Danish Pear-Apple Bars

My husband isn’t partial to summer fruit- with the exception of freshly picked strawberries. He loves bananas, Bartlett pears, and cantaloupe. 🙂 Before the summer berry and peach baking season, I made these pie bars to embrace sweet and juicy Bartlett pears.

The bars have a Danish-style pie crust which very tender because it incorporates milk and egg yolks instead of ice water. It was really delicious. I also loved the cream cheese glaze spread over the top.

This recipe was adapted from 100 Cookies: The Baking Book for Every Kitchen with Classic Cookies, Novel Treats, Brownies, Bars, and More by Sarah Kieffer. I weighed most of the dry ingredients as well as the peeled and cored fruit. I also used fine sea salt and omitted the brandy.

It was a wonderful springtime dessert but it would also be fabulous for Thanksgiving.

For the Crust:

  • 1/2 cup (120 g) whole milk, plus 1 or 2 T if needed
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 1/2 cups (355 g) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2 T granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 2 cup (2 sticks or 227 g) cold unsalted butter, cut into 20 pieces

For the Apple-Pear Filling:

  • 8 cups (1100 g) Bartlett pears, peeled, cored and sliced 4mm thick (I used 6 organic pears)
  • 1 cup (150 g) peeled and grated Gala apples (I used one large Gala apple)
  • 1/3 cup (65 g) light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (50 g) granulated sugar, plus 2 T for sprinkling
  • 3 T cornstarch
  • 1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 2 T unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 T brandy (I omitted it)
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

For the Egg Wash:

  • 1 large egg
  • pinch of fine sea salt
  • 1 T (15 g) water

For the Cream Cheese Glaze:

  • 2 oz (57 g) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 T whole milk
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • pinch fine sea salt
  • 1 to 1 1/4 cups (120 to 145 g) confectioners’ sugar

To Make the Crust:

  1. In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, combine the milk and egg yolks. Place in the refrigerator.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, mix the flour, granulated sugar, and salt on low speed until combined.
  3. Add half of the chilled butter and mix on low speed until the butter is just starting to break down, about 1 minute.
  4. Add the rest of the butter and continue mixing until the butter is broken down in various sizes. (most should be the size of small peas but some pieces may be larger) Make sure that all of the flour is moistened.
  5. With the mixer running on low speed, slowly add the milk-egg mixture, and mix until the dough starts to come together. If the dough is having trouble coming together, add 1 or 2 more tablespoons of milk.
  6. Divide the dough in half, place each piece on a separate piece of plastic wrap and flatten each slightly into a square.
  7. Cover and refrigerate until cool but still soft, about 45 minutes.
  8. On a lightly floured piece of parchment paper, roll one square of the dough into a 9×13-inch rectangle (22×33 cm). (I covered the top with plastic wrap and rolled the dough 1/8-inch thick, using a bench scraper to cut pieces and patch to form the proper shape.)
  9. Transfer the dough to a 9×13-inch metal baking pan. Gently pat the dough into the bottom. Place the pan in the refrigerator while you make the filling.
  10. Roll out the second square of dough into a 9×13-inch (22 by 33 cm) rectangle using the same method. Place on an inverted sheet pan in the refrigerator while you make the filling.

To Make the Filling:

  1. Use a food processor to slice the pears 4mm thick and coarsely grate the apple(s).
  2. Combine the sliced pears, grated apple, brown sugar, 1/4 cup (4 T or 50g) granulated sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt in a large bowl.
  3. In a small liquid measuring cup or bowl, combine the melted butter, brandy (if using), and vanilla. Pour over the pear-apple mixture and toss to combine.

To Make the Egg Wash:

  1. Whisk the egg, salt, and water together in a small bowl; set aside.

To Assemble:

  1. Fill the prepared pie shell with the pear-apple mixture and smooth the top.
  2. Remove the top crust chilling on the inverted sheet pan from the refrigerator. Place the dough over the top of the filling. (It does not need to be sealed to the bottom layer.) Trim any excess with kitchen shears or a sharp knife.
  3. Gently cut a few steam vents into the top layer of dough. (I cut 11 vents.)
  4. Chill the pie in the pan in the freezer for 20 minutes while the oven preheats.
  5. Adjust an oven rack to the lowest position. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
  6. Place a sheet pan on the oven rack while the oven is preheating. (The preheated sheet pan helps crisp the bottom of the pie crust.)
  7. When the pie is ready to bake, brush the top of the pie with the egg wash. Sprinkle the top with the 2 T reserved granulated sugar.
  8. Transfer the pie to the preheated sheet pan and bake for 45 to 60 minutes, rotating halfway through, until the crust is golden brown and the juices are bubbling. (I baked mine for 50 minutes.)
  9. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool while you make the icing.

To Make the Cream Cheese Glaze:

  1. In a small bowl, use a hand mixer to mix the cream cheese, milk, vanilla, and salt until smooth.
  2. Add 1 cup (120 g) of the confectioners’ sugar and mix again until smooth. If the mixture is too thin, add more confectioners’ sugar until the desired consistency is reached.
  3. Once the bars are cool, top them with the glaze; spread to the edges.

Note: The pie bars are best eaten the same day they are made but can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

Apple Strudel

My Mother-in-Law makes this delicious strudel every Christmas Eve as part of the traditional Ukrainian 12-course feast. It is always a highlight of the meal for me. 🙂

I used tart apples (Granny Smith) but may use a combination of tart and other firm sweet-tart apples next time. I also used a mandoline to slice the apples. My Mother-in-Law has the magic touch… hers tastes better than mine, of course, but I did use her recipe! Yum.

Yield: One Strudel, about 8 servings

  • 2 1/2 to 3 tart and firm apples, such as Granny Smith, peeled, cored, and sliced 1/8-inch thick
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • lemon zest from 1/2 large lemon
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • ground cinnamon, to taste
  • 2-3 T fine bread crumbs, plus more for sprinkling
  • 8 sheets of thawed phyllo dough
  • 1 stick (1/4 pound) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • strawberry preserves

To Make the Filling:

  1. Peel, core, and thinly slice the apples. (I used a mandoline to slice the apples 1/8-inch thick.)
  2. Mix the sliced apples with the sugar, raisins, lemon zest, vanilla, cinnamon, and 2-3 tablespoons of bread crumbs.

To Make the Strudel:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Unroll the phyllo dough and cover with a damp towel and plastic wrap.
  3. Remove on sheet of phyllo dough and place on a piece of parchment paper.
  4. Brush the entire surface with melted butter, sprinkle lightly with bread crumbs, sprinkle with brown sugar, and dot with strawberry preserves (use very little preserves).
  5. Repeat this process for the next 7 layers of phyllo dough.
  6. After the dough is prepared, place the filling evenly on top of the dough, starting at the shorter end and leaving 1-2 inches uncovered at the opposite end.
  7. Lift the edge of the parchment paper closest to the filling to help roll the dough and form the strudel.
  8. Place the roll, seam side down, on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Brush with remaining melted butter.
  9. Bake in preheated oven for 35 minutes, or until golden brown.

Caramel Apple Skillet Cake with Browned Butter Glaze

I have made this sweet treat on a couple of occasions. I love skillet desserts! This one is perfect for fall or even in the winter. It has an amazing texture.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Erin Jeanne McDowell. I used a browned butter glaze from our favorite apple pie bars instead of the salted caramel frosting suggested in the original recipe. I also modified the method. Yum.

Yield: One 10-inch round cake, about 10 to 12 servings

For the Caramel Apples:

  • 4 tablespoons/55 grams unsalted butter
  • 2 large baking apples (about 12 to 16 ounces/340 to 454 grams), such as Honeycrisp, Gala, Granny Smith or Braeburn, peeled, cored and diced into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup/110 grams dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

For the Cake:

  • 1/2 cup/115 grams unsalted butter (1 stick), at room temperature
  • 1 1/3 cup/290 grams dark brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 2/3 cup/215 grams all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

For the Browned Butter Glaze:

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • milk or heavy cream, as necessary, to achieve desired consistency
  • pinch of coarse salt or fine sea salt
  1. Make the Caramel Apples: In a 10-inch cast iron skillet, melt the butter over medium heat.
  2. Add the apples, brown sugar and salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves and the apples soften slightly, 4 to 5 minutes. Set aside and let cool to room temperature.
  3. Heat the oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  4. Make the Cake: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes.
  5. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, and mix to combine.
  6. Scrape the bowl well, then beat in the vanilla.
  7. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg to combine.
  8. Add the flour mixture to the mixer and mix just until incorporated. Scrape the bowl well.
  9. With a rubber spatula, gently fold the apple mixture (including all of the caramel-like liquid in the pan) into the batter. Mix just until incorporated.
  10. Pour the batter into the prepared skillet and spread into an even layer. Bake until the surface is evenly golden brown and appears set – a toothpick inserted into the center should have a few moist crumbs clinging to it, 30 to 40 minutes. Let cool completely. (I baked it on convection for 30 minutes but may add a couple of minutes onto the baking time next time.)
  11. Make the Glaze: In a small pot or pan, melt the butter. Continue to cook until browned and fragrant.
  12. 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.
  13. Spoon into a ziplock bag and cut a tiny tip off one corner of the bag.
  14. Drizzle glaze over cooled cake before slicing.

Sparkling Nectarine & Honey Cocktail

This simple sparkling drink is a very light and refreshing end of summer cocktail. It can easily be diluted with club soda or seltzer, to taste.

The recipe was adapted from drinkoftheweek.com. I used a white nectarine and lemon seltzer instead of club soda. The original recipe also suggests using plums, peaches, cherries, or apricots instead of nectarines.

Yield: One drink

  • 1 1/2 oz vodka
  • 1 oz honey syrup (half honey, half warm water)(I used Italian Melata di Bosca honey)
  • 1/2 oz lemon juice
  • 1/2 nectarine, sliced, plus more for garnish
  • club soda or lemon seltzer
  • fresh mint, for garnish, optional
  1. Muddle the nectarine slices in the honey syrup.
  2. Add the vodka and lemon juice and stir.
  3. Top with ice and club soda or seltzer.
  4. Garnish with nectarine slices and/or mint, as desired.

Watermelon Margaritas

I am a major fan of this pretty pink cocktail. It was very light, refreshing, and minimally sweet. Puréed watermelon is the only source of sweetness. Perfect.

This recipe was adapted from 3-Ingredient Cocktails by Robert Simonson, via The New York Times.  I did not strain the puréed watermelon and omitted the jalapeño slices. We tried it with both the cayenne and salt on the rim, and salt alone. Both were delicious. 😉

The original recipe recommends to taste and add more watermelon juice if your margarita is too boozy, and extra lime juice or even a pinch of salt if it’s too sweet.

Yield: 2 drinks

For the (optional) Salted Rim:

  • 1 tablespoon coarse salt or fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon Tajín or 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne (optional)

For the Cocktail:

  • ice, as needed
  • 6 ounces fresh watermelon juice (from about 1 1/2 cups chopped seedless watermelon)(I used cubes from a mini watermelon)
  • 2 ounces tequila, preferably blanco
  • 2 ounces Cointreau
  • 2 ounces fresh lime juice (from 1 to 2 large limes), rinds reserved (I used 1 1/2 limes)
  • 2 to 3 thinly sliced jalapeño rounds, optional
  • small slices of watermelon, for garnish, optional
  1. Prepare the salted rim, if using: In a small shallow bowl or plate, combine the sea salt and Tajín or cayenne. Set aside.
  2. Blend the watermelon in a Vitamix or blender; strain if desired. (I left it puréed.)
  3. In a shaker filled with ice, combine the watermelon juice, tequila, Cointreau, lime juice and jalapeño (if using). Shake to combine. (Note: The watermelon flavor shines brighter without the Cointreau, but the liqueur takes the drink into more traditional margarita territory. If you’d like to compare, first try the mixture without, the liqueur, then add 1 ounce of it per serving.)
  4. Using one of the squeezed lime halves, run it along the rim of two margarita or rocks glasses, then dip the rims into the salt mixture.
  5. Fill the glasses with ice, then strain the margaritas into the glasses. Garnish with additional jalapeño slices and/or watermelon slices. Enjoy immediately.

Chez Panisse’s Blueberry Cobbler

Yes! I have another summer fruit dessert to share.

I could not wait to make this cobbler as soon as I saw the recipe. 🙂 It was described as “prizing berries above all, using only 1/3 cup of sugar.” The berries cooked into jammy and creamy deliciousness.

This recipe was adapted from Chez Panisse via The New York Times, contributed by Molly O’Neill. I used a biscuit cutter for the topping and modified the baking method. I may consider adding some lemon zest to the berries next time. Yum.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

For the Berries:

  • 4 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

For The Dough:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream, plus additional for serving, if desired
  • vanilla ice cream, for serving, if desired
  1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. To prepare the berries, place in a bowl and toss with the sugar and flour. Set aside.
  3. To make the dough, mix the flour, salt, sugar and baking powder in a bowl.
  4. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the cream and mix lightly, just until the dry ingredients are moistened.
  5. Put the blueberries in a 1 1/2-quart gratin or baking dish.
  6. On a lightly floured piece of parchment paper, pat the dough out to 1/2-inch thick. Using a biscuit cutter 2 inches in diameter, cut the dough into rounds. Reform scraps and repeat. (I cut the dough into 12 rounds.)
  7. Arrange dough over the top of the berries, leaving space in between for the berries to bubble through.
  8. Place the baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake in the preheated oven until the topping is brown and the juices bubble thickly around it, about 35 to 40 minutes. (I tented the cobbler with foil after 30 minutes and then baked it for an additional 5 minutes, or until bubbling in the center.)
  9. Let cool slightly. Serve warm, with cream to pour on top or with ice cream on the side, as desired.

Nectarine & Blueberry Tart

I especially loved this beautiful tart because in addition to being delicious, it is made with a flaky and buttery press-in crust and a cheesecake-like no-bake filling. Nice shortcuts! I topped it with my favorite summer fruit- white nectarines. The original recipe uses peaches which would also be fabulous.

This recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart Living. The chilled temperature and brightness from lemon zest made it very refreshing.

Yield: One 9 or 10-inch tart, about 8 to 10 servings

  • 1 stick plus 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F, preferably on convection.
  2. Beat butter with confectioners’ sugar on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  3. Reduce speed to medium-low; add flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt and beat until just combined and crumbly (do not overmix).
  4. Press evenly into bottom and up sides of a 9-inch square tart pan or a 9- or 10-inch round tart pan, with a removable bottom.
  5. Dock bottom at 1-inch intervals with the tines of a fork. Freeze 15 minutes.
  6. Place on rimmed baking sheet or pizza tin, and bake until golden brown and set, 23 to 33 minutes. Let cool completely. (Crust can be kept at room temperature, wrapped in plastic, for up to 3 days.)
  7. Beat together cream cheese, lemon zest, 1 tablespoon juice, and 1/4 cup granulated sugar on medium-high speed until creamy.
  8. With mixer running, slowly add cream and beat until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. (You should have about 2 cups.)
  9. Spread mixture into crust; refrigerate 1 to 2 hours.
  10. Meanwhile, using a vegetable peeler, peel peaches/nectarines, if desired; cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges. (I left the peels intact.)
  11. Transfer to a bowl and stir in berries and remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
  12. Just before serving, spoon macerated fruit over tart and drizzle some of juice from bowl over it. (I used all of the juice!)
  13. Sprinkle with mint, if desired, and serve.

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