Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Apple Pie Bars

Weeks ago, Natalie, from the blog, "Once Upon a Cutting Board," linked up her Apple Pie Bars and made the Sweets for a Saturday Top 5.  Just one look at that irresistible picture and I couldn't wait to make them myself.

They reminded me of the apple crisp bars that my school cafeteria used to serve with lunch sometimes.  It was one of my favorite desserts.  I wonder, if I had thought years ago to ask them for the recipe, do you think they would have given it to me?  Well, no matter.  It's too late now and, at any rate, these Apple Pie Bars taste exactly like them.


The one difference between them is that the filling in these is made fresh rather than being canned.  Of course, that makes all the difference in the world - all natural, no preservatives, and therefore healthy (or at least healthier).  Honestly, this filling really is incredible.  A little extra time, patience, and tender loving care and you're rewarded with flavorful apple goodness that could also easily be used to top ice cream, cake, cheesecake, your choice.  Combine that with a buttery crust and cinnamony streusel and you've got a bar that is to die for.

The only changes I made was to use a variety of different apples - Gala, Fuji, and Jazz - since that's what I had in my fridge, and to add some oats to the streusel topping for extra texture and crunch.  Otherwise, I kept the recipe as is.  My family raved about this one.  As for me, eating it brought back some sweet memories.  It's definitely a keeper!  

Apple Pie Bars (adapted from Once Upon a Cutting Board)

6-7 Granny Smith or golden delicious apples, peeled, cored, and sliced into 1/4-inch thick slices (I used whatever apples I had on hand - a mixture of Gala, Fuji, and Jazz apples)
1/3 c. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg

2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. unsalted butter
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 large egg

3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. rolled oats (I added these)
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
pinch salt
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cold and cubed (I increased this to 6 Tbsp.)

Combine the apples, brown sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a saucepan over medium heat.  Cover the pan for 2-3 min., and uncover when the apples have released their juices.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until apples are golden brown and soft and there is no liquid left in the pan, about 15 min.  Set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 375F.  Line a 9x13 baking pan with foil or parchment paper.  

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Cream the butter and sugar.  Add the egg and mix well.  Add the dry ingredients and stir to combine.  Spread the dough evenly in the pan and press down.  Prick the dough with a fork and bake for 15-18 min., until crust is golden brown and beginning to release from the sides of the pan.

For the streusel:  Whisk together the dry ingredients.  Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter until it is crumbly.  

When the crust is done, remove from oven and reduce oven temperature to 350F.  Spread the apple filling over the hot crust, and sprinkle the streusel topping evenly over the apples, pressing gently to help it stick.  Return pan to oven and bake for 20-25 min., until topping is lightly browned and crisp.  Let cool for at least 2-3 hours before removing and slicing (or you can chill it in the fridge).