October 12th, 2012
Green apples. Red apples. Yellow ones.
Big apples. Small apples. Dem apples.
Apples. Apples. Apples.
Had enough yet? I hope not, because—at least here in the Northeast—it’s just the beginning.
Whenever I sour on apples before the long apple season is through, I comfort myself with slow cooker apple butter. (This year I made Slow Cooker Chai Spiced Apple Butter, my new go-to recipe.) Apple butter is a lazy way to get rid of a ton of apples all at once, and not just by jamming kiddo’s lunchbox with apple day after day. (Though I do that, too.) The result is a dark, slightly sweet spread that pairs well with anything from toast to pork loin.
That’s quite a range, huh? Dump apples and a few other ingredients into a slow cooker, take out a spread that can make both sweet and savory foods taste better. Pretty satisfying.
Last week, inspired by canning queen Marisa of Food in Jars who encourages small batch canning, I canned 3/4 of my last round of apple butter in two jars. (Small batch canning is a revelation, by the way. So easy.) I used the rest of make these Whole Wheat Apple Butter Crumb Bars inspired by the venerable and lovely—so, so lovely—Pam Anderson.
Pam shared her Apple Butter Cinnamon Bars with Oatmeal Crumble at this year’s Big Summer Potluck. I ate four of them. Kinda gross. (Me eating so many, not the bars. The bars were heavenly, which was the problem.)
It didn’t occur to me that Pam would have shared the recipe on Three Many Cooks. Kinda dumb. (Me thinking that, not anything Pam did. She’s smart, but I’m frazzled, which is a problem as well.) So I set out to make these bars myself.
I started with my new favorite ingredient, whole wheat pastry flour. I haven’t filled you in on this yet but, so far, whole wheat pastry flour works for me a lot like all purpose, much more so than regular whole wheat flour. I’ve been using it as a straight substitute, but need to test it in a couple more ways to officially sing its praises. I also want to do a nutritional comparison of whole wheat pastry flour and regular whole wheat flour. But back to the recipe at hand.
I started these Whole Wheat Apple Butter Crumb Bars with whole wheat pastry flour and tried working a dough that could double as a crust and a crumb. Wouldn’t that be easy? Though I landed on something that could work, it wasn’t great. Not nearly as good as I remembered Pam’s bars. So I started over.
After a few rounds of testing, I’ve come up with this recipe, which I’m very happy with. I will make these bars over and over, even though it turns out that Pam’s recipe is available online. Does that mean my bars are better?
You won’t ever catch me saying that my recipes are better than Pam’s. She’s the master. I’m the student. (So to speak.) But I love my bars and think that you will, too. I worked hard to make them wholesome, using only the whole wheat pastry flour and as little sugar as I thought was necessary. They are a wonderful bite for after school and a fun weekend project. (Kiddo can totally help by pressing the bar dough into the pan and working the crumb with their little fingers.) They also make apple season a little more exciting. And who can complain about that?
Whole Wheat Apple Butter Crumb Bars
(can be shared with kids 12+ mos)*
makes 1 8×8″ pan, 9-12 servings
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour, divided
1/4 cup granulate sugar
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces, plus more for greasing the pan
1 cup apple butter
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup rolled oats
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) room temperature unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8×8 baking pan, line with parchment paper, allowing the parchment to hang over two sides, and butter the parchment. In a food processor, combine 1 cup of flour and the granulated sugar. Add cold butter and pulse until the texture of coarse sand. Press mixture into the bottom of the prepped pan; set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, combine apple butter and cinnamon. Using an offset spatula, spread apple butter mixture evenly over dough in pan.
3. Make the crumb topping: Combine remaining 1/2 cup of flour, brown sugar, oats and butter in a medium bowl and work with your hands until large crumbs form. Spread crumbs evenly over apple butter. Place bars in preheated oven and bake for 60 minutes. Remove bars from oven and allow to cool in pan. Remove and cut into 9-12 bars, depending on what size you want them. Store leftovers (if there are any!) in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to three days.
* Note: Though there is nothing in these that is unsafe for eaters under 12-months-old and they are made with comparatively minimal sugar and whole wheat flour, these are most definitely a sweet treat! Be sure to serve little ones age appropriate portions. A little goes a long way with young eaters!
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