Apple Peanut Butter Caramel Bars

 
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It's the 10th anniversary of one of my favorite vegan cookbooks: Veganomicon! To celebrate, I have decided to share with all of you this delicious recipe. This one in particular was created by my bestie Isa Chandra (she co-authored the book with Terry Romero). While we were flipping through the book, I stumbled upon this shot. When I mentioned it to her, she squealed and immediately told me I should try it. So I did. And boy was it good! 

Don't believe me? Try it for yourself. It's the perfect time of year for it as well, so you have no excuses. 

 

Apple Peanut Butter Caramel Bars

Makes 12 bars, takes about 1 hour + 15 minutes, plus cooling time

Crust

3 cups vegan graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup refined coconut oil, softened
3 tablespoons unsweetened almond or coconut-based milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Crumb Topping

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons organic sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons refined coconut oil, melted

Apple Filling

3 pounds Granny Smith apples (about 6), cored and sliced thinly (peeling is optional)
1/3 cup organic sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Peanut Butter Caramel

2/3 cup chunky peanut butter (the no-stir kind, not the kind that separates)
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
3 tablespoons brown rice syrup

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with coconut oil or spray with nonstick cooking spray.

2. Prepare the crust: Place the graham cracker crumbs in a mixing bowl. Drizzle with the oil and mix until moistened. Add the milk and the vanilla and mix with your fingers; the crumbs should hold together if pinched. Press the crumbs firmly into the prepared baking pan to form the crust.

3. Prepare the topping: Combine the flour, sugar, spices, and salt in a mixing bowl. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of the coconut oil into the flour and mix with your fingertips until crumbs start to form. Keep tossing the mixture with your fingers; you want the crumbs to be fairly large for crumbs. Add more oil, if necessary.

4. Prepare the apple filling: Combine all the filling ingredients in a bowl, coating all the apples.

5. Assemble the bars: Layer the apples onto the crust and sprinkle with the crumb topping. The topping won't solidly cover the entire pan; just sprinkle it randomly over the top so that the apples are peeking through in places. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the apples are tender.

6. When the bars are almost done baking (at the 35-minute point), start preparing the peanut butter caramel: Mix all the caramel ingredients very well, with a fork, in a small saucepan. Heat over medium heat for about 3 minutes. The mixture should soften and slide off the fork in ribbons. 

7. When the bars are done baking, drizzle the caramel in ribbons all over the top. Let cool completely before serving; you can place the pan in the fridge to hasten the cooling process. Slice into bars and serve.

Tips

I used creamy peanut butter and put it in a squirt bottle to drizzle because I'm fancy. 

For the crumb mixture, I added everything directly in the baking dish instead of mixing in a bowl and then transferring. You don't have to do this but its one less bowl to clean! Ayyy!

I had a blast styling them too.