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The Best Apple Bars | Relishing It

I know it’s a bit much to say that these are the best apple bars that exist in the world.  But the truth is, I’ve never had better.  These are the apple bars that I grew up with– the ones that my Mom made.  I begged for these beauties throughout my childhood.  And I haven’t found a better apple bar in the last 30 years.

The Best Apple Bars | Relishing It

The Best Apple Bars | Relishing It

The Best Apple Bars | Relishing It

This is almost identical to recipe that my Mom used– it still has the wonderful unique qualities that make these bars so good.  There are crushed cornflakes on the bottom layer, which may sound a bit odd.  But they add something amazing– something magical– to the texture of the bars.  I wouldn’t say it’s a “crunch”, but whatever it is, it’s necessary.  The meringue is still there, too.  Meringue on apple bars isn’t standard, but on these it adds a little wow-factor in both appearance and texture.   I sometimes increase the amount of meringue, because my daughter and I fancy it so much.

The Best Apple Bars | Relishing It

The one thing that I did change about the recipe is substituting butter for the shortening that my Mom used.  I’ve actually made them both ways in order to see if using shortening was worth it (I don’t generally cook with shortening).  I used a butter-flavored shortening for comparison, and while it did lack a bit in flavor, it also made for a sturdier crust.  In the end, I decided that butter was the better option.  The crust is still amazing, and I’d rather put good, quality butter into my kids’ diet than shortening.  So, you can decide which route you want to go– either way will make an amazing apple bar.

The Best Apple Bars | Relishing It

A side note:  I’ve been a mother for seven years as of yesterday.  This sweet boy has brought so much joy to my life.  He’s an old soul, a funny trickster, and has a huge heart.  I’ve loved every day with him.  Happy Birthday to our sweet Aanen!

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The Recipe:  The Best Apple Bars

For the Dough:

2 1/2 cups (11 7/8 ounces) all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup (2 sticks) cold, unsalted butter, cubed (or coarsely grated, if frozen)

1 egg yolk in a measuring cup, then filled with milk to reach 2/3 cup total

For the Filling:

about 9 medium apples (or more), thickly sliced

1 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

pinch of kosher salt

1 cup coarsely crushed cornflakes

1-2 egg whites (depending upon how much meringue you like)

For the Icing:

about 1 cup powdered sugar

splash of milk

To Make the Dough:  In a large bowl, whisk the flour, 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, and salt together.  Use a pastry blender to cut in the butter until it is crumbly (it should resemble small peas).  Then, use a fork to mix in the egg yolk and milk mixture.  Mix until all of the dry ingredients are wet.  Put the mixture onto a flour surface and knead a couple of times and divide into two.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 2 hours.  (Follow these photos, if you feel the need for visual help.)

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Peel and slice the apples.  You may need more or less apples depending upon the size of them.  You’ll want enough apples to fill the pan to the top.   In a medium bowl, toss the apples, cinnamon, sugar, and a pinch of salt together.

On a lightly floured surface, roll one ball of dough out to fit into a 9 x 13 x 1 inch pan.  It should hang over the edge just a bit.  Sprinkle the crushed cornflakes onto the pan.  Then top with the apples.  Roll out the other ball of dough to fit on the top.  Fold the two layers of dough together along the edge and then press together with a fork to prevent leaking.  Meanwhile, using a stand mixer, or handheld, beat the egg white(s) until somewhat stiff.  Gently place the egg whites on the top of the bars.  This can be somewhat unruly and you may have to use your fingers.  Bake for about 50 minutes, or until the crust is a deep golden brown.  Make sure the meringue doesn’t get too dark.  Remove from oven and let cool completely.  Mix the powdered sugar and milk together and drizzle over the bars.   These bars are best eaten within the first two days.  Store leftovers underneath a tea towel.  Enjoy!

Thank you so much for stopping by Relishing It!  Have a wonderful weekend.

xo

Laurie

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Rustic Apple Galette | Relishing It

The end of our summer.  I honestly don’t know whether to jump for joy or curl up into a ball and sulk.   My boy starts school next week– first grade.  He isn’t dreading school this year– unlike the last two– when he saw it only as a limitation on ‘play time’.  That’s not to say that he didn’t love school.  He did, once he got there.  But he has serious home-body tendencies that can be a bit…difficult to overcome sometimes.  Now the prospect of making new friends has him excited.   And my baby, Aria, starts the following week in pre-kindergarten.  She is so excited.  She has Aanen’s previous teacher, whom we all adore.  Aria starting school really brings out mixed emotions in me.  Joy because I’ll finally get to enjoy an hour or two of quiet each day.  Aria is a talker.  Nonstop.  Really.  She’s a relentless, wonderful hurricane.  A true sensing extrovert on the Meyers-Briggs scale.  The other three of us are the opposite.  But even though I’ll get to enjoy some quiet, I’m also a bit panicked.  Not having my baby at home reminds me just how fast time is passing.  And to add to my melancholy of another season ending, and my kids off to school, I turned 39 on Monday.  Time.  It just rolls on.

Rustic Apple Galette | Relishing It

It’s very strange, because it’s not just the days, or even years that are flying past.  It’s the decades!  I don’t feel 39 years old, but somehow it just happened.  I’ll turn around tomorrow and my kids will be off to college.  But to be brutally honest, my kids growing up, and me aging isn’t what really hurts.  No, the most painful realization is that my parents are aging right along with us.  It seems like just yesterday that I’d watch my dad play softball, goofing off on the pitcher’s mound or galloping around the bases like a kid.  Strange to think that that was 20 years ago.  The fact is, they’re getting older.  And while they’re both still doing great and keeping busy, they’re slowing down.  Through a daughter’s eyes…I can tell.  I know I can’t do anything about it, but I really don’t want the next 20 years to pass as quickly as the last have.  I need time to slow a bit, so I can savor every moment with my loved ones.

Rustic Apple Galette | Relishing It

Rustic Apple Galette | Relishing It

Rustic Apple Galette | Relishing It

It feels a bit strange to delve into such deep issues here on a food blog, but there it is.  I guess if there’s a tie-in to Relishing It, it’s that working in the kitchen soothes me.  It’s my balm, so to speak.  This week a kind neighbor offered up her gorgeous apple tree– free for the picking.  Aria and I gathered a huge box-ful, which I’ve turned into several apple galettes.  I’ve written before here about my love for galettes.  They’re perfect in that un-perfect, rustic way.  I like my apple desserts with just a hint of cinnamon and not much else.  I want to taste the apples.  I also like to add a drizzle of icing to apple galettes that I normally don’t with other fruits, since the apples don’t have that beautiful sheen that you get with a berry or peach galette.  The icing makes it look so much more appealing, and adds a subtle sweetness.  Enjoy!

Rustic Apple Galette | Relishing it

The Recipe:  Rustic Apple Galette

3 cups / 400 grams sliced firm tart apples (from 6 small apples)

3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice (from 1 small lemon)

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons cold butter, diced

1 egg mixed with 1 teaspoon water, for egg wash

1 tablespoon turbinado sugar, for sprinkling

1 cup powdered sugar with a splash of milk, for the glaze

1 single All-Butter Pie Crust

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Follow the instructions for making the All-Butter Pie Crust. After it has chilled for at least 2 hours, it will be ready for use.

Peel and slice, not too thick (so they bake properly) and not too thin (so they don’t turn to mush) the apples.  Place into a large bowl and toss with the lemon juice.  Then add the sugar, cinnamon, and salt.  Toss again.  Set aside.

Roll the pie dough out onto a piece of parchment paper.  Lightly dust parchment and rolling pin with flour.  Roll the pie dough into a 12-inch circle.  Place the apples and juices into the center.  Place the butter pieces on top of the apples.   Gently flip the edges over the apples.  Pinch the seams together as much as possible, to prevent leaking while baking.  Using a pastry brush, apply the egg wash to the dough.  Then sprinkle with turbinado sugar.  Gently pat down the apples so they are somewhat level– this will prevent the peaks from burning.

Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the crust is a beautiful golden brown and the apples are tender.  Keep an eye on the apples in the final minutes, so they don’t get too dark.  Remove from oven and let cool.  Mix the glaze to your desired consistency and drizzle over the galette when cool.  Enjoy!

Thanks for stopping by today!

Laurie

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Another Monday is here.  Another weekend blew past far too quickly.  I keep waiting for life to slow down– just a bit to let me catch my breath– but with two small children I’m trying to accept the fact that it’s not going to happen.  I know, I know.  It’s only going to get busier as they both grow and start school activities.  Even after a few years, I’m still trying to wrap my head around the pace of it all.  I think that is one of the reasons I enjoy being in my kitchen for those short stretches of free time.  It’s calm.  And I get to determine the speed of most things.  There’s a relaxing orderliness to cooking and baking that I can control.  Of course, it’s also rewarding to get to sit down at the dinner table with my family every night.  So those brief, tranquil cooking times in the kitchen have the added benefit of putting life into perspective.  It’s these little things that help paint the much bigger picture.

During one of my sabbaticals to the kitchen the other day, I made this soup.  I was interested by the fact that it combines two  atypical soup ingredients.  Apples and mustard.  Intriguing, eh?  I thought  it would all come together when I read about the smoked ham shank.  And my hunch was right, though that doesn’t do this recipe justice.  I figured it would be good, but I wasn’t prepared for just how delicious– and unique– this soup really is.  I’ve never had another with flavors even remotely similar to this one.  And that’s a good thing.  It wasn’t overly sweet, despite containing both apple cider and chopped apples.  As for the Dijon mustard– wow!  It’s the star here, adding a brilliant tang.  And though making the ham stock took a few steps, it was so worth it.  It’s a perfectly salted and smokey canvas for the other ingredients.  Once you have the stock prepared, the soup comes together in minutes, so it’s easy to prepare ahead of time.  If you get a chance to sneak away to your kitchen this week, make this soup.  I was so happy I did, and you will be too.

The Recipe: Smoked Ham Shank and Apple Soup with Dijon

(serves 4)

For the Stock:

1 1/2 pounds smoked ham shank

2 3/4 cups apple cider

3 cloves garlic, smashed

1/2 large white onion, rough chopped

For the Soup:

2 tablespoons olive oil

7-8 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice

5 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice

1 head garlic, peeled and chopped

1/2 large white onion, chopped

4-5 medium yellow potatoes, such as Yukon Gold, cut into 1/2-inch dice

2-3 tablespoons creamy Dijon mustard

3 tart apples, cored and peeled, cut into 1/2-inch dice

kosher salt and cracked pepper, to taste

To make the stock:  In a large stockpot or Dutch oven, combine the ham shank, 3 quarts water, apple cider, garlic cloves, and 1/2 white onion.  Simmer over medium heat for about 3 hours or until the ham is tender and falls off of the bone.  Remove the ham shank from the stockpot and place on a plate, pull the meat off of the bone and set aside; discard the bone.  Discard the garlic and onion.  Reserve the cooking liquid — you will need two quarts.  Skim the fat off of the ham stock using a ladle.  Discard the fat.

To make the soup:  Heat the olive oil in the Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the carrots, parsnips, onions, and garlic and cook a few minutes until soft and tender.  Add the potatoes, garlic, apples, ham, and reserved liquid and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 10-15 minutes.  Stir in the mustard and season with salt, if necessary.  Enjoy!

Source: Adapted from The Spotted Pig, New York City  via Darryl Estrine and Kelly Kochendorfer’s Harvest to Heat Cookbook

So glad that you stopped by Relishing It today — hope you enjoy this soup!

Laurie

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It’s finally apple season!  Both my children and I have done our best to make a dent in the local apple harvest over the last couple of weeks by chomping on several a day.  Minnesota’s own Honeycrisp has become our household favorite, though we’ve eaten more than our fair share of Zestars, Cortlands, and Sweet Tangos.  There are so many beautiful varieties available right now– both sweet and tart.  For me, apple season arrives just in time.  Aside from getting to take the kids out to the apple orchard for a nice Saturday event, it’s the signal that cool, crisp Autumn days are finally here.  And, to be honest, it shows up just when I think I can’t possibly eat another berry.  That’s one of the things I love about eating seasonally– just when I start to tire of one type of produce, another one comes along to freshen things up.

What you’re looking at is one of my favorites little treats– apple and white cheddar scones.  Think about that for a minute– apples and cheese.  Sweet and savory complimenting one another perfectly!  My taste buds have been craving these scones every morning, but my jeans remind me that it maybe isn’t such a good idea.  Moderation, right?   These scones are nicely tender on the inside.  While the firm, crusty exterior really gets that whole contrasting-textures thing right.  Each bite starts with a nice crunch, followed by a perfect, melt-in-your-mouth center.

I like to use a nice tart apple variety for these scones.  The recipe calls for white cheddar, though I’ve made them with regular cheddar and they’ve been just as tasty.   Another convenient thing about this recipe is that it makes a fairly small batch– just six scones.  Your jeans will be thankful for that.  You’ll want to eat these scones soon after they come out of the oven.  However, if you are unable to eat them all on the day they were made (this WILL NOT be a problem), just leave them out uncovered.  They will retain a bit more of their crunchiness that way.

The Recipe:  Apple and White Cheddar Scones

(Makes 6)

2 firm tart apples (about 1 pound, 454 grams), peeled, cored, and cut into sixteenths

1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (195 grams)

1/4 cup  granulated sugar (52 grams)

1/2 tablespoon baking powder (7.35 grams)

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (1 gram), plus extra for egg wash

6 tablespoons unsalted butter (85 grams) chilled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1/2 cup sharp white cheddar cheese (65 grams), shredded

1/4 cup heavy cream (57 grams)

2 large eggs (96 grams), at room temperature

2 teaspoons raw cane sugar  (this adds a nice crunch, substitute granulated sugar if you don’t have any)

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Position rack to center of the oven.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.  Place the cut apples  in a single layer onto the baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, or until they develop a little color and are dry to the touch.  Remove from oven and let cool.

Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together and set aside.

Place the chilled butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.  Add the apples, cheese, cream, and one of the eggs.  Add the flour mixture on top of everything and mix on low until the dough just comes together.  Do not overmix.

Liberally flour a work surface and place the dough on it.  Put a little flour onto your hands and gently flatten the dough into a 6-inch circle.  Make sure the dough is even throughout, so that it bakes evenly.  Cut the circle into 6 wedges and transfer them to a lined baking sheet.

In a small bowl, beat the remaining egg with a pinch of salt.  Brush the egg wash onto each scone and sprinkle with the raw sugar.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until they are firm and very golden.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool.  Enjoy!

Source:  Adapted from Bill Yoses and Melissa Clarks’s The Perfect Finish Cookbook

Thanks for stopping by today!

Laurie

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