It’s the most wonderful time of the year … apple season has arrived! I first published this sponsored post in 2016 for Middlesex County to help them promote local food and farm markets. They paid me to develop recipes featuring local produce and write about them for their website. Because I love apples so much, as has been well documented here on Urban Cottage Life, I love to kick off apple season each year by sharing the recipe for these Caramel Apple Crumble Squares.
As you may know, I live in London, Ontario. What you may not know is that London is located within Middlesex County, an agricultural gem dotted with towns and villages and home to all manner of food producers and purveyors. I enjoy exploring the county and showcasing its produce on my table and on the blog.
In Search of Fall Bounty
When I was coming up with ideas for my column in the fall 2016 Invest in Middlesex newsletter, corn first came to mind as the harvest was still going strong at the time I was writing. However, I knew it would be tailing off soon, and I wanted to feature something that would be available throughout the fall and even beyond. I decided on apples. After all, I’ve been enamoured of apples all my life.
Before you know it, I was on the road, visiting orchards in the county to find apples that would work for the recipe I had in mind to develop: Caramel Apple Crumble Squares. Sounds good, right? And if you don’t mind my saying so, I think they look pretty good too! Let’s just say they taste as good as they look. And by the way, now you know one of the reasons why I like to make caramel sauce.
Caramel Apple Crumble Squares
These Caramel Apple Crumble Squares celebrate the apple harvest while being easier to make than … well, than pie. With a quick-to-assemble crumble crust and topping, different apples for a variety of flavours and textures, and a rich, creamy caramel sauce that pays homage to the caramel apples popular at our rural fall fairs, they’ll disappear fast from your Thanksgiving dessert table.
About two-thirds of the apples I used were sweet Cortlands from Crunican Orchards. Cortlands are great baking apples because they hold their shape. The other third was McIntosh apples from Apple Land Station, which add tartness and almost melt into a luscious softness.
Slicing the apples thinly adds elegance to the finished squares, and that drizzle of caramel sauce over the top provides the wow factor. There’s no need to tell your guests how easy they are to make!
- 1 cup softened unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour, using the scoop and level method to measure
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- pinch salt
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon finely grated nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ cup caramel sauce (homemade or purchased), plus more for serving
- 2 ½ pounds apples, preferably 2 or 3 varieties
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, using a stand mixer. Add the flour and cinnamon and slowly stir until the mixture forms crumbs pea-sized and smaller; don’t over mix or you’ll end up with something like cookie dough.
Spread out two-thirds of the crumble in the prepared baking pan, lightly patting it even. Place the pan into the pre-heated oven for 15 minutes to prebake. Set aside once done.
Wash, core and peel the apples. Cut them in half vertically, then thinly slice them (about 1/8-inch or 2 ml thick).
Place the apples in a large mixing bowl and toss them with the lemon juice. Sprinkle over the spices and salt and, using a spatula, gently stir to distribute the spices without breaking the apple slices. Pour the caramel sauce over and stir again until the apples are mostly coated.
Scoop the prepared apple slices over the pre-baked crust in small batches, moving them around to distribute them as evenly and flatly as possible. Scrape the remaining caramel juices over the apples. Scatter the remainder of the crumble evenly over the apples, ensuring the entire surface is well covered.
Bake for one hour on the centre rack of the oven, until the apples are tender and the crumble topping is golden. Place the pan on a rack for several hours to cool completely, so all the juices settle. Use the parchment paper to gently lift out and transfer the finished dish to a cutting board.
To serve, plate the individual squares and drizzle them with more caramel sauce.
The 15 minutes to pre-bake the crumble crust occurs during the prep time, so isn’t added into total time for this recipe.
Looking for More Middlesex County Fare?
If you’re looking for a taste of Middlesex County on your plate, why not start with this hearty Chicken & Harvest Vegetable Shepherd’s Pie? You might also try Maple Pecan Pumpkin Bars or this elegant Asparagus Goat Cheese Tart that makes a lovely starter or the main course at a luncheon.
First Published 2016 10 16
Republished 2017 09 19; 2019 09 12; 2020 09 10