As you may imagine, Andrew goes all out every Holiday season with baked goods that are not only extraordinarily good, they cover all kinds of desserts. For Thanksgiving just past, he made Apple Pie Bars, two pies, Blueberry and Chocolate Cream, and a Ginger Spice Cake. (He also whipped up about 48 gougères on Thanksgiving morning.) But it was the Apple Pie Bars that got everyone’s attention. Here is something as American as…Apple Pie. There’s a walnut studded oatmeal streusel-like topping that covers a Granny Smith filling atop a crisp buttery shortbread crust. It’s an American Classic made into individual squares of apple goodness that just beg for a scoop of ice cream…although I caught our children and grandchild unable to resist this treat long enough to get out the ice cream scoop.
The origin of this recipe is Los Angele’s Big Sugar Bakeshop. Opened about 10 years ago in Studio City (12182 Ventura Blvd. LA 91604 Tel: (818) 508-5855), the bakery set out to create traditional American baked goods. They’ve been so successful that they opened a second bakery in downtown Los Angeles (612 South Flower Street (on the Wilshire Blvd. side of the building) Suite 104 LA 90017 Tel: (213) 489 1201. Owners Lisa Ritter and Mary Odson write “Everything we bake is still done in small batches throughout the day, all by hand only using a mixer and an oven. We continue to use the finest natural ingredients. We still crack cage-free eggs and our dairy comes from a local provider that treats cows humanely. We also use ingredients that do not contain any animal by-products so that’s why you won’t see marshmallow items in our bakery case. We use fine imported chocolate from Belgium and France and yes, you most definitely can taste the difference.” Big Sugar must be like coming to our house when Andrew is there. Credit for the recipe goes to Cathy Odson, Mary’s sister. Just one thing: I don’t know where Big Sugar gets its baking sheets but ours are not 15 x 17. Andrew made this in a baking sheet that’s a standard 13 x 17 and the proportions in the recipe worked out just fine. Apologies for a camera error that didn’t allow us to show you the Pastry making part of the process. Here is the recipe:
Recipe for Apple Pie Bars from Big Sugar Bakeshop
Active: 1 HR Total Time: 2 HR Servings: 48 bars
For the crust:
3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
For the filling:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar
12 Granny Smith apples (about 6 pounds)—peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup water, as necessary
For the topping:
3/4 cup walnuts
3 cups quick-cooking oats
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 sticks unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and chilled
First, make the crust:
1. Preheat the oven to 375°.
2. Line a 15-by-17-inch rimmed baking sheet* with parchment paper. In a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the butter with the sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 minutes. At low speed, beat in the flour and salt until a soft dough forms. Press the dough over the bottom of the sheet and 1/2 inch up the side. Bake in the center of the oven for 20 minutes, until the crust is golden. Let cool on a rack.
Now make the filling:
1. In each of 2 large skillets, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter with 1/4 cup of the light brown sugar. Add the apples to the skillets and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes.
2. Stir half of the cinnamon and nutmeg into each skillet. Cook until the apples are caramelized and very tender and the liquid is evaporated, about 10 minutes longer; scrape up any bits stuck to the bottom of the skillets and add up to 1/2 cup of water to each pan to prevent scorching. Let cool.
Then make the topping:
1. Spread the walnuts in a pie plate and toast until golden and fragrant, about 8 minutes. Let cool, then coarsely chop the walnuts.
1. In a large bowl, mix the oats with the flour, light brown sugar, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in the walnuts and press the mixture into clumps.
Bake the Apple Pie Bars.
1. Spread the apple filling over the crust.
2. Scatter the crumbs on top, pressing them lightly into an even layer.
3. Bake in the center of the oven for about 1 hour, until the topping is golden; rotate the pan halfway through baking. Let cool completely on a rack before cutting into 2-inch bars.
The bars can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for 4 days or frozen for up to a month.
*See note above