Apple Pie Bars
The weather finally but briefly turned cooler in late September. We took advantage and drove an hour to pick apples. I don’t bother to use Amelia as an excuse. Sure, my 2-year-old had a lot of fun, but I go apple picking for me.
I love baking with apples. When I was searching for a recipe to take to a potluck a few weeks ago (I ultimately decided on Caramel Apple Pie, because it’s tough to eat a whole pie at home), I came across this recipe for Apple Pie Bars from Sally’s Baking Addiction that I bookmarked a while ago. Technically, they were supposed to be Salted Caramel Apple Pie Bars, but the first time I made them I was too busy to make a caramel sauce, and I decided it wasn’t necessary the second time.
These apple pie bars were really good. I love caramel, but the bars were sweet enough that I thought caramel sauce on them would have put them over the top. Definitely great if you’re in the mood for really sweet, and I wish I had been! I really enjoyed the tender, buttery shortbread crust on these apple pie bars. There were just the right amount of apples on these. I made it with only Empire apples, and again with a mix of Empire and Granny Smiths. The apples, particularly Granny Smiths, kept a little texture, but otherwise the apples cooked down. The streusel was crisp on the first day, but softened into a pleasant goo that blended with the apples after being covered for a day or two. I myself preferred the bars fresh because I preferred the crispness of the streusel.
Although there were a few different layers to prepare, the bars were pretty easy to make. And honestly, I think this is the most fun Amelia has had baking with me in a while. The shortbread crust was simple – just mix together flour, sugar, salt, and vanilla with melted butter. It was very easy for either me or Amelia to mix. What Amelia really helping me with was using the apple peeler to peel and slice the apples. I have nothing against cutting apples by hand, but I really hate peeling things. This peeler/corer that my friend Kate got me several years ago makes it a breeze. Plus it’s a lot of fun for little kids to crank the handle.
The streusel topping also was simple to make. Cold butter takes a little elbow grease to work with, but still, preparing the apples and the streusel took no longer than the 15 minutes I waited for the crust to bake anyway. I made these bars with a full 1/3 cup of brown sugar in the streusel, but I think I’d cut back to 1/4 cup next time, particularly if I ever add caramel to them. I apparently didn’t read the directions very well when I made these (I blame baking with a toddler as a distraction), but Sally says to store them in the refrigerator. I didn’t, but I believe they would have been even better if I had.
These bars are great, perfect for a potluck or any other kind of party.
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 large apples (or 4 small; yield 3-4 cups), peeled and thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 cup oats
- 1/4 to 1/3 cup packed brown sugar (certainly use 1/4 cup if you add a caramel sauce)
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 cup butter (cold and cut into cubes)
- caramel sauce for topping optional
Heat oven to 300F. Line the bottom of an 8x8 inch pan with parchment paper if you plan to remove the bars from the pan to cut them. Otherwise, grease the pan.
Combine melted butter, sugar, vanilla, salt, and flour, stirring until just combined. Press mixture evenly into bottom of the pan. Bake for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare apples and streusel.
Toss sliced apples with flour, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg until apples are evenly coated. Set aside.
Stir together oats, brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Use a pastry cutter (or two knives) to cut the cold, cubed butter into the mixture. The mixture will be be a soft, crumbly cookie dough once you're done.
After removing the crust from the oven, turn the temperature up to 350F. Spread apples evenly on the shortbread, patting them down. Sprinkle streusel on top of the apple layer. Bake 30-35 minutes, until streusel is golden brown.
Cool completely before cutting. If using parchment, lift the parchment out of the pan, and cut into bars. (I like using a bench scraper to cut bar cookies like this.) Store in the refrigerator.