For me, the smell of autumn is the scent of apple pies baking and cooling in the kitchen. And though I love baking a classic apple pie, sometimes I don’t feel like going through the process of making pie crust, chilling it, and rolling it out. Apple pie bars are my easy solution!
Apple pie bars feed a crowd! No need to worry about using a pie server and knife to cut out messy slices. The bars can be brought to a gathering or individually wrapped as gifts to lift someone’s spirits and to serve up and share with ease.
On top of all that, the bars are easy to make.
The dough you make for the crust doubles as the crumb topping. A little addition of optional pecans along with the rolled oats means the pie bars have texture and crunch to balance the sweet apple filling packed with all those glorious warm spices like cinnamon and nutmeg.
Think of these bars as a great fall flavor treat that you can hold in your hand.
WHAT APPLES ARE BEST FOR APPLE PIE BARS?
I like to use a mix of different apples for these bars, as each apple tends to have different characteristics.
Some are tart, some are firm, some mushy, and some softer. If you use a mix of apples (I use two or three different varieties), you get more interesting texture and apple flavor.
I recommend using Granny Smith apples, which are almost always firm and tart in the mix. They ensure that your filling has some bite, firmness, and texture, without being completely mushy like applesauce. I also like to pick a sweeter apple.
For sweet apple options I like:
- Honeycrisp apples are super sweet and crisp.
- Pink Lady and Opal apples are nicely balanced with acidity and sweetness.
And if you’re lucky enough to get a hold of Gravenstein or Arkansas Black apples, both heirloom apples, grab a bunch. They are some of my favorite apples and I look for them every year. Their season is fleeting but they have great intense apple flavor.
Certain apples are better for sauces where they are prized for disintegrating easily. This means they are best to avoid for an apple bar (or pie) recipe. For this recipe, stay away from:
- Red Delicious
For more information on the best apples for baking, check out the Guide to Apples.
THE BEST NUTS FOR CRUMB TOPPING?
These bars use pecans in the topping for crunch and flavor. If you aren’t a fan of pecans, you can easily swap out the same amount for another kind of nut. Any of these would work:
If you are allergic to nuts or don’t like them in your desserts, just omit them. Instead, add an additional 1/2 cup of rolled oats in place of the nuts.
To up the “crunch” factor, try sprinkling two tablespoons of sparkling sugar or turbinado sugar (sometimes sold under the name brand Sugar in the Raw). The larger sugar crystals will give a sweet crunch to the top of the bars.
HOW TO DRESS UP APPLE PIE CRUMBLE BARS!
The beauty of these apple bars is the simplicity in making them!
Make a crumbly dough, use half for the crust, layer it with some sliced apples tossed in sugar and spices, then crumble the remaining dough over the top with some nuts. Once baked and cooled, dust it with a little powdered sugar to fancy them up a bit.
But you can take the bars in a few different directions. Try mixing up the spices in the filling. I kept the filling of the bars straightforward with a heavy dose of cinnamon and a touch of nutmeg. But any wintery warm spice works!
Add an additional 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of these spices to take it up a notch:
- Ground ginger
- Ground cardamom
- Black pepper
- Chinese five-spice blend
And, if you have a super well-stocked pantry or want to splurge on some esoteric spices, grains of paradise and long pepper both add warmth and earthy depth that folks won’t be able to place, but that blends wonderfully with apple.
MAKE CARAMEL APPLE PIE BARS
Skip the powdered sugar step in this recipe and drizzle the top of the apple bars with caramel. You can even get more fancy pants and, after you drizzle the bars with caramel, sprinkle them with a bit of finishing salt for salted caramel apple pie bars!
Make it easy on yourself and use a store-bought caramel sauce or make your own homemade caramel sauce. Either way, the results are sure to be fantastic.
HOW TO STORE, FREEZE, AND REHEAT APPLE PIE BARS
These bars are best eaten the day they’re baked (as most desserts are), but they keep surprisingly well.
To Store: Keep the bars layered between pieces of parchment paper in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days. The longer they are in the fridge, the more the crust and crumb soften.
To Freeze: Yes, you can freeze these bars! Place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet and put in the freezer until frozen solid (about two hours).
To store the frozen apple pie bars transfer them to an airtight container or resealable freezer ziptop bag, with a piece of parchment paper between layers, for up to three months. Thaw them overnight in the fridge before serving.
To Reheat: You can refresh the bars by placing them on a baking sheet and warming them in a toaster oven or regular oven at 350°F for 10 to 15 minutes. Be sure to dust the bars with more powdered sugar right before serving, as the powdered sugar tends to absorb into the bar as it sits.