As I sit here, a cold front is moving into western Ohio. It is cold, wet and windy. Bone-chilling. I stopped by my local farmer’s market, Green Thumb, to pick up fall staples. You know, squash and apples. And pumpkins. To me, pumpkins are a class all their own. I love pumpkins. They’re just the perfect pick-me-up on a dreary fall day. How can you not smile when you see that bright orange? Of course, I love pumpkins in all their colors and forms- the muted orange of Long Island Cheese, the ghostly white of Lumina, the warty peanut pumpkin…
But this is not a post about pumpkins (although, I could easily fill a page). This is about apples. Specifically, my mom’s apple bars. Mom was a baking goddess when I was growing up. There were often pies and cookies for treats. Her apple bars filled the void between the two. You didn’t know there was a void between cookies and pie, did you? Anyway, I loved standing at her side “helping” her make these. For some reason, I liked eating the peels from the Granny Smiths she used to make the bars. And I couldn’t wait until they came out of the oven. The caramel-y filling always burned my mouth. I usually had a glass of milk on standby, though. They were the best snack when I got home from school.
Despite my love of her apple bars, I never really got around to making them for myself. Oh, I tried once, back before I knew about baking. It was a mushy disaster. I gave up on them for myself. Fast-forward 13 years. I had some tart apples languishing on my counter that needed used. They called out for baking, but I knew I didn’t want a pie. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some apple pie. It’s just that I wanted something different, something more intimate, if such a term can be applied to baked goods. I wanted….Mom’s apple bars.
I dusted off the booklet of recipes she gave me and flipped to the bar recipe. By golly, I had everything I needed. Time to get baking…
Mom’s Apple Bars
- 4 c baking apples
- 1 c sugar (3/4 granulated, 1/4 brown)
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 3 Tbsp flour
- 2 1/4 c flour (I used 1 c whole wheat, 1 1/4 AP)
- 1 c butter, softened
- 1/4 c milk
- 1 egg
- 1 t salt
Glaze (if desired)
- 1 tsp butter, melted
- 1 1/2 c powdered sugar
- lemon juice to mix
Preheat oven to 400°
Combine all the crust ingredients ( a mixer works just fine here). When just combined, divide into two discs and refrigerate, about 30 minutes. In the meantime, combine all filling ingredients.
Roll out 1/2 the dough into a rectangle (doing this on parchment will make it SO much easier) about 12″ x 18″ and place on large baking sheet. Spread with apple mixture, leaving about a 1″ border. Roll out second 1/2 of the dough and lay over the apples. Roll and crimp the edges, and cut a few slits in the top. Bake 35-40 minutes.
Feel free to substitute your favorite pie spices. I like the simplicity of just cinnamon. I added the whole wheat flour to give it a little more bite. I think it came out wonderful. The dough is pretty sturdy and not sweet at all. It balances the filling nicely. I didn’t want to mess with the glaze because, well, I didn’t have powdered sugar. And I don’t think it needs it.By the way, these make great grab-n-go snacks. They travel well (lunchbox! picnic!), and will keep for about a week covered with a kitchen towel.
While out shopping, I picked up a jug of local apple cider…at my local grocery! Usually I find it at the farmer’s market, but they had none. The store had had samples available, and I’ll tell ya, this was some of the best cider I’ve tasted in a long time. It smelled like fresh, crisp apples. It tasted like fresh, crisp apples. You don’t find that in commercial “local” ciders (which is what we get when there’s a bad apple year) So, I decided to double up on my apple treat and have a cold glass with my warm apple bar.
Go ahead and give them a try. They’re a great alternative to pie and cookies. Perfectly, simply fall.