Caramel Apple Oat Squares

With lots of apples on hand, my mother and I discovered this delicious recipe while looking for ideas for an apple dessert. While it originally called for canned apple pie filling, I tweaked it to my liking - meaning fresh fruit instead of canned. Though my dad is the type who loves his chocolate and rarely likes anything that doesn't include the ingredient, my mom and I were surprised when he came back to get a second helping of this dessert. While it has a lot of caramels in it, it's not too sweet - not like your typical caramel dessert that can turn out to be really rich. For that very reason, it has become one of the favorites in my dessert repertoire.

1-3/4 cups flour
1 cup quick-cooking oats
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup cold butter
1 cup walnuts, chopped
30 caramels, unwrapped
1 - 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
3 apples, peeled and sliced
2 Tbsp. brown sugar

Preheat oven to 375°. In a large bowl, combine the flour, oats, packed brown sugar, baking soda and salt. Cut in the butter until crumbly. Reserve 1-1/2 cups of mixture for topping. Add the walnuts to the reserved portion and mix together. Press remaining oat mixture into a 9 x 13 pan. Bake for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, melt the caramels with milk over medium heat until smooth, stirring often. After you peel and slice the apples, place them in a bowl and add the 2 Tbsp. of brown sugar. Stir until the apples are evenly coated. When its done baking, place the apples over the crust. Drizzle the caramel mixture over the apple layer. Sprinkle the reserved oat and nut mixture over the dessert, making sure it's evenly distributed. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until apples are tender. Allow to cool and then cut into squares. Serve with whipped topping or vanilla ice cream.


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