Since discovering a fantastic apple orchard only 20 minutes from our house, I have been finding every excuse possible to necessitate another trip.  It may be a craving for an apple cider slushy or some pumpkin butter, or in this case, it was the fact that they were hosting Apple Festival!  We had a fun time looking through all the craft booths and the wonderful orchard store, and also took the time to pick some apples for ourselves.  I love pick-your-own apples because it takes no time at all to fill up a large bag, and the quality of those picked straight from the tree is SO much better than what you can buy at the store.  Of course I promised to make Ben an apple pie (his favorite dessert) but I also wanted to try out these bars.

This is a very simple recipe, and it comes together quickly.  It tastes remarkably like apple pie, but without all the fuss.  These bars are especially great if you would like apple pie but only want a couple of bites rather than a whole piece.  They are delicious plain, and even better with a tiny dollop of whipped cream on top!  Most people seem to have a favorite part of the apple pie – either the crust or the fruit filling.  Ben is a crust person but I am all about the filling.  Personally, I thought these bars were a tad heavy on the crust side and next time I make them I may use slightly less of the base mixture, but this is easily adjusted to suit your personal taste.

Apple Crumble Bars
For the base:
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature

For the filling:
4 medium-sized apples, peeled, cored and coarsely diced
5 tbsp. sugar
¼ tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. cornstarch
2 tbsp. lemon juice
¼ cup fruit jam (I used peach)

For the topping:
½ cup all-purpose flour
3 tbsp. sugar
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened

To prepare the filling, in a large skillet combine the apples, sugar, and cinnamon.  Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 5-7 minutes, until apples are tender but still firm.  In a small cup, whisk together cornstarch and lemon juice.  Add to the apple mixture and continue cooking, stirring constantly for 3 minutes or until thickened.  Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 350°.  Line an 8×8” baking dish with foil, leaving overhang on both sides for easy removal later.  Grease foil.

To make the base, in a medium bowl combine flour, sugar and salt.  Mix well.  Cut the butter into the flour mixture using a pastry blender, two forks or your hands, until it resembles breadcrumbs.  Press the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan.  Bake for 10-12 minutes, until lightly browned around the edges.  Remove from the oven.  Spread the fruit jam evenly on the base while it is still hot.  Top with the cooked apple mixture.

In a medium bowl combine all ingredients for the topping.  Mix well until combined and crumbly.  Sprinkle over the apple layer.  Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool.  Using the foil, lift out of pan.  Cut into squares and serve.  (If desired, refrigerate before cutting to firm up a bit for easier slicing.)

Source: adapted from My Kitchen Snippets