Nothing says fall to me quite like caramel apples. They’re just so perfect in their simplicity. So when I was thinking of a perfect dessert to serve when my husband’s family came to dinner last week, my mind obviously went to caramel apples. I thought of doing a caramel apple pie and a few other more traditional options, but decided I’d rather make something a bit more original.
So in a move that was either brave or completely stupid on my part, I decided to create something new. After making a batch of butter cookies with maple cream frosting in case my idea completely flopped, I got to work. I started working from a similar idea I saw several years ago that started with a cream puff base in a casserole dish. Then I started piecing together a filling that sounded just right to me.
Happily, the dessert turned out perfectly. I asked for honest thoughts from around the table and everyone agreed it was a hit. The caramel apple taste definitely shines through in each bite and blends perfectly with the creamy top layers and the cream puff bottom. It’s like a little bit of fall-ish heaven on a fork.
Caramel Apple Cream Puff Dessert
For the cream puff layer:
- 1/2 c. butter or margarine
- 1 c. water
- 1 c. flour
- 1/4 t. salt
- 4 eggs, slightly beaten
1. Place the butter or margarine and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil over high heat. Stir until the butter is completely melted. Remove from heat and immediately add the flour and salt. Stir constantly until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pan and begins to form a ball. Let sit until room temperature, about 5 minutes.
2. Slowly pour the eggs into the pan while stirring constantly. Stir until smooth. Spread into a greased 13×9 casserole dish. Bake at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes, until puffed and golden brown all over. Cool.
For the caramel apple layer:
- 1/4 c. butter
- 1/2 c. sugar
- 3/4 c. brown sugar
- 4 red apples, cubed
- 1/3 c. whole milk or heavy cream
1. In a large skillet or sauce pan, melt the butter with the sugars. Cook for 5 minutes, until thickened. Add the apples and cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring often, until the apples are softened. Remove the apples with a slotted spoon and layer on top of the cream puff base.
2. Cook the caramel mixture another 3 minutes. Slowly stir in the milk or cream and bring to a slow boil. Let boil until thickened to a creamy caramel consistency that coats the back of a spoon, about 5 more minutes. Remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes. It should thicken a bit more as it stands. Pour over the apples in the casserole dish. Cool completely.
For the creamy layer:
- 1 3.9 oz. package French vanilla pudding
- 1 1/2 c. milk
- 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
- 1/4 t. cinnamon
1. Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and beat until smooth. Spread over the cooled caramel apple layer. Refrigerate at least 2 hours.
For the topping:
- 1 8 oz. container whipped dairy topping, thawed
- 1/2 small jar caramel ice cream topping
- Sliced pecans
1. Spread the whipped topping on top of the pudding layer. Drizzle with the caramel sauce and sprinkle with pecans. Refrigerate until serving.
A few notes about this recipe:
- It is a bit involved, but SO worth the extra little effort.
- If you want, you can skip the homemade caramel for topping the apples and use more of the ice cream topping. Also, you can substitute the jarred topping with homemade. However, the homemade caramel tastes so much better and the apples are infused with all that flavor.
- The dessert tastes just as good the next day or two, but it does get a little runny, so it’s presentation might not be as pretty.