Gluten Free Caramel Apple Shortbread Squares

Gluten Free Caramel Apple Shortbread Squares

Gluten Free Caramel Apple Shortbread Squares [pinit] I love caramel apples as much as the next girl. As long as the next girl really, really loves caramel apples. If the next girl is one of my kids, they might love caramel apples more than I do. You get the idea. What I don’t love? Trying to eat caramel apples. They look so beautiful, picturesque even. These gluten free caramel apple shortbread squares are beautiful, too, though. And they’re even a pleasure to eat. Imagine that!

Gluten Free Caramel Apple Shortbread Squares

Since I’m a little mental for salty-sweetness, I like to sprinkle the top of mine with finishing salt (any coarse salt will do).

Gluten Free Caramel Apple Shortbread Squares

If you have some sort of mandoline slicer, this is a great time to break it out. I have a really down-and-dirty mandoline, but it’s so down-and-dirty that I’m not sure it’s wise for me to use it regularly. So I just did it old school, with a cutting board and a large knife. The secret is to get the apple slices thin thin thin. That way, they become tender at the same rate as the shortbread crust bakes just so.

Gluten Free Caramel Apple Shortbread Squares

All that really happens is that the shortbread browns around the edges and sort of puffs up between the apple slices. It’s kinda pretty. And it smells like a cinnamon-sugar dream.

Gluten Free Caramel Apple Shortbread Squares

But what would caramel apples be without caramel? I made my own, since it’s really simple and is good for so many things, but you can of course just melt some of those Kraft soft caramels (which happily seem to be in ready supply this year). Cheers to all of the flavor and autumnal bouquet of caramel apples (and then some), with none of the embarrassment of trying to eat caramel apples like a lady. Sign me up!

Like this recipe?

Prep time: Cook time: Yield: 16 to 20 squares


Shortbread Layer
1 3/4 cups (245 g) all-purpose gluten-free flour

1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if your blend already contains it)

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup (100 g) sugar

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 to 2 tablespoons lukewarm water

Apple Layer
3 to 4 baking apples (I used a mixture of Macintosh and Granny Smith), peeled, cored and sliced very thin

2 tablespoons (25 g) sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Simple syrup, for brushing*

Caramel Layer**
2 cups (400 g) granulated sugar

1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces) water, at room temperature

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

3/4 cup (6 fluid ounces) heavy whipping cream, at room temperature

6 tablespoons (84 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Coarse salt, for sprinkling (optional)

*To make your own simple syrup, combine equal parts sugar and water, and heat gently in a small, heavy-bottom saucepan until the sugar is completely dissolved. Do not boil the sugar. My favorite sugar for making simple syrup is Sugar in the Raw, as it dissolves completely in water.

**Instead of making your own caramel, you can melt packaged soft caramels to pour over the apple shortbread.


  • Preheat your oven to 325°F. Line a quarter sheet pan (9-inch x 13 inch rimmed baking sheet) with unbleached parchment paper and set it aside.

  • First, make the shortbread layer. In a large bowl, place the flour, xanthan gum, salt and sugar, and whisk to combine well. Add the butter and 1 tablespoon water, and mix to combine. The dough will be a bit dry, and you will have to knead it with your hands to get it to come together. If necessary for the dough to hold together, add a second tablespoon of water, 1 teaspoon at a time. Transfer the dough to the prepared baking sheet, and press into an even layer. Cover with another sheet of unbleached parchment paper and smooth out the dough by pressing it down evenly. Set the pan aside.

  • Prepare the apple layer. In a large bowl, place the sliced apples, sugar, cinnamon and salt, and toss to coat the apples evenly. Lay the apple slices, overlapping one slightly on the other, in three rows along the length of the shortbread in the quarter sheet pan. Brush the apples lightly with the simple syrup. Place the pan in the center of the preheated oven and bake until the apples are tender and the shortbread is just beginning to brown around the edges (about 15 minutes). Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

  • Make the caramel layer. Place the sugar, water and cream of tartar in a medium-size, heavy-bottom saucepan and whisk to combine. Cook, undisturbed, over medium-high heat until the sugar begins to turn amber-colored around the edges and reaches 305°F. Remove the saucepan from the heat, stir to prevent the sugar from burning, and add the heavy cream. The mixture will bubble up quite a lot. Stir until the bubbling subsides. The sugar may seize up, but it will melt again. Add the butter, and stir to combine. Return the saucepan to the heat and cook undisturbed, over medium-high heat, until the mixture reaches 245°F. Remove from the heat and whisk in the vanilla. Immediately pour the caramel in an even layer over the top of the baked apples and shortbread in the baking sheet. Sprinkle lightly with the (optional) finishing salt. Allow to sit at room temperature until set before slicing into squares and serving.



P.S. Don’t forget your copy of Gluten-Free on a Shoestring Bakes Bread! Your support makes the blog possible. xoxo

Comments are closed.

  • […] Caramel apple shortbread squares. […]

  • Savanah
    September 26, 2013 at 1:05 PM

    Off topic: Nicole, how scared would you be to bake your apple cake GFOAS book recipe in a bundt pan? It’s a birthday party, I have little margin for risks! :D Thanks!

    • September 26, 2013 at 1:10 PM

      Oh, Savanah, I adore that cake but I’d be moderately to highly afraid to bake that cake in a bundt pan, but only because bundt pans are just generally nightmarish. If you really buried the apples in the batter, then it should be fine as long as your bundt pan is nonstick and has absolutely NO scratches! And grease and flour the pan, too. Instead, maybe double the recipe and bake it as layers instead? Then layer a cinnamon-sugar buttercream frosting in the center, maybe?
      xoxo Nicole

      • savanah
        September 26, 2013 at 2:48 PM

        Yes! Layers and cinnamon sugar frosting! Done!! Thank you :)

  • dina
    September 25, 2013 at 1:40 PM

    Is there a sub for the heavy whipping cream? Im lactose intolerant =(

    • September 26, 2013 at 1:08 PM

      Not that I know of, dina. For what it’s worth, heavy whipping cream has almost zero lactose. It’s just the fat.

      • Kristi
        September 29, 2013 at 12:14 PM

        How do you know all this stuff my friend? It’s amazing.

  • Mare Masterson
    September 25, 2013 at 12:19 PM

    Nicole, you have Cream of Tarter in instructions for making the caramel, but not in ingredient list. We were just having a discussion about caramel apples at work recently. I love Macintosh apples and use them for my pies at Thanksgiving. Can’t get them here in AZ yet. I might have to add this to T-Day baking.

    • September 25, 2013 at 12:26 PM

      Ooooh thanks for pointing that out, Mare! I’ve fixed the recipe. We have Macintosh apples here in NY (one thing NY is good for is apples!), but with each passing year, I find that they are less and less prevalent. I think they’re being slowly replaced by the designer hybrid apples. But Macs are my hands-down fave!
      xoxo Nicole

      • Donia Robinson
        September 25, 2013 at 1:40 PM

        Macintosh are my favorite, too!

  • Beth
    September 25, 2013 at 10:45 AM

    This looks like heaven!!! Thank YOU!!!

    • September 25, 2013 at 12:26 PM

      Pleasure, Beth. :)
      xoxo Nicole

  • Jennifer Sasse
    September 25, 2013 at 10:37 AM

    Just when I think GF baking can’t get any better – BAM! you deliver something like this – just beautiful! thank you!

    • September 25, 2013 at 12:27 PM

      Aw, Jennifer, you’re too kind. Thank you!
      xoxo Nicole

Back to Top

Where should I send your free guide?

By entering your email, you're agreeing to our Privacy Policy. We respect your email privacy, and will never share your information.