If you love apple pie, wait until you try Apple Crumb Bars. Start with a buttery shortbread crust that is covered with both caramelized apples. A crumb topping makes them easy enough to eat with your hands and just as scrumptious as an apple pie.
Feeding a crowd? A pan of apple crumb bars is a perfect solution, and no forks required!🍎
If you haven’t even started thinking about apples yet, they’re a nice change after all the peach cobbler we’ve been consuming this summer and boy do I have a great recipe for you to try.
Apple pie is one of my favorite apple desserts and brings back memories of childhood holidays. There’s nothing quite like my mom’s apple crumb pie with a streusel topping. However, there are times when you want a dessert that feeds more than eight people, or maybe you don’t like to make a pie crust.
Those are the times that you’ll want to give these amazing apple bars a try. The flavor is just what you would expect from apple pie but instead of a flaky pie crust, you get a buttery shortbread crust.
Walnuts are added to part of the shortbread which is then sprinkled over caramelized apples. The texture and flavor from the walnuts add a richness to this dessert bar that you won’t get in a pie.
The shortbread on the top and bottom keep the filling intact so that you can eat this apple dessert with your fingers. By caramelizing the apples first, the juices are concentrated along with a little apple brandy which enhances the apple flavor even more.
This is a fantastic apple dessert recipe to take to a potluck, or to serve at a party. You can cut the squares even smaller so that people can try more than one dessert. A pan will give you 24-32 bars.
Everyone wants apple pie for Thanksgiving but a whole slice after a big feast can be overwhelming, apple pie bars are just the solution. Best of all you can make them in advance.
These are similar to apple crisp but the topping doesn’t have oatmeal. You’ll find that while these are definitely a dessert bar, they are not overly sweet.
Why you’ll love it
- When it’s fall baking season, apple dessert recipes are the best!
- These bars aren’t soggy, instead they offer a crunchy bottom that compliments the baked apples perfectly.
- You can eat them warm, at room temperature or refrigerated.
- They will feed a crowd.
- You can make them in advance and refrigerate or freeze until ready to serve.
- The bar stays together so that you can eat them with your hands, no fork required.
- You don’t have to make a pie crust!
What you’ll need
- Butter – You’ll need plenty of butter for the shortbread crust and topping.
- Walnuts – these add the perfect crunch! Easily omited if you don’t love nuts or you could use pecans instead.
- Large apples – I recommend using a variety of apples, ½ sweet and ½ tart, like Fuji and Granny Smith apples.
- Spice mixture – cinnamon and nutmeg are my spices of choice for apple pie.
- Pantry staples – flour, vanilla, sugar, salt, lemon juice
- Apple Brandy – this is totally optional, use it like you would vanilla, to amp up the flavor.
How to make this recipe for Apple Bars
Prepare the crust. The recipe is simple to make with a buttery shortbread crust on the bottom and the top. First cream the butter and sugar and then add the flour and divide. Add ⅔’s of the shortbread to your baking pan and refrigerate for 20 minutes, then bake.
To the rest of the shortbread, add walnuts and cinnamon and refrigerate.
While the crust is in the refrigerator, peel and thinly slice the apples then cook them in a skillet with a little butter, sugar, lemon juice and apple brandy.
Once they start to brown and have softened, place them over the baked crust.
Sprinkle the remaining shortbread on top for a final bake.
Pro Tip: A splash of apple brandy added to any apple dessert will bring out the flavor of the apples.
Top your apple crumble bars with a drizzle of salted caramel or a dollop of ice cream for next level dessert!
Sometimes fruit bars can be a bit soggy, but these have a really nice crunch on the bottom and a cookie like texture on the top. While I love apple pie, sometimes you want that great apple taste without making an entire pie.
Taylor came by the house to sample and took all the leftovers home with her. These freeze great!
If you want a true apple pie experience serve them warm with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream.
How to store apple bars
- Store on the counter for up to 2 days
- In the refrigerator for 5 days
- Freeze in an airtight container for 3 months
Apple combinations for baking
Sweet apple brands –
- Golden delicious
- Red Delicious
Tart apple brands –
- Granny Smith
- Pink Lady
FAQs and tips
What’s the best way to freeze apples?
The best way to freeze apples is to peel, slice and soak in a bowl of water and lemon juice for a few minutes. Let dry and place on baking sheet and freeze for a couple of hours. Once frozen place in a freezer proof container.
What apples are best for apple pie and other apple desserts?
I recommend baking with a variety of apples. My suggestion is to select two kinds: one sweet and one tart.
Can I mix in another fruit with my apples for bars?
You can add other fruit to your apple bars but depending on how juicy the fruit is, it may change the texture. Pears would be an obvious choice, just add them with the apples in the skillet. You could also throw in some blackberries, add them right before baking.
Some of my favorite apple dessert recipes
Try some savory apple recipes
Adapted from Ina Garten’s If you loved this recipe, give it a star ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating! Also, snap a picture of your finished dish and share it with me on Instagram using the hashtag #butterandbaggage and tagging me @butterandbaggage.
Apple Crumb Bars
- 2 cups butter room temp
- ¾ cup sugar
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 4 cups flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- ½ cup walnuts chopped
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 6 large apples ½ sweet and ½ tart
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice 1 lemon
- 4 tablespoons Apple Brandy
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
- 4 tablespoons butter
- Apple peeler and corer
- Place parchment paper in a 9 x 13 baking pan.
- CRUST: Add butter, both sugars and vanilla to the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
- In a separate bowl whisk together flour and salt and add to butter mixture. Beat until combined. Lightly flour your hands and take ⅔’s of the dough and place it in the prepared baking pan pressing it into the bottom. Press down with the bottom of a measuring cup. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.
- To the remaining dough add walnuts and cinnamon and combine. Refrigerate until ready to use.
- Preheat oven to 375º. Bake for 15-18 minutes until the entire crust is golden brown. Let cool.
- FILLING:While the crust is cooking, peel and slice apples into ⅛ inch slices and place in a large bowl with lemon juice and apple brandy. Add sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg and mix. Melt butter in a large skillet and add apples. Simmer over medium heat, gently stirring occasionally until the apples are tender and the liquid has evaporated. Spread evenly onto the crust.
- Place pieces of the remaining dough over the top of the apples, it will not be completely covered.
- Reduce oven to 350º and bake for 25-30 minutes until the top is golden brown. Let cool before cutting.
Barbara’s Tips + Notes
- Use a variety of sweet and tart apples.
- Slice the apples into very thin slices, the thinner the better.
- Refrigerate before cutting to get nice even portions.
- These can be served warm, room temperature or refrigerated.
- Store in the refrigerator or freeze.
- Top your bars with a drizzle of salted caramel or a dollop of ice cream for next level dessert!