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.

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.

Chocolate-Dipped Pretzel Shortbread

Chocolate-Dipped Pretzel ShortbreadAs I write this, New York City is expecting snow. It’s hard to believe, considering that it reached 60 degrees on Wednesday, but we are all preparing for ten inches of snow. Schools are set to be closed, Trader Joe’s is out of everything, and everyone has trudged home with their essentials. I’ve got my pound of cornmeal.

Is it snowing where you are? If not, I’m giving you permission to pretend it is. Go put on your softest pajama pants. I’ll wait.

Chocolate-Dipped Pretzel ShortbreadNow that you’re calling in to work and pretending you’ve got a winter wonderland outside your kitchen window, I think you should make some cookies. What says snow day comfort food more than cookies? Well, maybe Hot Chocolate. But you’ve got to have a cookie to go with it.

Chocolate-Dipped Pretzel ShortbreadToday, let’s make Chocolate-Dipped Pretzel Shortbread. It’s crunchy and a little crumbly, studded with nubbly bits of salty pretzel, and dipped in chocolate. It’s what salty-sweet snow day dreams are made of. The shortbread base comes together with minimal ingredients in just a few minutes and has a light caramel flavor that is out. of. this. world. It’s only enhanced by the addition of crushed honey wheat pretzels.

The dough gets pressed into an even layer and briefly frozen before being sliced into bars and baked. You will want to try these shortbread straight from the oven, but you should wait a few extra minutes to dip them in milk chocolate. Let the chocolate set and then grab two. You’re going to want two.Chocolate-Dipped Pretzel Shortbread

Chocolate-Dipped Pretzel Shortbread
makes about 4 dozen

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup crushed honey wheat pretzels

Chocolate Dip:
4 ounces milk chocolate, chopped
1/2 teaspoon coconut oil
1 teaspoon corn syrup (or Lyle’s Golden Syrup)

In a small bowl, whisk together flour and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about two minutes. Add granulated and brown sugars and beat until combined. Add vanilla extract and combine. With the mixer running on low, add in flour mixture in two installments, mixing until it is just incorporated. Fold in pretzels. Dough will be crumbly, but should hold together when pinched.

Line a 9-inch square pan with parchment. Place dough in pan. Using another sheet of parchment, press dough into an even layer in the pan. Freeze for half an hour.

Preheat oven to 325F.

Remove dough from pan to a cutting board and use a large, sharp chef’s knife to slice it into 24 pieces.

Line a baking sheet with parchment. Place sliced shortbread at least 2 inches apart on prepared pan. Bake 15 minutes, rotating top-to-bottom racks at the 8 minute mark. Shortbread are done when the edges start to brown. Let cool on the baking sheet for ten minutes before moving to a rack to cool completely.

While cookies are cooling, prepare chocolate dip. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Place chopped chocolate in a bowl and microwave for one minute. Stir. Add coconut oil. Microwave in 30 second increments, stirring in between, until chocolate is smooth. Stir in corn syrup. Dip cookies in chocolate one by one, removing any excess with the side of a fork. Lay them on the parchment-lined sheet. Freeze for 15 minutes, or until chocolate is set.

Cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.

Orange Cardamom Pistachio Shortbread

Orange Cardamom Pistachio ShortbreadToday is the sixth day of holiday treats here on E2 Bakes. As far as baked goods go, I’ve posted recipes for Chai Shortbread Snowballs, Lindor Truffle Peanut Butter Blossoms, Gingersnaps, and Eggnog Bundt Cake. I’ve also posted this seriously easy Hot Chocolate Mix, which is great for gifting. Another great food gift idea? Today’s Orange Cardamom Pistachio Shortbread.

Orange Cardamom Pistachio ShortbreadI know that this may not seem much like a typical holiday cookie, but hear me out:

  1. Everybody loves shortbread this time of year. People go crazy for those classic blue tins of the stuff! 
  2. Orange and cardamom are extra delicious in the winter. Warming flavors, y’all.
  3. Pistachios. That is all.
  4. Who doesn’t love homemade cookies? Pair a little tin of these with a box of good tea and hand them out to teachers, coworkers, and others who help make your day-to-day easier. They can keep them for themselves or put them out for guests!
  5. These shortbread are ridiculously easy to make.

Orange Cardamom Pistachio ShortbreadThese little tea cookies are perfect for these last two weeks before Christmas. They’re orangey, nutty, and super buttery. The dough comes together in just a few minutes and is slice-and-bake, so you can make as many or as few cookies as you please. The most difficult part is chopping up the pistachios, but you can skip the cutting board all together and just pulse them in the food processor a few times…although I would much rather wash my knife than the bowl of my food processor 😊

Once the dough is mixed, form it into two logs and wrap them in plastic. Let them chill for a couple of hours before slicing and baking. The pistachios can make this dough a bit challenging to slice, but I’ve got a method that seems to make the process a bit less frustrating.

Orange Cardamom Pistachio ShortbreadFirst of all, use a large, sharp chef’s knife–a sharp blade is crucial to slice-and-bake success. Holding the knife in your dominant hand, use your other hand to gently hold the cookie you are slicing (this will help prevent any breaks). Slice directly down. If the edges of the shortbread rounds crack a bit, just smooth them with your fingers. Lay the sliced cookies on parchment-lined pans and bake for 14-15 minutes, until golden at the edges. Then just let them cool, make yourself a cup of tea, and dunk away!

You and your loved ones will love these Orange Cardamom Pistachio Shortbread! You’ll flip for the warm flavors, crunchy pistachios, and buttery cookie base. When a holiday cookie is this delicious, who cares if it’s traditional?!

Orange Cardamom Pistachio ShortbreadLooking for more shortbread? Check out my Chocolate Chip Shortbread, Vanilla-Almond Shortbread, and Whipped Shortbread Snowballs!

Orange Cardamom Pistachio Shortbread
makes about 4 dozen

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons orange zest
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup finely chopped unsalted pistachio meats

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, cardamom, and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about two minutes. Add sugar and honey and mix until combined. Add in the orange zest and vanilla extract, and combine. With the mixer running on low, add in flour mixture in two installments, mixing until it is just incorporated. Fold in pistachios. Dough will be crumbly, but should hold together when pinched.

Divide dough in half. Take one half and lay it on a piece of plastic wrap. Using the plastic wrap and clean hands, form the dough into a log. Wrap tightly in the plastic wrap. Repeat with the other half of the dough. Refrigerate wrapped dough for at least 2 hours, or up to three days.

Preheat the oven to 325F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper, and set aside.

Unwrap one log of dough. Using a large, sharp chef’s knife, slice the dough in 1/4″ installments and lay them on the prepared pans one-inch apart. Bake for 14-15 minutes, until the tops no longer look doughy and the edges are starting to brown. Unwrap the other log of dough and repeat the slicing and baking process. Let cool on the pans for for 10 minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely.

These keep well in an airtight container at room temperature for at least a week.

Chai Shortbread Snowballs

Chai Shortbread SnowballsSometimes I make a recipe and like it enough to post it, but then, when I go to make it again, I am disappointed. I feel that way about a few recipes on this site and will be posting better alternatives as we move into 2017.

One that I am out to fix? My Whipped Shortbread Snowballs. They are super buttery and delicious as written, but they are also incredibly fragile. So fragile that coating them in confectioner’s sugar is near impossible. Forget about stacking them in a container or putting them on a cookie tray–they’ll all break. There’s nothing wrong with delicate cookies (I love these Apple Cider Snaps), but I don’t want to make cookies that fall apart the second I go to eat one.

Chai Shortbread SnowballsSo, how am I going to fix that recipe? Like I do most cookies: I’ll add cornstarch. I love cornstarch. It keeps chewy cookies soft, gives my cakes a tender crumb, and it makes my Chocolate Cream Pie nice and sliceable. Here, it adds just enough structure to these cookies to keep them from crumbling without fundamentally altering the crispy, melty texture. Cornstarch is magic, I tell you. If you want to make a better, sturdier version of my Whipped Shortbread Snowballs, add 1/4 cup of cornstarch when you add the confectioner’s sugar, then follow the recipe as written. Voilà! They’ll still melt in your mouth, but they won’t crumble all over your floors.

Chai Shortbread SnowballsChai Shortbread SnowballsChai Shortbread SnowballsI could leave it at that, basically posting the same recipe twice in a year, but that’s not really my style. Today’s shortbread take that classic recipe and turn it up a bit with the addition of chai. Black tea leaves, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, and black pepper (yes, black pepper!) are blitzed into the flour before its mixed with the whipped butter, confectioner’s sugar, and cornstarch. The resulting cookies have all the flavors of your favorite chai tea latte. Coat them in more confectioner’s sugar for that signature holiday cookie look and watch them disappear at your next holiday party!Chai Shortbread Snowballs

Chai Shortbread Snowballs
makes about 2 dozen cookies

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon black tea leaves (I use PG Tips)
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For Coating:
1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar

Preheat oven to 275F. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Set aside.

In a food processor, combine flour, tea leaves, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, black pepper, and salt. Process about 15-20 seconds, until tea leaves are broken down. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer for 1 minute, until light and fluffy. Add confectioner’s sugar and cornstarch, and mix for 1 minute. Turn mixer to high and beat for 6 minutes, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Mix in vanilla. Beat in flour mixture in two installments.

Scoop dough in 2 tablespoon increments and place them at least 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake 14 minutes before rotating pans from top to bottom racks. Bake an additional 12-14 minutes.

Let cookies cool on pans for 5 minutes. Place confectioner’s sugar in a small-medium mixing bowl. Gently coat each cookie in confectioner’s sugar before placing it on a rack to cool completely.

Cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.