Caramel and apples sandwiched between two flaky layers of puff pastry for an easy treat: toaster strudels! The caramel sauce, made with a mix of peanut butter and balsamic vinegar, is deep and complex in flavor and a fabulous way to elevate any kind of ‘apple pie’ bake.
This post is sponsored by Primal Kitchen™. All opinions are my own.
Balsamic Vinegar Caramel Sauce
One of the easiest ways to elevate any kind of baked good at home is by adding in an acid. Not only does it tone down the sweetness of a dish, but adds depth and complexity. Using balsamic vinegar in a caramel sauce might sound like an unconventional step at first but this butterscotch sauce recipe inspired confidence in my recipe testing.
The result is a caramel that has traded it’s cloyingly sweet tones for a bright, layered taste. I also add peanut butter to give the sauce a smooth texture, and add to the ‘salty’ taste dimension. With each bite you’ll taste each layer on it’s own and they’ll combine into something truly wonderful.
The sauce is what makes this dish stand out, apples and puff pastry go together well enough but using the caramel inside (mixed with the apples) turns it into a very special apple pie-like filling.
Since the caramel is the star of the dish you really want to go with a quality vinegar. To make it I use Primal Kitchen’s Organic Balsamic Vinegar of Modena; a Whole30 Approved, Certified Paleo and non-GMO Certified high quality vinegar. If you don’t already have balsamic vinegar on hand, I recommend this one: it’s great on everything from salads to meats and also makes a great dipping sauce for bread. Click this link and use the code BUTTERMILKBYSAM to get 10% off at primalkitchen.com (affiliate link).
How else can I use Balsamic Peanut Butter Caramel Sauce?
Anywhere you’d normally use a caramel sauce, I’d recommend this: smothered into a bowl of ice cream, drizzled on over a cake (or filled into cupcakes!), or spooned over french toast. Especially in dishes that are already fairly sweet, the peanut butter and balsamic vinegar will add those bright, complex notes which are otherwise missing. I’d also put it over brownies or swirl it into a meringue too! And if you want something fairly simple, dipping sliced apples in it is truly wonderful as well.
How to make caramel sauce at home
There are various ways to do this but the easiest I’ve found is to caramelize the sugar with water. The water helps avoid sugar crystallization.
Once the sugar begins to caramelize there are three stages:
- Light Amber colored: this is the earliest stage of caramelization, at this point the caramel is still very sweet.
- Dark Amber: this comes 10-30 seconds after the light amber stage and is the best point to stop the caramel from cooking (which you’ll do by adding the cream)
- Burnt: it’s gone too far now and you’ll have to start over! You’ll know it’s gone past the right point because of the smell.
- When you add the heavy cream the caramel will boil up quite a bit, turn down the heat and stay back! Use a long wooden spoon to stir it in.
- Add the rest of the caramel ingredients after the caramel calms down, stir until they are fully combined.
- Transfer the caramel to a mason jar or a heatproof container. You can store it in the fridge for weeks. When you want to use it, warm it gently in the microwave.
Apple Pie-like Toaster Strudels
This time of year, apples abound and apple pie reigns supreme. I always save the one apple pie I make for thanksgiving day but find other ways to have it all season without the hassle of peeling 10 apples and making pie crust! With store-bought puff pastry, this is one of the easiest dishes you can make. Once cut into squares, you scoop apples onto the bottom layer, spoon the caramel over it and then seal the squares with the top layer. That’s it!
How to serve strudels
So that the glaze and caramel don’t melt when we add them, these should be served at room temperature. If you want to have them ready ahead of time you can make them, bake them and store them in an airtight container; you’ll make the glaze right before serving. You’ll want to gently rewarm the caramel to make it easier for drizzling.
Recipe for Apple Strudels with Peanut Butter Balsamic Caramel
Apple Strudels with Peanut Butter Balsamic Caramel
- Peanut Butter Balsamic Caramel Sauce
- 1 cup sugar
- ¼ cup water
- ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 4 tablespoons peanut butter
- 3 tablespoons Primal Kitchen Balsamic Vinegar
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- ½ tsp fine sea salt
- 1 lb puff pastry, thawed
- Cream cheese icing
- 2 cups organic powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons cream cheese, softened
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- Apple Filling
- 3 small tart firm apples
- 2 tb sugar
- salt & lemon
- Step 1 To make the caramel: In a pot combine the sugar and water, stir to ensure all the sugar is covered with water. Turn the heat on and cook on medium high for about 8 minutes without stirring, until the syrup begins to turn amber colored. Keep an eye on it, how dark it gets determines how sweet it is, but you don’t want it to burn. As soon as it’s a slightly dark amber color, add the heavy cream and lower the heat. This will cause the caramel to bubble up, so do it carefully. Once it settles, add the remaining ingredients and stir until you have a smooth caramel. Pour into a heat-safe container.
- Step 2 To make the strudel filling: Peel and slice the apples thin. Put them in a bowl with sugar, a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of salt. Set aside.
- Step 3 To make the strudels: Preheat the oven to 400 F. Cut out 18 small squares from the puff pastry (about 3×3 inches). Lay nine of them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Spoon some of the apple filling into the center – about 3 tablespoons filling per strudel. Add about 1 tablespoon caramel sauce on top (if it is firm, microwave it to loosen it) and use your finger to wet the edges of the strudel. Slightly roll out the other 9 puff pastries so they can drape over the filling and then place them on top of the others. Use a fork to press the edges to seal. Bake the strudels for 18-20 minutes, until golden on top.
- Step 4 Make the glaze: Sift the powdered sugar into a bowl and stir in the cream cheese, milk, vanilla and a pinch of salt. If the glaze is loose, add more powdered sugar. It should be pourable but quite thick. Once the strudels are completely cool, spoon some glaze on top then drizzle on additional caramel.