Monday, October 21, 2013

Apple Crumble Bars

Last year, we were so disappointed to learn that the local apple and peach harvest had been severely stunted by a combination of strange weather patterns and swarms of ridiculously famished insects. Due to these unavoidable conditions, apple and peach picking was relatively non-existent and our annual visits to local orchards to gather our normal 50+ pounds of delicious apples for use in pies, tarts, crisps, and sauce were cancelled. It was an activity that I definitely missed.

This year, we have been delighted with the abundant apple harvest. The apples this year have been bigger and better than ever and local farms have been practically giving away barrels full because their trees have produced so many. Unfortunately, Paul has been unable to join us on our apple-picking adventures due to obligations at work, but Matthew, Emma, and I have made it out to the orchards several times this fall to gather as many apples as we can. Matthew has especially enjoyed the trips because he is now old enough to climb the ladders scattered about the orchards to aid in reaching the apples located in the highest branches. He still has a tendency to pick the tiniest/wormiest apples (although they do fit perfectly in his grubbly little fists) but I don't want to discourage him and try to discreetly toss those undesirable apples from our bucket when he is not looking.

From our bounty, we have made a large supply of applesauce and apple butter, as well as several new apple desserts and treats. These apple crumble bars were on the "must try" list for this Fall and I chose to make them for the lovely ladies at our local gym who do such an amazing job of watching the children for me while I run during the week.

These bars were fun and simple to throw together and tasted like handheld pieces of apple pie. I loved the filling and the buttery shortbread crust was so addicting. The only change I might make in the future is to perhaps increase the apple filling although that might very well make the bars a bit too sloppy. Either way, this recipe is a delicious apple-themed treat!

Apple Crumble Bars
adapted slightly from Annie's Eats

For the Base:
1 stick butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt

For the Apple Filling:
4 large apples
5 tablespoons white sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons fruit jam (I used a store bought plum jam)

For the Crumble Topping:
1/2 cup flour
3 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature

Peel, core and coarsely dice apples. In a large skillet, combine apples, sugar and cinnamon. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally for 5-7 minutes, until apples are tender but still firm. In a small cup, combine cornstarch and lemon juice. Add cornstarch mixture to the apples and stir constantly for 3 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8" square pan and line the bottom with parchment paper leaving an overhang on both side (for easy removal of the bars).

In a medium bowl, combined flour, sugar and salt. Mix well. Using your hands, rub the butter into the flour until its crumbly. Press into the bottom of the pan. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until lightly brown around the edges. Remove from oven.

Heat the jam in the microwave for about 10-15 seconds and stir vigorously so it will spread easily. Spread the jam evenly on the hot cooked base and top it with the cooked apple.

In a medium bowl combine all the ingredients for the crumble. Mix until well combined and crumbly. Sprinkle evenly over the apple filling. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Remove and cool completely at room temperature. Cut into squares and serve.

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