I have to interrupt my Thanksgiving side dish posts (I know you’re upset! 😉 ) to share this indulgent, crowd-pleasing dessert. (A request by my dear friend who plans to make it for her Christmas Eve feast.)
Recently, my kids and their friends performed in a holiday concert at our house. This was our third annual concert! Everyone brings an appetizer and we eat while the kids rehearse. This year, the concert was upgraded to incorporate a microphone and some stand-up comedy. The parents were asked to perform as well. Special and fun. 🙂
Along with the appetizers, I always feel the need to include a dessert (as I love any excuse to bake). These pie bars had caught my eye and were perfect to serve at a large gathering. The recipe was adapted from Cooking for Jeffrey by Ina Garten, via Barefoot Contessa.com. I baked them in a parchment-lined pyrex dish, used pecans instead of walnuts, (predominantly) Fuji apples instead of golden delicious, and topped it with a brown butter glaze inspired by Joy the Baker. Delicious!
Yield: Makes 18 to 24 bars
For the Crust:
- 1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
- ½ cup chopped pecans or walnuts
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
For the Apple Filling:
- 3 pounds mixed apples, peeled, quartered, cored, and sliced 1/8 inch thick (I used predominantly Fuji apples with 1-2 Granny Smith and 1 Red Delicious)
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter
For the Browned Butter Glaze:
- 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 3/4 cups powdered sugar
- milk, as necessary, to achieve desired consistency
- pinch of coarse salt
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, preferably on convection. Line a 9×13-inch pyrex baking pan with parchment paper.
- Make the Crust: Place the butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes, until light and creamy.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the flour and salt together.
- With the mixer on low, slowly add to the butter-sugar mixture, beating until combined.
- Scatter two-thirds of the dough in clumps in the prepared pan and press it lightly with floured hands on the bottom and 1/2 inch up the sides.
- Refrigerate for 20 minutes.
- Par-Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until the crust is golden brown, and set aside to cool. (While the crust is still warm, I use a spoon to gently push the edge of the crust back up the side.)
- Meanwhile, Make the Topping: Put the mixing bowl with the remaining dough back on the mixer, add the nuts and cinnamon, and mix on low-speed to combine. Set aside.
- Reduce the oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
- Make the Filling: Combine the apples and lemon juice in a very large bowl.
- Add the granulated sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg and mix well.
- Melt the butter in a large (10-inch-diameter) pot, add the apples, and simmer over medium to medium-low heat, stirring often, for 12 to 15 minutes, until the apples are tender and the liquid has mostly evaporated.
- Spread the apples evenly over the crust, leaving a 1/2-inch border.
- Pinch medium pieces of the remaining dough with your fingers and drop them evenly on top of the apples (they will not be covered).
- Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the topping is browned. Cool completely.
- Make the Glaze: In a small pot, melt butter. Continue to cook until browned and fragrant.
- In a small bowl, whisk together browned butter, powdered sugar, a splash of milk, and a pinch of salt. Whisk until smooth. Add milk as needed until drizzling consistency is achieved.
- Spoon into a ziplock bag and cut a tiny tip off one corner of the bag.
- Drizzle glaze over cooled bars before slicing.
- Cut into bars of desired size.
- Store, wrapped individually or covered in plastic wrap in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. (Without the glaze, the bars can be kept at room temperature.)
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