A crumb-topped apple pie is just about the loveliest of fall treats. If it's part of the dessert spread come November, consider yourself lucky, but these bar versions give their pie brethren a run for their money.
Not only are pie bars super easy to assemble—the bottom crust is a riff on an easy press-in shortbread cookie dough and the top is made from the same dough—they are also spectacularly delicious. Because the filling is shallow, the bars have a magnificent crust-to-filling ratio: every single bite includes a crunchy bottom crust, soft-cooked apples, and a generous topping of lovely crumbly bits. The filling is not super sweet and allows the flavor of the apples to truly shine while pairing nicely with the shortbread cookie-like crust and topping.
Pie bars are wonderfully versatile, elevating any and all fall occasions and holidays. If you have extra apples lying around, turn them into apple pie bars.
- For the Crust and Topping:
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup light brown sugar
- 1 1/4 cups unsalted butter (cold)
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- Confectioners’ sugar (for dusting)
- For the Apple Pie Filling:
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 pounds Granny Smith apples (about 5 apples)
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice (freshly squeezed)
Note: while there are multiple steps to this recipe, this recipe is broken down into workable categories to help you better plan for preparation and cooking.
Make the Crust and Topping
Gather the ingredients and grease a 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan with cooking spray or softened butter. Line the pan with parchment.
Combine the flour, salt, and sugars in a large bowl and whisk until incorporated.
Cube the cold butter and, using your fingers, rub the butter into the flour mixture until the butter is crumbly and pea-sized. Alternatively, you can use a pastry blender or two butter knives.
Add the yolk and the vanilla and use a fork to stir them into the crumbly mixture. Switch to your fingers and continue mixing the dough until the yolk and vanilla are fully incorporated and the dough holds together if you squeeze a bit between your fingers.
Remove 2 2/3 cups of dough and place in a medium bowl in the refrigerator. Press the remaining dough firmly and uniformly into the prepared pan. Using a fork, dock the crust and transfer to the freezer for 30 minutes.
Make the Filling and Assemble
Preheat the oven to 325 F. Combine the sugar, flour, cinnamon, and salt in a large mixing bowl.
Peel, core, and thinly slice the apples. Place them in the bowl and toss to coat with your hands. Add the lemon juice and toss a final time.
To assemble the bars, remove the crust from the freezer and bake it for about 25 minutes, rotating midway, until the base is lightly browned.
Remove the pan from the oven, increase the heat to 350 F, and cover the base with the apple filling, leaving behind any collected juices to avoid a soggy crust.
Remove the remaining dough from the fridge and use your fingers to pinch off and create 1/2-inch crumbs to cover the bars.
Place the bars in the oven and bake for about 55 to 65 minutes, rotating at the midway point, until the crumb topping browns and the apples are soft when you spear them with a paring knife.
Let the bars come to room temperature before slicing and serving. Dust with confectioners' sugar.
- Swap the apples for pears.
- Add a sprinkling of chopped toasted pecans to the crumb topping.
- Granny Smith apples are lovely in these bars, as they are wonderfully tart and hold their shape just enough once baked. Jonagold and Honey Crips are also nice to bake with.
- When par-baking the bottom crust, do not let it get too brown as it will be baked again for almost an hour once the filling is added.
- If you want to remove the bars from the pan prior to cutting them or just to make slicing easier, refrigerate them first. Run a paring knife around the edge of the bars and invert onto a cutting board.