little flour if it feels too wet.
- Press ¾ of the dough into the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish (no need to prep the pan, just put the dough right on in and the butter will take care of the rest). Set the remaining ¼ aside for topping.
- Bake for 15-18 minutes or until the top is barely golden brown.
- If your caramel is not fresh off the stove, heat to drizzling consistency while the crust is pre-baking.
- Remove the crust from the oven, layer with apple slices, sprinkle with remaining cinnamon and drizzle with caramel.
- Crumble the reserved dough and sprinkle over the top.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the topping becomes golden brown.
- Let sit for 2-3 hours to allow caramel to cool before cutting into bars.