time to hit the bars

by hungryrabbit on January 28, 2011

Brandy Apple Bars

The good news: the Farmer’s Market at Union Square is still open. The sad news: there’s not a lot to buy. The staples of eggs, bread, and root vegetables are available, but when it comes to fruit, the only plausable items are apples.

Though I’m inspired by my recent trip, eating locally—even for desserts—still has a very strong pull.  If the farmer’s helpers can withstand the cold (and the recent Arctic storms) to bring us local produce, I feel like I should take advantage of the opportunity.

As much as I love Apple Pie, I’m not always energized to mix and roll out a pie crust. So in my variation–an easy “pie-less” press-in crust, a buttery shortbread base becomes the vessel to hold a thick layer of caramelized brandy-cinnamon apples topped with an oatmeal walnut streusel.

With this recipe, I recommend making the unbaked crust and streusel ahead of time so they can be chilled to ensure  a flakey crumbly texture. You can certainly cook the apples in advance to allow the flavors to intensify.

The more it snows, the more Brandy Apple Bars you want to warm you. In this variation of the American classic, you can eat it with your fingers.

Brandy Apple Bars

recipe adapted from Cathy Odson
make 2 dozen 2-inch bars


1-1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup light brown sugar
6 Granny Smith apples (about 3 pounds)—peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup brandy or calvados

1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
1-1/2 cups old fashion rolled oats or quick-cooking oats
1 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup light brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
10 tablespoons (5 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes and chilled


1. Preheat the oven to 375°  and set baking rack in middle position. Line a 1/4-sheet pan or 9×13 baking pan with parchment paper. In a standing electric mixer fitted with a paddle, beat butter with sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low, add flour and salt; beat until soft dough forms.

2. Place dough in the prepared baking pan, place plastic wrap over dough and press evenly on the bottom with 1/2 inch up the side. Bake in the center of the oven for about 20 minutes, until the crust is golden and set. Let cool on a rack.

3. In a large skillets, heat 2 tablespoons of butter with light brown sugar over medium heat till foamy. Add the apples to the skillet and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add cinnamon and nutmeg and stir to combine. Cook until apples are caramelized and the liquid hasevaporated, about 10 minutes longer.

4. Remove from heat and add brandy, return skillet to heat and cook over medium heat until most of the liquid has evaporated. Be sure to scrape up any bits stuck to the bottom of the skillets. Remove from heat, add the last tablespoon of butter. Stir to combine. Let cool completely.

5. In a large bowl, combine oats, flour, light brown sugar, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Using a pastry blender or fingers, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in the walnuts and press the mixture into clumps. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

6. Spread cooled apple filling over the crust. Scatter the crumbs on top, pressing them lightly into an even layer. Bake 50-60 minutes, 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.

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen January 28, 2011 at 7:42 am

I would take a shortbread crust over a pie crust any day, and bars are more fun to eat anyways. Love the addition of brandy/calvados to the apples!

Renee (Kudos Kitchen) January 28, 2011 at 7:52 am

These look (and sound) amazing! I’ll hit the bars with you anyday :)

Winnie January 28, 2011 at 8:28 am

Yum! Ken, these look just divine :)

KENNECTED January 28, 2011 at 8:33 am

looks yummy!

Brian @ A Thought For Food January 28, 2011 at 9:37 am

How funny!!! We’re twins today. Loving the brandy apple combo. These look finger-lickin’ good!

foodwanderings January 28, 2011 at 9:41 am

Funny Bri and I were just saying that on twitter. You guys got twin posts today:) Love both versions!! Love bars they are a perfect bite!

Daydreamer Desserts January 28, 2011 at 9:50 am

Love these bars, what a great way to stay warm… :)

Lora @cakeduchess January 28, 2011 at 10:18 am

Oh goodness…brandy and apples in a bar! How delicious! I will take one of yours please…then I would like one of Brians;) Happy Friday my sweet friend.

Joy January 28, 2011 at 10:41 am

Ken, apple bars are the bomb and I love that you added brandy to yours! How wonderful :) Have a lovely weekend.

Margaret January 28, 2011 at 12:19 pm

Your food always looks amazing, but this time I actually got to taste this scrumptious bar, and it was as delicious as it looks. Awesome job!

Jean January 28, 2011 at 12:48 pm

I don’t think I’ve ever had an apple crumb bar before and I love my apples. Will have to add this to the list. They’re so beautiful and there’s brandy in them, even better. :-)

Barbara Kiebel January 28, 2011 at 3:06 pm

I have apples. I have brandy. It’s gonna be 60 here today yet I still want these bars. That OK? Yummaliciousness.

Georgie January 29, 2011 at 9:37 am

Great recipe, I’m going to make these for our meetup next week for an art gathering. These will most likely be the healthiest sweets I’ll be making & bringing along, though dark chocolate is healthy… too, right.

Su-yin January 29, 2011 at 4:38 pm

I love apple crumble, and usually make them into tarts coz they look prettier that way. But that tip of adding a splash of brandy to it – that’s brilliant! Will do so the next time I make apple crumble, thanks for the tip!

catty January 31, 2011 at 8:53 am

the nuts in the topping look AMAZING! I’m a sucker for anything crunchy and nutty! :)

sippitysup January 31, 2011 at 11:48 am

Crunchy and sweet, and even a bit tart I am guessing. You have hit all the bases. GREG

My Man's Belly February 3, 2011 at 6:08 pm

I’m with you on the pie crust thing. A great crumbly topping sucks me in every time. Then with the touch of brandy….something like this might make the cold a bit more bearable.

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