Sheet Pan Caramel Apple Bars with shortbread crust, caramel apple pie filling and mile high shortbread crumble topping are a show stopping handheld dessert!
Baked in a large pan this is an addictingly chewy and buttery apple bar recipe for a crowd that is loved by everyone! Make up a batch for bake sales, holiday gifting and cookie swaps or make just to keep slices on hand for yourself throughout the week.
Shortbread cookie caramel apple bars
Sheet Pan Caramel Apple Bars are like a mix of apple pie bars, caramel apples, shortbread cookies and candy bars.
Apple bars with layers of flaky, buttery, chewy deliciousness just bursting with fresh apple flavor.
Loosely based on this NY Times Apple Bars recipe this version skips the hassle of par cooking the apples in favor of fresh apple flavor. And these apples bars are coated in a luscious layer of caramel that adds irresistible chewiness and depth of flavor.
These apple bars hold their shape well after slicing and stay fresh for up to three days after baking. Perfect for gifting!
- Apples – large juicy but sturdy apples like Honeycrisp, Pink Lady, Gala or any apple you have on hand
- Caramel – about 30 unwrapped and melted caramel candy squares or 3/4 cup of your choice of caramel.
- Butter – unsalted or substitute salted butter and reduce the amount of added salt.
- Flour – all purpose
- Sugar – both powdered and granulated
- Vanilla – extract or substitute paste or powder
- Cinnamon powder
- Salt – both fine baking salt for the pastry and a little flaky salt to add crunchy bits of salt to the caramel layer (optional).
Step by step instructions
- Make a buttery shortbread dough. Press 1/3 into pan as a bottom crust and leave the remaining 2/3 crumbly to use later as the topping. 1/3 might seem scrimpy but I PROMISE it’s so worth it to save the majority of the shortbread for a generous top layer. It’s not only stunning but the large crumbles bake up slightly chewy for a delicious finished product.
- Peel and dice apples then toss with cinnamon and sugar. Scatter evenly over crust and bake until starting to soften.
- Meanwhile melt caramel squares. Or make your own thick caramel sauce from scratch.
- Pour caramel evenly over apples and shortbread pie crust.
- Top with remaining shortbread crumble.
- Bake until golden brown.
- Cool then cut into squares.
Can apple bars be frozen?
There are a few different options for making apple bars ahead of time.
- The shortbread pie crust can be refrigerated up to 3 days, either 1/3 as a dough ball and the rest crumbled. Or press the 1/3 into the bottom crust and refrigerate.
- Alternately, the shortbread pie crust can be frozen for up to three months. Carefully place crumble on one sheet pan and press the bottom crust into another. Freeze both then wrap crust tightly with plastic wrap and transfer crumble topping to a freezer bag. Use directly from freezer.
- Or, the caramel apple bars can be frozen after baking for up to 3 months. Simply defrost apple bars at room temperature before serving.
- 2 cups salted butter 4 sticks
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 4 cups all purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
Caramel Apple Filling
- 4 large apples peeled cored and diced, about 3 cups diced
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 9 ounces caramel candies 30 squares or about ¾ cup melted caramel
- 3 tablespoons milk
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- ¼ teaspoon flaky sea salt
- Preheat oven to 325.
- Grease a 9 x 13 inch ¼ sheet pan or baking dish lightly with butter.
- Cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Then add vanilla and mix in flour. Dough will be crumbly.
- Sprinkle roughly 1/3 of the dough into the bottom of the prepared pan and press to flatten evenly. Cover remaining shortbread crumble with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
- Toss diced apples with cinnamon and sugar and evenly layer on top of the crust. Bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat caramels over medium heat in a small saucepan with milk. Once melted remove from heat, stir in vanilla and stir until smooth.
- After 25 minutes of baking pour caramel sauce over crust and apples making sure to cover all the way to the edges. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt and crumble remaining shortbread over the top.
- Bake until golden brown, 35-40 minutes. Let cool, cut into squares and serve.
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