Salted Caramel Apple Pie Bars - Gluten Free, Refined Sugar Free
This apple pie bar recipe kind of happened as a random out of the blue "hack" of sorts. A friend sent me a message recently noting that she was trying to do more baking with alternative flours like almond + coconut flour but her efforts were turning into fails. She wanted to commit to a grain free lifestyle - or at least commit to trying it out! - but I could feel her frustration with her failed attempts and immediately offered to help. There was a specific recipe from Sally's Baking Addiction called Salted Caramel Apple Pie Bars that she had tried and was really eager to get it right, so I asked her to send it my way so I could hack it to make it grain free.
Before I got started, I asked her how she had altered the recipe so I could do a better job of helping her be successful the next time around. The original recipe that she shared with me called for 1 cup of all purpose flour for these apple pie bar's shortbread crust. My sweet friend swapped the all purpose flour for coconut flour, not knowing that this was the number one reason the recipe failed for her before she even got it off the ground. You see, alternative flours are rarely a 1:1 substitute for all purpose flour. The only exceptions I have personally found to that rule are swapping out AP flour for say, Bob's Reb Mill Gluten Free 1:1 Flour. Otherwise, there's a science to baking with alternative flours, especially coconut flour which is super absorbent and requires a TON of eggs. When I decided to hack this recipe for her, I didn't have a ton of eggs in the house so I opted for an almond flour shortbread base.
The general rule of thumb is for every 1 cup of all purpose flour you're substituting, you want to use 1/4 cup of almond flour. So, if a recipe calls for 2 cups of all purpose flour, you'll use 1/2 cup of almond flour. I say general rule of thumb though, because there of course will be times where this ratio doesn't quite work. The first time I tested this recipe, the only substitution I made was using 1/4 cup of almond flour, forgetting I must also adjust the butter in the shortbread recipe (whoops!) This lead to a pretty quick fail on my part but, that's recipe testing! If I had a dollar for every fail, it would be way more dollars than I'd have for every success! After thinking about it a bitand trying another time or two, I decided to try a 1:1 substitution with the almond flour but reduce the butter instead and wouldn't you know, it worked!
I will note, the salted caramel can be a little tricky, too. Don't worry if it doesn't come out completely gooey and sticky on your first attempt. I learned from my good friend Steph aka Gutsy Baker that caramel is finicky and might take a few tries before getting it right. Even if you're not nailing it on the first attempt, so long as you don't burn the salted caramel sauce, it's still going to be the tastiest drizzle on top of this super tasty fall treat! Sometimes all that matters is that your creation tastes amazing, right?!
For all my low FODMAP friends, I've used Granny Smith apples in this recipe because not only are they great for pies and baking, but they're also a bit more FODMAP friendly than other apple varieties, but if you have another type of apple you prefer, by all means sub it in!
Did you make this recipe? Make sure to leave me a review in the comments below and tag your creations on Facebook and Instagram!
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Salted Caramel Apple Pie Bars - Gluten Free, Refined Sugar Free
For the Shortbread Crust
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter (or your favorite vegan butter)
- 1/4 cup granulated monk fruit sweetener
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 cup almond flour, finely sifted
For the Apple Pie Filling
- 3 medium Granny Smith Apples, peeled + thinly sliced
- 2 tbsp almond flour
- 2 tbsp granulated monk fruit sweetener
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp nutmeg
For the Streusel Topping
- 1/2 cup gluten free old fashioned oats
- 1/3 cup coconut sugar
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 cup almond flour
- 1/4 cup coconut oil
For the Salted Caramel Sauce
- 1 can full fat coconut milk
- 1/2 cup coconut sugar
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- If you are using the Salted Caramel sauce in this recipe, start at step 9 and then come back to the beginning when complete.
- Pre-heat oven to 300F and line an 8x8 baking dish with parchment paper leaving an overhang on at least 2 sides.
- Make the crust. Stir the melted butter, granulated monk fruit, vanilla, and salt together in a medium bowl. Add the flour and continue to mix until fully combined. Press the shortbread mixture evenly into the pan and bake for 15 minutes while you prepare the filling + streusel topping.
- Make the apple pie filling. Peel and slice your apples using a mandolin or pairing knife. Combine sliced apples, almond flour, monk fruit sweetener, cinnamon and nutmeg together in a medium bowl, folding all ingredients in with a silicone spatula until apples are fully coated.
- Make the streusel topping. Whisk the oats, coconut sugar, cinnamon and almost flour together in a medium bowl until fully combined. Using a fork, cut in 1/4 cup of coconut oil (make sure it hasn't fully melted). Streusel topping should start to have a crumby texture. Continue to mix with a fork until all ingredients are fully incorporated, but streusel is still crumbly. Place in fridge for ten minutes to set.
- Remove the shortbread crust from the oven and turn the heat up to 350F. Evenly layer the apple pie filling overtop of the shortbread crust, ensuring you layer tightly and press down gently as you fill.
- Sprinkle apple layer with streusel topping and bake 30-35 minutes or until golden brown.
- Allow to cool for 20 minutes before serving, though I personally think these apple pie bars are super tasty the next day after being chilled in the fridge.
- Make the Salted Caramel Sauce. In a medium sauce pot over high heat, whisk together coconut milk, sea salt and coconut sugar until fully combined. Bring the mixture to a boil, but be mindful as it can boil over VERY quickly! Whisk continuously while sauce boils and then immediately turn the heat down to a simmer, keeping an eye on your sauce and whisking occasionally to fully incorporate any brown bits of caramel that are forming on top. You need patience for this once, as it will likely take close to 40 minutes for the sauce to be complete. Transfer to a mason jar and store in the fridge until you are ready to use.