Brown Butter Apple Pie Bars

brown butter apple pie bars
brown butter apple pie bars

I'm a big fan of the portable dessert: brownies, cookies, hand pies, things that can be eaten with your hands and are easy to transport and share. I made these bars from a mishmash of recipes for afriend's work shop opening/birthday shindig/end of summer extravaganza where there was a whole roast lamb, grilled corn on the cob, coolers full of frosty cold ones, and lots of revelers. When I unwrapped the dishtowel protecting these babies, the call of brown butter must have been irresistible because they were gone before I could even get a photo of them in the pan. I'm sure I don't have to tell you guys this, but sometimes food tastes best when scooped up with a plastic fork and washed down with an icy cold beer, napkins optional of course. 

Brown Butter Apple Pie Bars
yield: one 13''x9'' pan, 24-30 bars

Note (9.10.2012): I have made these bars quite a few times since originally publishing this recipe and have found that you can reduce the butter in the crust to 12T, omit the butter in the filling, and substitute up to 3/4 whole wheat flour in both the crust and the crumb topping with no adverse results. In fact, I think the addition of whole wheat flour makes these bars taste better!

For the Brown Butter, Brown Sugar Shortbread Crust
adapted from Alice Medrich 

14T butter, cut into cubes
1/2c brown sugar
2t vanilla extract
1/2t salt
2c flour

Preheat your oven to 350º and line a 13''x9'' baking dish with greased foil or parchment paper. 

1. Brown the butter over medium heat in a small saucepan, stirring frequently until the milk solids turn light brown and the butter has a nutty fragrance. Set aside to cool slightly. 
2. When the butter has cooled a bit add it to a medium bowl and add in the brown sugar, salt, and vanilla and stir. Add the flour and mix until completely combined, don't worry if the mixture seems a little greasy. Press it into the prepared pan and bake it until it is golden, about 20 minutes. Set the baked crust aside to cool.

While the crust is baking and cooling prepare the filling

Apple Filling
adapted from CakeSpy

2T butter
1/4c brown sugar
6 large apples, peeled and cut into thin slices (I used ginger golds and macintosh, but any pie apples would work)
1T cinnamon
1/4t freshly grated nutmeg
pinch salt

1. Melt the butter and the sugar in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the apples stirring occasionally until they have softened and most of the liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Add the spices and salt, then stir well to combine.

Crumb Topping
adapted from CakeSpy

1 1/2c oats
1c flour
3/4c light brown sugar
1t cinnamon
1/4t baking soda
3/8t salt
12T butter, softened

1. In a large bowl combine the oats, flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda and salt, then add in the butter and mix with your hands until it holds together in clumps.

To Assemble

Spread the apple mixture evenly over the prepared crust, then top with the crumble mixture and press down lightly. 
Bake the bars at 375º for 30-40 minutes until the crumb topping is golden. Cool completely before cutting into 24-30 squares.