Sunday, March 24, 2013

Apple Pie Bars

I must admit, I had my doubts.  This recipe showed up in Food & Wine's 30th anniversary issue in the their "Top 30" recipes of the last 30 years.  
Whoa... that's a big claim, huh?

I am married to a notorious cake-hater.
He likes pie, and so do I, but as much as I like pie, maybe cookies and bars are my favorite. 
Plus, a co-worker's husband, who is a very nice guy, was having a birthday, and so was my hubby.  Hey, that's enough reason to make these bars.
It makes a super huge batch... I think I would cut it in half next time and make a smaller amount.  I still have some of these cookies in the freezer, so I will be testing out F&W's claim that they are still good after a month in the freezer.

I read some of the online ratings and comments and many people mentioned that this was a lot of butter and sugar in this recipe.  Yes, it is.  For once, I followed the recipe exactly and I thought it was good.  Next time, I might reduce the sugar in the apple filling mixture since I would prefer it to be more tangy and less sweet.  I thought it was weird to bake the crust and then bake it again with the apples and the topping, but this worked out great.  I didn't have a problem with burning or overbaking, and the resulting bars were nice and firm and easy to pick up and eat.  I may try this with other fillings, I loved the shortbread crust and the topping together.

One comment, while these keep for a day or two, they do start to get softer as they sit in an airtight container.  When I cut my batch into bars the morning after baking them, they were still nice and crisp but by the end of the day they were more crumbly.  Still yummy, but not as firm. 

Original Food & Wine recipe here
(This is only half the apples I used, it was about 12 apples)

Makes 1 15x17 sheet pan, or 2 baking pans (approx 9x13)


    3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
    3/4 cup sugar
    3 cups all-purpose flour
    1/2 teaspoon kosher salt


    6 tablespoons unsalted butter
    1/2 cup light brown sugar
    12 Granny Smith apples (about 6 pounds)—peeled, cored and thinly sliced
    1 tablespoon cinnamon
    1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
    1 cup water, as necessary


    3/4 cup walnuts
    3 cups quick-cooking oats
    2 cups all-purpose flour
    1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
    1 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    3 sticks unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and chilled

  MAKE THE CRUST Preheat the oven to 375°. Line a 15-by-17-inch rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. In a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the butter with the sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 minutes. At low speed, beat in the flour and salt until a soft dough forms. 

Press the dough over the bottom of the sheet and 1/2 inch up the side. Bake in the center of the oven for 20 minutes, until the crust is golden. Let cool on a rack.

 MAKE THE FILLING In each of 2 large skillets, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter with 1/4 cup of the light brown sugar. Add the apples to the skillets,

and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Stir half of the cinnamon and nutmeg into each skillet. Cook until the apples are caramelized and very tender and the liquid is evaporated, about 10 minutes longer; scrape up any bits stuck to the bottom of the skillets and add up to 1/2 cup of water to each pan to prevent scorching. Let cool.

MAKE THE TOPPING Spread the walnuts in a pie plate and toast until golden and fragrant, about 8 minutes. Let cool, then coarsely chop the walnuts. In a large bowl, mix the oats with the flour, light brown sugar, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in the walnuts and press the mixture into clumps. 
Note:  I didn't use the pastry cutter or knife technique, I just used my standmixer and it worked fine!
    Spread the apple filling over the crust.

Scatter the crumb topping on top, pressing them lightly into an even layer. Bake in the center of the oven for about 1 hour, until the topping is golden; rotate the pan halfway through baking. Let cool completely on a rack before cutting into 2-inch bars.

Make Ahead The bars can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for 4 days or frozen for up to a month.

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