The apple pie bars sat by the window sill untouched and I wasn’t sure what to do with it. Sure I could just eat it in a bite or two but I also wanted to admire it as the sun set in the later afternoon. The time change from daylight savings had made the San Francisco days short and all I could do was think about was savoring the last bit of warmth before it became dark. Lets just say I am not a fan of the end of daylight savings but it does inspire me to see things in different ways. I went to grab the camera. (Jump directly to the recipe.)
Once the golden hour hit my plate I started to notice how moody it made everything. I rarely photograph food in direct light, something a lot of people always advise against. I’m not that strict when it comes to rules about photography though. Sure there are some things that are better than others, but light is light. Sometimes you want deep dark shadows that create a moody story like the photos above and sometimes you want diffuse soft light because food should be eaten in happy places like the photos below. It’s rarely an either/or thing, though often I feel a lot of people will tell you otherwise.
The same seems to go with my blog here. Just as NaBloPoMo has forced me to write and create blog posts on a daily basis, challenging me to do different things than I usually do, it has also forced me to share recipes that I normally wouldn’t think to put on this blog (homemade potato chips anyone?), interesting ways to photograph food and tutorials on using Lightroom to make hipster style photos as well as various ways to tell stories, or at the very least, crank out some blogs posts in an effort to get something up every single day.
But back to these apple pie bars. Lately you might have noticed that I’ve been creating easier recipes. It’s not that I don’t love my complicated techniques and all my crazy ingredients. It’s just that with the freelance work I’ve got going on, the personal projects I’m spending hours on and all these blogs posts, I figure I better start making easier and faster recipe. And you know what? I kind of like it. I’m not saying I won’t go back to doing the more difficult stuff, but there’s something really refreshing about going in just figuring out how to make something fast and really good. Like these apple pie bars. They’re easy, fast and crazy tasty. And the drizzle of caramel – well it’s done in the microwave. Make these now. You won’t regret it.
Apple Pie Bars with Easy Caramel Sauce
By Irvin Lin
The best part of these apple pie bars is how insanely easy they are to make. Reserving part of the bottom crust as the crumb topping means less work for you in the long run. On top of that, the caramel is made in the microwave! You’ll be in and out of the kitchen in an hour with fabulous apple pie bars, something that is perfect for a holiday buffet or a snack when you want it. By the way, if you don’t have bourbon in the house or don’t want to use it in the recipe, feel free to just substitute water or milk for it.
Adapted from a Cuisine at Home recipe
Base dough and crumb topping
1 cup (140 g) all purpose flour
1 cup (150 g) whole wheat flour
3/4 cup (165 g) dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
6 tablespoon (85 g) butter, cold
4 tablespoons whole milk
2 tablespoon bourbon
3 tablespoon (45 g) butter, melted
3 1/2 cups (350 g or 12 oz) peeled, cored and diced apples, about 3 medium sized apples
1/3 cup (75 g) dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons whole milk
2 tablespoon bourbon
2 tablespoon all purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup (100 g) granulated white sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F and lightly spray a 9-inch square pan with cooking oil. Line the bottom and the sides with a piece of parchment paper that overhangs the edges of the pan by 2 inches on two of the sides.
2. Combine the flours, brown sugar and spices together in a bowl. Using a balloon whisk, break up the sugar and stir until the ingredients are uniform in color. Scoop out 3/4 cup of the blended dry ingredients (about 130 g) and place in a small bowl. This will be for your crumb topping. With the remaining amount dry ingredients, cut the cold butter into 1/2 inch chunks and sprinkle over it. Smash the butter into small pieces with your fingers, tossing and squeezing the butter with the dry ingredients until they about pea size. Sprinkle the milk and bourbon over the dough and continue to squeeze and toss until clumps form.
3. Scrap the dough into the bottom of the lined baking pan and press down firmly until evenly distributed throughout the pan. You can use the bottom of a flat glass or measuring cup if that helps. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until golden at the edges and looks firm and dry.
4. While the bottom crust is baking, take the reserved 3/4 cup of dry ingredients and drizzle the melted butter over it. Toss to forms a sandy crumb topping then set aside. Place all the apple filling ingredients together in a medium sized bowl and toss to coat. Once the bottom has finished pre-baking, sprinkle the apple mixture over the hot crust, spreading it so it coats the bottom evenly. Sprinkle the crumb topping over the apples and place back in the oven to bake for an additional 35-40 minutes or until the apples have cooked and are soft and the crumb is golden brown. Cool to room temperature before lifting the apple pie bars from the pan by grabbing the overhanging parchment paper and lifting up and moving the entire square to a cutting board. Cut into 16 squares.
5. Once cooled and cut, make the caramel by placing the sugar, corn syrup and water in a glass measuring cup. Place in the microwave and cook on high for 2-3 minutes. Start watching the microwave after about a 1 1/2 has passed for color (with my microwave, it took 2:45 minutes). Once the sugar starts to exhibit brown color in the center, stop the microwave and pull it out. Watch it slowly darken in color from the residual heat. Once it gets to a nice deep brown (the color of dark rum or bourbon) add the heavy cream and butter and carefully stir. The caramel will bubble and steam so be careful but it won’t be too bad (not like when you make it on the stovetop). Continue to stir to incorporate the ingredients and cool the caramel. Once it starts to cool and thicken, drizzle the caramel over the apple bars (be careful, as the caramel will still be hot). Immediately sprinkle with some sea salt. Let cool completely then serve.
Makes 16 bars.