Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars

The most decadent, no-fuss dessert on the scene this fall.

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars
Photo: Photographer: Jennifer Causey Food Stylist: Melissa Gray Prop Stylist: Christina Daley
Active Time:
45 mins
Chill Time:
15 hrs
Total Time:
17 hrs
Servings:
12

What happens when you combine cheesecake and caramel-apple pie into one snackable treat? Our Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars, that's what.

Just call them the most decadent, no-fuss dessert on the scene this fall. The recipe starts with a crust of graham cracker crumbs, crushed pretzels, and sugar. After baking to set the crust, ribbons of cheesecake batter are poured in before apples tossed in cinnamon and sugar get added to the top. Finally, a crunchy oat mixture is scattered over all three layers. It's the perfect fall treat, and it's bound to impress.

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars Ingredients

Each layer of this sweet and gooey treat requires specific ingredients. Here are the main ingredients you'll need:

Graham cracker crumbs and pretzels
These pantry staples form the base of the bars. To crush, place them inside a zip-top bag, and smash using a rolling pin, or process in a food processor until a fine crumb is achieved.

Cream cheese
The base to any good cheesecake is cream cheese. Don't go with low-fat options; when it comes to cheesecake, you'll want the fat to help create the rich silky filling. The higher moisture content in the low-fat cream cheese also means the filling won't bake up as firm, which is not ideal for bars that you want to hold their shape.

It's also important to leave your cream cheese out for several hours to soften before mixing to avoid any lumps or overmixing the batter to incorporate it properly. Overmixing can cause the cheesecake filling to fall or crack after baking.

Apples
Our recipe calls for Granny Smith apples. That's because the kind of apple you use in baking matters. The Test Kitchen chose Granny Smith apples because they are tart, and the cheesecake filling, caramel, and crumble are sweet enough as is. Plus, Granny Smith apples hold up while baking and won't turn into mush in the oven.

Caramel Topping
We say this ingredient is optional, but for those who can't resist a drizzle of caramel, it's a must. Store-bought is a great quick option, but we have an entire guide on how to make caramel yourself, too.

How Can I Tell When the Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars Are Baked?

The best way to determine if your bars are done cooking is to gently wiggle the pan. Even though you can't see the cheesecake filling under the apples and oats, you should still be able to detect a slight jiggle. That's jiggle, not wiggle.

There is a common saying in baking that the middle of a cheesecake (or any kind of custard-based item), should "jiggle like Jell-O, not wiggle like a wave." That means when you gently shake the pan, the bars should be set around the edges, but still jiggle slightly in the center.

Each oven is calibrated slightly differently so pay attention as your baking timer reaches the end of the 45-minute mark.

How to Properly Cool Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars

Just like any cheesecake, these bars have to be cooled carefully—and that takes time. The bars need to slowly cool down at room temperature for at least three hours before chilling in the refrigerator overnight to set. It can be tempting to speed up this process, but throwing the bars into the refrigerator warm might cause the cheesecake filling to crack.

How to Slice Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars

The easiest way to slice up these bars: Grab a glass of hot tap water. Dip your knife into the hot water for five seconds to heat, wipe dry with a clean towel, and make your first slice. Between each subsequent slice, return the knife to the water to clean and reheat for the neatest portions.

How to Store Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars

Refrigerate the bars in a covered, airtight container for up to a week.

Can I Freeze Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars?

Yes, cheesecake in general, bars included, freeze quite well. To freeze, place fully cooled bars, cut or uncut, onto a cookie sheet or large plate, and freeze uncovered until firm.

Remove from the freezer and wrap in two layers of aluminum foil or foil and a zip-top freezer bag to avoid freezer burn. Store in the freezer for up to three months. Just remember to remove the foil before defrosting in the refrigerator.

Editorial contributions by: Alana Al-Hatlani.

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs

  • 4 ½ cups crushed pretzels (10 cups whole tiny twist pretzels), divided (from 1 [16-ounce] bag)

  • 1 ¼ cups plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided

  • 1 ½ cups (12 ounces) unsalted butter, melted, divided

  • 3 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened

  • 3 large eggs

  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  • 2 (8-ounce) large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and chopped (3 cups chopped)

  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar

  • ½ cup (about 2 ⅛ ounces) all-purpose flour

  • ½ cup uncooked old-fashioned regular rolled oats

  • Caramel topping, if desired

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 13-by-9-inch baking pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil, leaving a 2-inch overhang on all sides; lightly spray with cooking spray.

  2. Stir together graham cracker crumbs, 2 ½ cups of the crushed pretzels, ½ cup of the granulated sugar, and 1 cup of the melted butter in a medium bowl. Place in prepared pan; press into even layer in bottom of pan. Bake in preheated oven until lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Let cool slightly on wire rack, about 15 minutes.

  3. Meanwhile, beat cream cheese and ¾ cup of the granulated sugar in a large bowl with a hand mixer on high speed until smooth and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, and beat on medium speed until just combined after each addition. Add vanilla, beating until just combined.

  4. Gently stir together apples, cinnamon, and remaining 2 tablespoons granulated sugar in a large bowl until fully coated. Pour cream cheese mixture over slightly cooled crust; smooth into an even layer. Spoon apple pieces in an even layer over cream cheese layer. Without rinsing apple bowl, stir together brown sugar, flour, oats, remaining ½ cup melted butter, and remaining 2 cups crushed pretzels in apple bowl; crumble with fingers to form clumps. Scatter mixture over apple layer in baking pan. Bake at 350°F until golden brown and filling has slight jiggle, about 45 minutes.

  5. Cool completely on wire rack, about 3 hours. Loosely cover with foil, and refrigerate overnight. To slice, uncover and grasp overhang parchment or foil to remove from baking pan; place on work surface, and slice into 12 bars. Top with caramel topping, if desired. Refrigerate any leftovers in covered container up to a week.

Updated by
Alana Al-Hatlani
Alana Al-Hatlani
Alana Al-Hatlani is an Assistant Food Editor at Southern Living where she works with the Deputy Editor to plan and write monthly print food features and stories. Before joining Southern Living, she worked as a baker in restaurants and bakeries. From cakes to cookies and everything in between, she spent 4 years covered in flour dreaming up desserts. In addition to baking, Alana has written about food for various outlets like Bon Appetit, Eater Seattle, Saveur, and Fodor's Travel.Born and raised in Seattle, Washington, Alana graduated summa cum laude from New York University with a degree in journalism and a minor in food studies. She then went on to graduate from the Seattle Culinary Academy with a diploma in pastry arts. She now lives in Birmingham, Alabama, with her partner and pup. When not writing, she is probably baking and vice versa.
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