Back in the day, at the start of a new school year, a shiny, polished apple was the way to win over your teacher. To be clear, we are not advocating acts of apple-related bribery. But…if you happened to send your young scholars back to school this year with a lunchbox full of delicious apple desserts (like, say, the recipe for amazing Apple Pie Bars below), they just might find themselves making instant friends and becoming their teachers' favorite. Just saying.
Here at Culinary Crafts, we love finding ways to feature locally grown, in-season ingredients in our menus, and there are soooo many ways to enjoy the sweet abundance of Utah’s apple varieties that are ripening to perfection at this time of year. Apple-infused drinks. Apple butter. Apple chips. Crisps. Cobblers. Crumbles. Chutneys . Hors d’oeuvres. Cheeseboards, The uses for apples are limited only by the imagination. (Whoever said “You don’t make friends with salad” had never tried our Winter Greens with Apples, Beets, and Walnuts.)
Of all the “apple-ications” you can make with this amazing fruit, some of our favorites are bite-size apple tarts, spicy ciders, and our own Hattie’s Apple Spice Cake.
If you want to send your kids back to school ready to win a few points with their new classmates and teachers, we’ve got just the thing!
APPLE PIE BARS
- ½ cup unsalted butter, melted
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 cup all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
- 2 large apples, peeled and sliced ¼ inch thick
- 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
- 2 Tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- ⅛ tsp ground nutmeg
- ½ cup old-fashioned oats
- ⅓ cup packed light or dark brown sugar
- ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
- ¼ cup unsalted butter, cold and cubed
- salted caramel sauce (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 300°F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, leaving a little overhang on all sides. Set aside.
- Make the Crust: Stir the melted butter, granulated sugar, vanilla, and salt together in a medium bowl. Add the flour and stir until everything is combined. Press the mixture evenly into the prepared baking pan.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, then remove from oven. (As the crust bakes, you can prepare the filling and streusel.)
- Make the Apple Filling: Combine the sliced apples, flour, granulated sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg together in a large bowl until all the apples are evenly coated. Set aside.
- Make the Streusel: Whisk the oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, and flour together in a medium bowl. Cut in the chilled butter with a pastry blender or two forks (or even with your hands) until the mixture resembles course crumbs. Set aside.
- Turn oven up to 350°F. Evenly layer the apples on top of the warm crust. It will look like there are too many apple slices, so layer them tightly and press them down to fit. Sprinkle the apple layer with streusel and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the streusel is golden brown.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least 20 minutes at room temperature. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours (or overnight). Lift the parchment out of the pan using the overhang on the sides and cut into bars. After they are cut, you can make the dessert even more decadent by drizzling salted caramel sauce on top.
- If you want even more of these delicious Apple Pie Bars, you can double the recipe and bake it in a 9x13 pan. Just make sure you pre-bake the crust for only 18 minutes (instead of 25-30) and then extend the baking time in Step 5 to 45-55 minutes (instead of 30-35).
- The bars will stay fresh in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 days, or you can freeze them for up to 3 months. If you’re going to be storing the bars, avoid unnecessary mess by waiting to add the caramel sauce until you’re ready to serve them.
- If you’re going to use only one type of apple, Granny Smiths are the way to go! They keep their shape beautifully when baked, and their wonderful tartness balances out the sugar in many baked desserts. For a fuller, more complex flavor, use two or more different types of apples; we like to combine a Granny Smith with a sweet variety like Pink Lady or Honeycrisp. Of course, the best guideline for choosing apples is to pick something ripe and fresh from one of our local growers.
Where to Find Fresh Local Apples
Starting in August, Cherry Hill Farms in Alpine, Utah allows you to pick your own apples straight off the tree. You can’t get fresher than that! (Call ahead to check on availability.) And while you’re there, don’t miss their chocolate-covered cherries.
Throughout September, you can also pick your fill of apples at Rowley’s Red Barn in Santaquin on Fridays and Saturdays from 9 AM to 7 PM. (Treat yo'self to their apple cider donuts and fresh apple cider slushies!)
Allred Orchards has been a local favorite on University Avenue in Provo for generations. We are huge fans of their fresh-pressed cider! Along with the classic apple types, they also grow some unusual varieties like Zestar and Mutsu.
McMullin Orchards in Payson grows half a dozen different varieties of apples including Fuji, Honey Crisp, and Ginger Gold, all of which make school lunch snacks that are delicious, nutritious, and expeditious!
Crandall’s Fruit Farm in Orem is a great place to get fresh Gala apples. For the 2023 season, call ahead to find out exactly when they’ll be opening.
Wishing all the best to you and yours at the start of a brand-new school year!