Apple Shortbread Bars

Apple Shortbread BarsEvery year, I get so concentrated on making pumpkin treats that I nearly forget the other flavors of fall! That’s really a shame—what’s fall without maple, pear, sweet potato, and even grape?! I have recipes highlighting each of those flavors (and even more pumpkin things!) on the docket between now and Thanksgiving, but today, I’m all about apples.

Specifically, these Apple Shortbread Bars 🍎🍎🍎

Apple Shortbread BarsThese bars are an autumnal twist on a sweet cherry treat I made this past summer. They’re basically apple pie for people who don’t have the time and energy to make apple pie…like me right now.

Apple Shortbread BarsWhile I love the process of making pie (and eating pie, duh), I rarely have the time to do so. Between making and chilling the dough, preparing the filling, baking, and cooling, pie can easily be a 4+ hour commitment. Unless it’s a holiday, or I’ve somehow curbed my procrastination 😬😬, that simply isn’t going to happen.

Apple Shortbread BarsApple Shortbread Bars are very mid-week-pie-craving-friendly. From peeling and dicing the apples…

Apple Shortbread BarsApple Shortbread BarsApple Shortbread Barsto stirring them into a perfectly-spiced filling…

Apple Shortbread BarsApple Shortbread Barsto making an easy four-ingredient brown sugar shortbread…

Apple Shortbread BarsApple Shortbread Barsto assembling and baking…

Apple Shortbread BarsApple Shortbread BarsApple Shortbread Barsto cooling, and slicing…

Apple Shortbread BarsApple Shortbread BarsApple Shortbread Barsthese bars take just a couple of hours.

Apple Shortbread BarsYep, that’s how you get your homemade apple pie fix on a Wednesday.Apple Shortbread Bars

Apple Shortbread Bars
makes one 9-inch pan, about 9-16 bars

Filling:
2 large baking apples,* peeled and 1/2-inch diced (about 3 cups of apple chunks)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
2 tablespoons cornstarch

Shortbread:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold, cut into small cubes

Place oven racks in top and bottom positions. Preheat oven to 375F. Line a 9-inch square pan with aluminum foil, leaving overhang on two sides. Grease foil with butter. Set aside.

Make apple filling. In a large mixing bowl, combine diced apples and apple cider vinegar. Fold in light brown sugar, cinnamon, allspice, ginger, nutmeg, salt, and cornstarch. Set aside while you make the shortbread.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, light brown sugar, and salt. Add cold butter. Use your fingertips to rub butter into flour until the largest pieces are the size of small peas. It will be powdery, but should hold together when pinched. Set aside 1 cup of the mixture for topping.

Pour remaining shortbread mixture into prepared pan. Spread it around to cover the bottom of the pan before using your hand to pack it down into an even layer. Prick several times with a fork. Spoon apples over the top, leaving behind any excess liquid.

For the topping, use your fingers to pinch together small portions of the reserved shortbread mixture. Scatter them over the top of the apple layer.

Bake bars on the bottom rack of the oven for 20 minutes. Move bars to the top rack and bake for an additional 10-12 minutes, until browned. Tent with foil if anything begins to brown too quickly. Let bars cool in the pan on a rack until they reach room temperature.

Use foil overhang to remove bars to a cutting board. Carefully peel off foil. Use a large, sharp chef’s knife to slice into squares. Serve.

Leftover Apple Shortbread Bars will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days, or in the refrigerator for up to four. They will soften over time.

Note:

I like to use two different varieties of apple for a more complex flavor. For these bars, I used a tart Granny Smith and a sweet Honeycrisp.

Caramel Apple Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}

Caramel Apple Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}I must have pancakes on the brain. Last week, I posted this single-serving pancake recipe, and thanks to the response I got, I have spent the last week working on another. If I ever get the banana version to quit sticking to the pan, I’ll put it on here.

Until then, let’s talk about this Caramel Apple Puff Pancake. Oh, y’all. It is good. Goooood. Like apple pie meets caramel meets the best weekend breakfast there is. You’re going to want to make it for every weekend and holiday brunch you have for the rest of the season because it. is. ridiculous.

Caramel Apple Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}It all starts with a classic Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby} batter. Puff Pancakes are a family favorite. They’re super easy to make and very impressive. The batter comes together in a food processor (or blender) before being poured into a screaming hot pan. Then, it’s baked for about twenty minutes until it puffs up. When it comes out of the oven, it quickly deflates, leaving behind a beautifully browned pancake with a soft custard-like center and chewy edges. It’s a thing to behold and is perfect with some confectioner’s sugar and maple syrup (or lemon juice). It really doesn’t need to be messed with. But we all know that’s not really my style.

Caramel Apple Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}Caramel Apple Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}Here, the traditional batter is poured into the pan and then sprinkled with sliced apples that have been tossed with sugar and pie spices–basically pie filling without a thickener. As the pancake bakes, it envelops the sliced apples. When it comes out of the oven, it’s basically the most autumnal thing ever. A drizzle of caramel sauce is all it needs to bring it over the top.

Caramel Apple Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}Now, of course you may use store-bought caramel sauce (I hear Trader Joe’s has a good one), but I am here to convince you to make your own. It’s quick, easy, involves minimal ingredients, and is SO much better than anything you could get near the ice cream toppings. I swear. All you do is melt some sugar over medium-high heat, stirring until it becomes a dark copper color (but doesn’t burn). Then, whisk in a bunch of butter. Take the pan off the heat and whisk in some cream. It’ll bubble up violently, but just keep whisking and it’ll calm down and become a smooth, luxurious sauce. Whisk in some vanilla and salt, and then pour it on everything.

Caramel Apple Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}The best pieces of advice I can give you for making homemade caramel?

  • Use a silver or white saucepan so you can see the sugar changing color.
  • Wear an oven mit. Molten caramel burns a lot more than boiling water.
  • Don’t step away from the caramel, even for a second. It can burn in the blink of an eye.

If I haven’t scared you away, please try this caramel sauce. It comes together in a matter of minutes and really is worth the (minimal) effort…especially when it’s drizzled over this perfectly spiced apple puff pancake.Caramel Apple Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}

Caramel Apple Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}
makes 4-6 servings*

Apples:
2 large baking apples,* peeled, 1/4-inch slices
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
pinch of Kosher or sea salt

Puff Pancake Batter:
4 large eggs
1 cup milk (not skim or fat free)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
3-4 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
3 tablespoons butter (unsalted or salted)

Caramel Sauce:
1 cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt

Place a large ovenproof cast iron or stainless steel pan in a cold oven. Preheat oven to 400F.

Prepare the apples. In a medium mixing bowl, use your hands to toss apple slices and vinegar together. Sprinkle sugar, spices, and salt over the top and toss to combine. Set aside.

Prepare the pancake batter. In the bowl of a food processor or high-powered blender*, combine eggs, milk, vanilla, flour, sugar, and salt. Process 30 seconds, or until no lumps remain. Let batter rest five minutes.

Once oven has reached 400F, remove the hot pan and add butter. Place pan back in the oven for 60-90 seconds, until butter has melted. Remove pan from the oven, and swirl the butter so it coats the pan. Pour in batter. Scatter apples over the top, leaving any excess liquid in the bowl. Bake 19-20 minutes, until puffed and golden. Do NOT open the oven door during baking.

While the pancake is baking, make the caramel sauce. Place sugar in a 2-3 quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Whisk sugar until the sugar melts and turns a deep copper color. Whisk in butter until completely incorporated. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in heavy cream. Caramel will bubble violently, but will quickly relax into a smooth sauce. Whisk in vanilla and salt. Transfer sauce to a jar.

Let pancake cool 2-5 minutes before slicing. Drizzle individual portions with caramel sauce and serve immediately.

Caramel sauce will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Notes:

1. If you’d like to make a 3-4 serving puff, use 3 large eggs, 3/4 cup milk, 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla, 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, 2-3 tablespoons granulated sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 2 tablespoons butter. Use the same amount of apples. Follow all instructions as written, changing the baking time to 18-19 minutes.

2. I used one tart apple (Granny Smith) and one sweet apple (McIntosh).

3. If you do not have a food processor or blender, you may whisk all of the ingredients together and then push them through a wire mesh sieve to remove any lumps of flour. Let batter rest five minutes before proceeding as written.

Mini Apple Upside-Down Cakes {Vegan}

Mini Apple Upside-Down Cakes {Vegan}Last Friday, I took the day off from work and went on a day-trip upstate with a few girlfriends, including fellow food blogger, Nimai Larson. She and I have known each other for a couple of years now. When she’s not busy making music and touring with her band, Prince Rama, Nimai loves to spend time whipping up vegan recipes. She’s an absolute doll!

Mini Apple Upside-Down Cakes {Vegan}Mini Apple Upside-Down Cakes {Vegan}Our original plan for our upstate adventure had been to go apple- and pumpkin-picking, but it was raining, so we ended up grabbing a few bushels of sweet Macoun and McIntosh apples at Salinger’s Orchard in Brewster, New York. Then we set up camp in the kitchen of our friend Katrina’s family home and did some serious baking.

Nimai and I had a bit of difficulty coming up with something to bake together–apple pies and crisps often require a combination of sweet and tart apples, but tart apples won’t be available at Salinger’s until later in the season. We racked our brains and tore through our recipe archives before settling on upside-down cake. Nimai had brought along a mini-loaf pan, so we divided the batter into it and these Mini Apple Upside-Down Cakes were born!

Mini Apple Upside-Down Cakes {Vegan}Mini Apple Upside-Down Cakes {Vegan}Mini Apple Upside-Down Cakes {Vegan}These sweet little cakes start with a batter similar to the base of my Mango Upside-Down Cake. Here it’s made vegan–a mixture of flaxseed (or chia) and water replaces the eggs and non-dairy milk is used in place of the usual buttermilk. A combination of maple syrup and granulated sugar sweetens the cakes, although you may nix the syrup and use brown sugar in place of the white stuff. The batter is scented with apple pie spices and a bit of fresh-pressed apple cider before being spooned over sliced sweet apples and a subtly-spiced maple caramel.

These Mini Apple Upside-Down Cakes bake up super soft and puffy, and they’re just gorgeous. My favorite part about this recipe is that these little cakes may be served warm–Nimai, Katrina, Selena, and I loved snacking on them before taking the rainy drive back to Brooklyn.

Mini Apple Upside-Down Cakes {Vegan}Mini Apple Upside-Down Cakes {Vegan}Make a little time to bake these Mini Apple Upside-Down Cakes this fall! And let Nimai and me know if you try this recipe: @nimailarson and @e2bakesbrooklyn on Instagram 💗Mini Apple Upside-Down Cakes {Vegan}

Mini Apple Upside-Down Cakes {Vegan}
makes 10-12 mini loaf cakes

For the pan:
1 tablespoon neutral-flavored oil
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

Apple Layer:
1 sweet apple, 1/4-inch slices
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup Earth Balance Buttery Spread
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of ground allspice
pinch of ground nutmeg
pinch of Kosher or sea salt

Cake Batter:
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed or chia
6 tablespoons water
1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup Earth Balance Buttery Spread
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup fresh-pressed apple cider
1/2 cup soy or almond milk

Preheat oven to 350F. In a small bowl, whisk together oil and flour. Use a pastry brush to brush the inside of an 8-loaf mini-loaf pan. Set aside.

Make the apple layer. Combine apple slices and apple cider vinegar in a small bowl, and cover with cold water. Set aside.

Combine Earth Balance, sugar, and maple syrup in a small saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until no longer grainy (3-5 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and salt. Divide caramel among loaf pans (about 1 1/2 tablespoons each), and spread to cover the bottom of the pan. Set aside.

Make the cake. In a small bowl, whisk together flaxseed and water. Set aside for at least five minutes, until thickened.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat Earth Balance until light and fluffy. Mix in sugar and maple syrup, followed by flaxseed mixture, vanilla, apple cider, and non-dairy milk. Whisk in dry ingredients until incorporated.

Drain apple slices and blot dry with paper towels. Lay 3-4 slices into each mini loaf (it’s okay if they overlap a bit). Fill 2/3 full with cake batter. Bake 22-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean. Let sit 15 minutes. Run a small, thin knife around the edges of each mini-loaf before inverting onto a large pan. Repeat baking process with any remaining batter.

Enjoy cakes warm or at room temperature.