Welcome to Fall Bars, Pulgas Open Reserve

Milestone: we took Rain off leash for the first time in an open space. No fences, just us, our dogs, and their (relative) freedom. The moment we took the leash off, I expected her to bound off, but she just sat next to us, looking up. Slowly, she paced ahead, looking back every now and then. She was running ahead soon, bounding and then stopping — looking back quizzically, wondering where was Krinkle? Why were we so slow? It was amazing.

I highly recommend Pulgas Open Reserve in Redwood City if you want a dog friendly mild hike, with pretty vistas. Most of the hike is on leash, but there is a very clearly marked area where you can take your dog off leash for a solid walk. They can play and roam. Beware though, there is a good deal of poison oak lurking about.

After our hike, I wanted something to ring in fall, and I remember seeing a picture on Cupcake Jemma’s instagram of apple cheesecake bars, and knew I wanted them. I mildly modified this recipe from Averie Cooks, and love how they turned out. They bring you into fall in just the right way, with their cozy hints of cinnamon and ginger, and tart bite of apple. The salted caramel brings them together with a deep, bordering on bitter, flavor. Bonus, it’s easy to make, don’t let the steps confuse you, it’s quite straightforward.

Welcome to Fall Bars (Salted Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars) 
Total Prep Time: 20 minutes, Total bake time: 15 min + 40 min, Total time: 1 hour and 15 min + cooling time

1 cup all purpose flour (feel free to substitute almond meal)
0.5 cup softened salted butter
0.25 cup brown sugar

8 oz (1 block) of cream cheese
1 egg
0.5 cup sugar

2 cups peeled and diced apples (small size, I used honey crisp)
2 tbsp cinnamon
2 tsp nutmeg
1-2 tsp ground ginger

0.5 cups rolled oats
0.5 cup all purpose flour
0.5 cup light brown sugar
6 tbsp softened salted butter

Caramel from Smitten Kitchen
1 cup sugar
6 tbsp salted butter
a little over 0.5 cup heavy cream
2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8×8 pan with aluminum foil, and spray with non-stick spray. Set aside. In a food processor, or large bowl, mix together all ingredients for the crust. If you are using a food processor, pulse it until you get smallish crumbles, or do this by hand.

Dump it into the pan, and pack together. Bake for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, get started on the cheesecake portion. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl, or in your food processor. Mix together well.

Chop up the apples next. Mix in all the spices. Set aside.

Make the crumble next by mixing in all the ingredients and mixing it together by hand into a coarse crumble.

Pull out the crust, pour the cheesecake over it. Then pack the apples on top, push gently to push them in. Then put the crumble on top. It will definitely look like too much, but trust me, it’s not. Then bake it at 325F for 40 – 45 minutes. When it is done, pull it out, and allow it to cool for ~30 min.

While it is cooling, make the caramel. For caramel, it is critical you get all the ingredients ready ahead of time given you’re working with something very hot. Put the sugar in a tall, heavy based sauce pan. Turn on the heat, and allow the sugar to melt, mixing it gently to make sure no part burns. Soon you’ll have melted sugar, darken it to the flavor you like, I prefer mine quite dark. When it gets to the color you like, add in the butter all at once, and stir quickly. Take it off the heat. Then add in the heavy cream and stir. It will bubble up, that’s normal. Then add in the salt. Allow to cool.

After the bars have cooled for ~30 min, pour the caramel over the top. You’ll have some leftover caramel.

Allow to cool for 4 hours – overnight. Cut, and serve!

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