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It's apple pie, but in a cookie

Recipe: Good for breakfast, snack or quick Thanksgiving dessert

Pan of apple pie bars showing the filling
Apple filling between two crumbly, buttery layers --
it's a cookie, not a pie. (Photos: Kathy Morrison)

Yes, Thanksgiving is sneaking up on us. As part of the food festivities, I traditionally bake a big apple pie that is a lot of work and takes more than an hour to bake.

But sometimes apple pie would be nice to have without quite so much effort, which is why this cookie recipe is great find. You could even serve it proudly at Thanksgiving -- it will travel well.

The cookie bakes just like a lot of other crumble-topped treats, but the filling is briefly cooked ahead of time. I've tweaked it somewhat so it tastes more like the big pie I make, so feel free to adjust the spices to your own taste.

I think just about any apple would work in this, with the exception of Golden Delicious, which turns into applesauce too quickly.  I like apples that are a little more tart than sweet. Use several varieties if you can't decide.

Green and red apples, butter, brown sugar and cinnamon
Three apples is good -- four would be even better.
These are two Mutsus and a Braeburn.

Apple pie oatmeal bars

Makes 18-24, depending on how big the bars are cut

Ingredients:

Filling:

3 to 4 sweet-tart apples, such as Mutsu, Pink Lady, Braeburn, or a mix

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Zest of 1 lemon

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon allspice

3 tablespoons water

1/4 teaspoon salt

Apple chunks in pan
The apple filling is cooked briefly.

Cookie layer and topping:

1-1/2 cups all purpose flour

1-1/2 cups rolled oats (not instant or quick oats)

3/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

12 tablespoons (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted cold butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

Instructions :

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13-by-9-inch baking pan with oil spray and set aside.

Peel, core and chop the apples to equal at least 3 cups and up to 4 cups apples. Combine the apples and the rest of the filling ingredients in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until apples are tender but not mushy and the filling is thickened, about 10 minutes. Add a little more water if it starts to get too thick. Remove from heat and let cool while the cookie layer is prepared.

Make the cookie layer: Stir together the flour, rolled oats, brown sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.

Add the butter chunks and work them into the flour mixture using a pastry blender or two knives. The goal is a crumbly mixture with not too many large pieces of butter.

Remove 1-1/2 cups of the flour-butter mixture and set aside for the topping. (You could add 1/2 cup chopped nuts to the topping mix if you like nutty-crumbly combinations.)

Press the rest of the mixture into the prepared pan, using the bottom of a glass or a sturdy spatula to flatten and compress the mixture evenly.

Spread the apple filling mixture evenly over the cookie layer. Sprinkle the reserved flour-butter mixture over the top.

Bake the cookies for 40 minutes or until the top turns golden brown.

Square cookie on a green plate
The cookie makes a great snack or breakfast bar.

Remove the pan to a cooling rack and let cool for 10 minutes before cutting into bars. Serve at room temperature. Store in a tightly covered container.

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Garden Checklist for week of July 7

Take care of garden chores early in the morning, concentrating on watering. We’re still in survival mode until this heat wave breaks.

* Keep your vegetable garden watered, mulched and weeded. Water before 8 a.m. to conserve moisture.

* Prevent sunburn; provide temporary shade for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squash and other crops with “sensitive” skin.

* Hold off on feeding plants until temperatures cool back down to “normal” range. That means daytime highs in the low to mid 90s.

* Don’t let tomatoes wilt or dry out completely. Give tomatoes a deep watering two to three times a week. Harvest vegetables promptly to encourage plants to produce more.

* Squash especially tends to grow rapidly in hot weather. Keep an eye on zucchini.

* Some weeds thrive in hot weather. Whack them before they go to seed.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushy plants and more flowers in September.

* Harvest tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplant. Prompt picking will help keep plants producing.

* Remove spent flowers from roses, daylilies and other bloomers as they finish flowering.

* Pinch off blooms from basil so the plant will grow more leaves.

* Cut back lavender after flowering to promote a second bloom.

* One good thing about hot days: Most lawns stop growing when temperatures top 95 degrees. Keep mower blades set on high.

* Once the weather cools down a little, it’s not too late to add a splash of color. Plant petunias, snapdragons, zinnias and marigolds.

* After the heat wave, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, winter squash and sunflowers. Make sure the seeds stay hydrated.

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