Friday, October 8, 2010

The Perfect Autumn Treat - Apple Bars

When I was younger, we had an apple tree in our backyard.  Early on it its life as a tree, I don't think it grew many apples but eventually it started producing a ton and we had more apples than we knew what to do with.  I remember my Mom making anything and everything with apples.  Among these were apple pie, apple crisp, apple muffins, and, my personal favourite, apple bars!  I know I used to help make the apple bars but this was my first attempt at making them myself.  It was a very sharp learning curve.  It didn't take me long to realize that I never make pastries.  I usually cook and bake healthy foods with the exception of my Christmas cookie baking sprees.

There were a few clues early on that it was going to be a challenge.  First, we don't own a rolling pin.  I know, I know.  You are wondering how this is possible.  So was I when I looked through our cupboard full of kitchen-related wedding gifts and still couldn't find one.  Off to Zellers I went and  bought a fancy rolling pin.  It promised not to stick to my dough and I figured I could use all the help I could get.  

Here is the recipe in case you'd like to skip the rest of the narrative about my apple bar making experience and get to the good stuff!

Recipe from the kitchen of Fern Keil (aka Mom)

Sift into a bowl:  
2 1/2 cups flour 
1 teaspoon salt  

1 cup shortening 

Mix together with a pastry cutter or cut into mixture with knives until it resembles coarse oatmeal. 

Combine:  1 egg yolk slightly beaten with enough milk to equal 2/3 a cup of liquid. (save egg white for later!)

Slowly add the egg/milk mixture to flour/shortening mixture.  Mix until moistened.  Divide the dough in half and roll out one part to cover a 10” by 15” cookie sheet. 

Over the pastry, spread 1 cup crushed corn flakes, and enough sliced apples until it is fully covering the pastry. (With our home grown apples, I core the apples but do not peel them.)  Trudy's recommendation: Add two layers of apples to cover the pastry.  I wish I would have added more than I did.  You will see how many I added in the photo below.  Add about 2x's that much. 

Mix 1 cup of sugar with 1 teaspoon cinnamon and sprinkle over the apples.  Roll out the second part of pastry to cover the top of the pan with the cookie sheet.  Beat the 1 egg white.  Brush the egg white on top of the pastry.    

Bake at 350F for 45 minutes.  While the baking is warm, mix 1 cup icing sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1 tablespoon water and lightly ice the top of the apple bars. 

Back to my story...

First, I made the dough which was easy and uneventful aside from the fact that we don't have a pastry cutter. Luckily, the recipe said I could use knives so I hacked away at my dough mixture with some knives.  It was kind of therapeutic and it turned out beautifully.  I made a double batch by the way.  Since this only happens... well it never happened until now....I thought I should double it up and share some on Thanksgiving weekend if they turned out.  I put the dough in the fridge and let it cool for a couple of hours.  I didn't have much choice since both kids woke up just as I was finishing.

Next (several hours later), I got the apples ready.  I don't particularly like coring, peeling and slicing apples.  I know my Mom said she leaves the peels on the homegrown apples but I prefer to peel the store bought ones.  If you are wondering when I find the time to do these things, Connor was in bed and Aleena watched me curiously until she fell asleep while desperately sucking her thumb...poor baby girl is teething.  Back to the apples...I sprinkled a bit of lemon juice on them to keep them from going brown and got to work on the pastry.

Since I haven't actually rolled out pastry since helping my Mom bake when I was in high school, it was interesting.  Let's just say that I am not sure how people roll pastry into rectangles because it sure didn't want to roll that way for me.  I kind of cheated by tucking, trimming and patching.  Not sure if this is a typical pastry making technique but it worked for me.  At that point, I spread the corn flakes and apples over the pastry and asked Jeremy to take some photos of this momentous occasion.  My blogging and his love for photography will likely mean lots of photos of rather mundane things.  I have to give him credit though..he made sugar sprinkling look almost magical!

Apples ready to be topped up with some sugar
My fancy new rolling pin in the background
Such a Martha Stewart moment
Half done adding the sugar/cinnamon mixture
Action shot!
That's a lot of sugar!
The end result!  This was after I put the icing on top.
A midnight snack.  Yes, it was midnight when these yummy treats were finally ready.

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