Mmmm, Mmmm, I do LOVE this dessert.
The aroma of apple bars baking takes me right back to my Grandmother’s kitchen so many years ago.
I grew up on a farm way back when and my Grandparents lived in a little house on the property. Every afternoon after school I stopped by for a visit and more often than not got involved in helping my Grandmother prepare dinner. She had every kind of fruit and vegetable to work with so it was anybody’s guess what would be on the evening’s menu. It was a regular duty to be sent to the hen house to gather eggs or pick up a basket of walnuts or hazelnuts (filberts to us Oregonians) or fill a sack with ripe fruit for the day’s dessert. I vividly remember wildly running around the back yard with my Grandma trying to corral a chicken that would end up on our dinner table. These memories are so far removed from today’s world and the way my Grandchildren live. I wish you could see the looks on their faces when I tell them that our television set showed only black and white programs on 4 channels and there were no such things as cell phones or computers.
There was a huge old GRAVENSTEIN APPLE TREE next to our barn that produced a monster amount of apples each summer. Nothing was ever wasted in my Grandma’s kitchen and pots of applesauce simmered on the stove and jars of pie filling lined the counters waiting to go into the canner. I don’t remember if freezers were a common appliance back then but we didn’t have one so everything that was saved for winter was either canned or dried. Gravensteins are in season right now and I hope you will buy some for a pie if you see them in your local market. They are the tops for flavor and do cook down to almost a sauce so you might want to add a Granny Smith or a Braeburn if you like a little texture in your pie. If there is any crispness to the apples in a pie my kids won’t eat it. We are true Gravenstein fans.
The recipe for these apple bars appeared in the food section of our local newspaper in the mid-1950’s. This crust recipe is the best I’ve ever tried, and even if it is rolled out several times it remains flaky and tender. This makes enough for a large 2 crust pie or bars made in a quarter-sheet baking pan, Nordic Ware Bakers Quarter Sheet, 13 by 9 by 1. This small baking sheet is one of the most used pans in my kitchen, perfect for bar cookies, jelly rolls and small cakes. It is just the right size for half recipes of many of our favorite desserts.
To make the bars, roll out half the pastry to fit your pan. Peel and slice 8 to 10 cups apples, or enough to fill pan, and mix with 1 to 1-1/4 cups sugar (to taste), 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 2 tablespoons flour. Combine well and arrange on top of the bottom crust. Dot with dabs of butter, and top with remaining rolled-out crust. Crimp the edges well. Brush top of crust with heavy cream and sprinkle with sugar. Cut decorative vents in crust so steam can escape.
Position an oven rack in the center of the oven and place a baking stone on it. Heat oven to 375 degrees for 30 minutes until stone is very hot. Place the bars directly on the stone and bake for 40-45 minutes until golden brown and juices are bubbly and caramelized. The caramelization is the sign that the pie is done. If the top starts to over brown top with a sheet of foil. Remove baked bars from the oven and drizzle a powdered sugar/water glaze over the hot bars. Top with chopped, toasted nuts. I used toasted hazelnuts on half of the bars. My kids don’t like nut!!!!
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1-1/3 cup shortening
- 1 egg, slightly beaten
- 1 tablespoon vinegar
- 3 tablespoons cold water
- Combine flour and salt. Cut in shortening with a pastry blender until dough is crumbly and the size of small peas.
- Combine egg, water and vinegar and add to flour mixture. Mix with a fork until dough stick together.
- Roll out on well-floured board to desired thickness and ease into pie pan.
If you are unsure about making pie crust you can find a very lengthy tutorial at The Pioneer Woman that explains each step. She gives this pie crust recipe that she received from one of her readers high marks just the way I do, and has had great results freezing it. Wouldn’t that be a time saver with the holidays just around the corner. Why not make 2 or 3 pie shells at a time so they are ready to go into the oven on short notice? Ree’s recipe calls for 5 tablespoons water but I thought that 3 were plenty so I suggest that you add the water slowly.
These apple bars are so good because the apples have so much flavor and the ratio of filling to crust is perfect. The flaky crust melts in your mouth, and the sugar glaze and toasted nuts add a bit of sweetness and crunch. And the aroma while the bars are baking is pure heaven. I bought 40 pounds of Gravenstein apples at my farmers’ market on Saturday so for a few hours this week my kitchen will resemble my grandmothers with pots of sauce simmering on the stove and bowls of sliced and sugared apples ready for winter pies.