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.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Blondies

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip BlondiesWhile I am all about the Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut Cake I posted on Wednesday, I’ll be the first to admit that it might be intimidating. I sort of live for complex recipes, but I totally get that a recipe involving making your own toasted hazelnut meal and relying on whipped egg whites for structure might not be for everyone 😬

Today, let’s keep things simple. Really, really, really simple. Let’s make Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Blondies.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip BlondiesY’all, this recipe is about as simple as it gets. To make these seasonal sweets, you’ll only need a bowl, a whisk and a silicone spatula. No mixer required!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip BlondiesThis recipe is just a pumpkined-up (<–let me have that one 🙏🏻 ) version of my regular blondie recipe. Adding pumpkin pie spice is a no-brainer, but how do I get pumpkin into these cute little bars?! Easy—just omit the egg white (but keep the yolk!) and add 1/4 cup of pumpkin purée in its place! This keeps our blondies chewy rather than cakey, as pumpkin baked goods are prone to be. If you want cake, make my Pumpkin Bundt Cake—yes, I’m still obsessed with it.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip BlondiesThe batter for these Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Blondies comes together in about ten minutes and bakes up in twenty. By far the most time consuming part of this process is waiting for the blondies to cool…

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Blondies…but it only takes an hour and it’s totally worth it. I mean, look at these clean edges 😍

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip BlondiesYou’re going to love these Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Blondies! They’ve got all the chewy texture you expect from a great blondie, all the pumpkin flavor you want, and chocolate. Plus, you can practically make ‘em with your eyes closed!

But don’t, okay? 👀 Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Blondies

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Blondies
makes one 9-inch pan, about 9-16 blondies 

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar 
1/4 cup pumpkin purée
1 large egg yolk, room temperature 
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice 
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips, divided

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9-inch square pan with aluminum foil, leaving overhang on two sides. Grease the foil. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together melted butter, light brown sugar, and granulated sugar. Whisk in pumpkin purée and egg yolk, followed by vanilla. Add flour, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, and salt, and whisk to combine. Fold in 2/3 cup of the semisweet chocolate chips. Spread batter into prepared pan. Dot the top with remaining 2 tablespoons of semisweet chocolate chips. Bake 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with only a few moist crumbs.

Let blondies cool completely in the pan on a rack. Use the foil overhang to remove them to a cutting board. Remove foil. Use a large, sharp chef’s knife to slice blondies. Serve.

Leftover blondies will keep well in an airtight container at room temperature for up to five days.

Pink Lemonade Bars

Pink Lemonade BarsI have a love/hate relationship with Facebook’s “On This Day” feature. Yes, it’s fun to see old pictures and moments from my college days, but there’s a dark side to it all. That terrible haircut I’ve blocked from memory? Here it is! Every bad fashion choice I’ve ever made? Displayed prominently on my iPhone screen! What appears to be a solid year of angsty statuses? Just…what?!

Pink Lemonade BarsLast week, I had daily reminders of last year’s vacation to Swans Island, Maine. I am currently sixteen days away from heading up there again and I am so. freaking. ready. Swiping through photos of my friends and me hiking, puzzling, and sunbathing has me going crazy waiting to get out of NYC. Don’t get me wrong—I love living here. I just need a break every once in a while.

The vast majority of our trip pictures from last summer are of the four of us collecting wildflowers and climbing over rocks and floating on inner tubes in the ocean, but there are also a few of my friend Liz and me baking in “our” rustic kitchen. We had a ball working together, and I’m so glad I documented it all on here. Our first effort was a Blue-Razz Pie made with foraged berries, but it’s the Lemon Bars that really have me feeling nostalgic for my favorite island off the coast of Maine. There’s just something about the combination of soft lemon filling and buttery shortbread crust that screams summer, am I right?!

Pink Lemonade BarsToday, I’m taking that classic recipe and combining it with another favorite–Pink Lemonade! These Pink Lemonade Bars are super lemony and delicious, and insanely easy 😊 The whole recipe requires just ten ingredients, and while the filling is just as soft and delicious as a classic lemon bar, it’s much less complicated. Sweetened condensed milk and egg yolks are the heavy lifters here, keeping everything sweet and giving the filling its structure.

Pink Lemonade BarsPink Lemonade BarsPink Lemonade BarsPink Lemonade Bars get their color in two ways. The first is seedless raspberry purée, made from blitzing fresh raspberries in a blender or food processor and then pushing it through a sieve. I know that sounds tedious, but it takes all of five minutes. This will produce about 1/3 cup of purée, although you’ll only need to mix 1/4 cup into the filling.

Pink Lemonade Bars
Raspberry Purée only.
Pink Lemonade Bars
Raspberry Purée and Food Coloring.
You could certainly use only the raspberry purée to color the filling, but the pink may not be very vibrant. I wanted my bars to be a brighter pink, but no amount of raspberry purée by itself seemed to do the trick. Here, I’ve added a tiny amount of pink gel food coloring to achieve a berry color.

Bottom line: whether or not you choose to use food coloring, your bars will still be pink and lemony 😊

Pink Lemonade BarsThese bars bake up quickly, but must cool completely and be chilled before slicing—Pink Lemonade Bars are an excellent make-ahead dessert option. When you’re ready to serve, all you’ll need to do is slice them up and dust them with confectioner’s sugar. Your friends and family will love this twist on an old favorite.Pink Lemonade Bars

Pink Lemonade Bars
makes one 8-inch pan, 9-16 bars

Crust:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes

Filling:
6 ounces fresh raspberries
1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest
4 large egg yolks, room temperature
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk (not fat free)
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2-3 large lemons)
red or pink food coloring, as desired (optional)
1/4-1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar

Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8-inch square pan with aluminum foil, leaving overhang on two sides. Grease foil. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, 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. Pour 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. Bake 8-10 minutes, until it begins to set.

Make the filling. Place raspberries in a food processor or blender. Process until puréed. Push raspberry purée through a sieve to remove seeds. This should produce about 1/3 cup raspberry purée. Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, beat egg yolks until homogeneous. Whisk in sweetened condensed milk, followed by lemon juice and 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) of raspberry purée. Pour filling over warm crust. Bake 18-22 minutes, until the center of the filling just barely jiggles when the pan is jostled.

Let bars cool completely in the pan on a rack. Chill for at least two hours or overnight. Use foil overhang to remove bars to a cutting board. Peel off foil. Use a large, sharp chef’s knife to slice bars.

Immediately before serving, place a cooling rack over wax paper. Place cut bars on rack. Sift confectioner’s sugar over the tops. Remove to a plate and serve immediately.

Leftover bars will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days. Add more confectioner’s sugar as necessary.

Sweet Cherry Shortbread Bars

Sweet Cherry Shortbread BarsWhy is it that I always want to make pie when I simply don’t have the time? I would love to take a week off of work just to make pie and drink cold brew, but I know for a fact that I would make exactly one pie and spend the rest of the week trying to get to the beach.

Sweet Cherry Shortbread BarsI’m looking forward to many adventures this summer, but for now, it’s mostly business as usual: lots of work, lots of baseball-watching, lots of late nights, pounds and pounds of seasonal fruit, and every intention of making pie. But again, there is no time for all the rolling and cutting and chilling that goes with pie. Not this week, anyway. I think I’ll just stick with these Sweet Cherry Shortbread Bars instead.

Sweet Cherry Shortbread BarsThese bars have everything you love about sweet cherry pie, but are half the work. Less than half, even. There’s buttery crust and crunchy, nubbly topping. There’s sticky, not-too-sweet cherry filling. And there’s exactly zero chilling, rolling, crimping, and railing at the universe because the heat is melting all the butter in your must-must-must-stay-cold pie dough. That’s my kind of summer day dessert.

Sweet Cherry Shortbread BarsSweet Cherry Shortbread Bars come together fairly quickly and are very simple to make. Leave your mixer in the cabinet—you won’t need it today. Just fold together a couple pounds of pitted sweet cherries (feel free to use frozen), sugar, nutmeg, cornstarch, and salt. I like to add a bit of almond extract too, as it pairs well with cherries, but feel free to leave it out if you don’t have any or are allergic to tree nuts. The filling will look powdery at first, but it will release some liquid as it sits.

The next step is making the shortbread. I freaking love shortbread. It requires minimal ingredients and ability, and is far more than the sum of its parts. Here, it serves as both the crust and the topping. To make this shortbread, just rub cold butter into a mixture of flour, sugar, and salt. A cohesive dough will not form—the mixture will be powdery overall, but should hold together when pinched. Once the butter is broken down in the dry ingredients, set aside a cup of the mixture for topping.

Sweet Cherry Shortbread BarsSweet Cherry Shortbread BarsSweet Cherry Shortbread BarsNext, assemble the bars. Pour the remaining shortbread mixture into a foil-lined square baking dish and press it into an even layer. Then, dock it with a fork.

Sweet Cherry Shortbread BarsSweet Cherry Shortbread BarsSweet Cherry Shortbread BarsTop the crust with the cherry mixture, discarding any excess liquid. Grab that reserved cup of the shortbread mixture. Working with just a little bit at a time, pinch it together and scatter little clumps of dough over the cherries. When that’s done, bake the assembled bars for 40-50 minutes, transferring the pan to the bottom rack at the halfway point. You’ll know they’re done when the filling just barely jiggles when the pan is jostled. Oh, and when your kitchen smells incredible 😊

Sweet Cherry Shortbread BarsAnd now, for the hard part—cooling. Sweet Cherry Shortbread Bars must cool to room temperature before you slice them. It’s the difference between the clean edges you see here and a gooey, crumbly mess. If you are short on time (or just impatient), you may place the pan in the freezer once you can handle it without oven mitts. It’ll bring the bars to room temperature in 45 minutes or so.

Once the bars are cool, use the foil overhang to remove them to a cutting board and peel off the foil. I find this easiest to do by removing the foil on the sides, slicing the bars, and then using a thin spatula to lift them from the foil on the bottom. However you go about it though, you’re in for a treat. 

Sweet Cherry Shortbread BarsLook at these beauties! That buttery, flaky shortbread and the beautiful cherry filling—I can’t get enough. Who needs pie when you can have Sweet Cherry Shortbread Bars?!Sweet Cherry Shortbread Bars

Sweet Cherry Shortbread Bars
makes one 9-inch square pan, about 9 bars

Cherry Filling:
2 pounds whole sweet red cherries, stemmed and pitted
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 tablespoons cornstarch
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
1/8 teaspoon pure almond extract (optional)

Shortbread:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
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 cherry filling. In a large mixing bowl, combine pitted cherries, sugar, nutmeg, cornstarch, salt, and almond extract. Fold everything together with a silicone spatula. Set aside, stirring occasionally, while you make the shortbread.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, 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. Pour cherries over the top, discarding 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 cherry layer.

Bake bars on the top rack of the oven for 20 minutes. Move bars to the bottom rack and bake for an additional 20-30 minutes, until the filling just barely jiggles when the pan is jostled. 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 (see post above for my method). Use a large, sharp chef’s knife to slice into nine squares. Serve.

Leftover Sweet Cherry Shortbread Bars will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days, or in the refrigerator for up to four.

Cheesecake Brownies {Grain-Free}

Cheesecake Brownies {Grain-Free}For a baking blogger, I sure haven’t baked much lately. It’s not because I haven’t wanted to–no, I always want to bake–but because I’ve been so crazy busy. Eliot was here, I went to Texas, my best friend from college was in town, I turned 32…I simply haven’t had the time!

Cheesecake Brownies {Grain-Free}My last three recipes haven’t required an oven at all. I’m not complaining though; I’ve been enjoying lots of Iced Matcha Lattes, Whole Wheat Pancakes, and Key Lime Pie Popsicles lately 😊

But enough about that. Today, let’s get back to baking.

Cheesecake Brownies {Grain-Free}Cheesecake Brownies are a classic for a reason–who can resist a fudgy brownie swirled with a layer of creamy cheesecake?! Add to that that this recipe is completely grain-free, thanks to my spin on Katharine Hepburn Brownies, and you’ve got a surefire crowdpleaser for all your cookouts this summer!Cheesecake Brownies {Grain-Free}

Cheesecake Brownies {Grain-Free}
makes one 9-inch square pan, about 16 brownies

Cheesecake:
8 ounces full-fat brick-style cream cheese
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large eggs
1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Brownies:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup cocoa powder (natural or dutch process)
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt

Place oven racks in the top and bottom positions. Preheat oven to 325F. Line a 9-inch square pan with foil, leaving overhang on two sides. Grease foil with butter. Set aside.

Make cheesecake. In a medium mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat cream cheese until fluffy. Mix in sugar, followed by egg and vanilla. Set aside.

In a double boiler or the microwave, melt butter and unsweetened chocolate together until smooth. Let cool slightly before transferring to a large mixing bowl.

Whisk in granulated and light brown sugars, followed by eggs and vanilla. Mix in cocoa powder and salt. Reserve 1/3 cup of batter in a small bowl.

Transfer the rest of the batter to the prepared pan and spread in an even layer. Drop spoonfuls of cheesecake over the top, followed by spoonfuls of the reserved brownie batter. Swirl with a small, thin knife. Tap full pan five times on the countertop to release air bubbles and distribute. Cover pan with foil. Bake on the top rack for 20 minutes. Uncover pan. Bake on the bottom rack for an additional 20-30 minutes, until cheesecake just barely jiggles when the pan is jostled.

Let brownies cool completely in the pan on a cooling rack. Refrigerate in the pan for four hours (or overnight). Use foil overhang to remove brownies to a cutting board. Peel off foil. Slice and serve.

Leftover Cheesecake Brownies will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days.