Apple-pear dessert bars

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I have had an exhausting and emotionally draining few weeks, so I turned to baking this weekend to cheer myself up. Baking is the perfect recovery activity: it allows me to focus on something that is both time and attention consuming and unrelated to work and personal life. Plus, I get to eat afterwards. I may have eaten too much this weekend, however. I am now on sugar detox.

These apple-pear bars were my best product. The recipe is from The Good Cookie, with a couple very small changes. I am producing it in sections, since there are several different steps.

Apple-pear dessert bars

Crust

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I always use unbleached, but either is fine)
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2-3 teaspoons ice water (I used 1.5—start with 1 and add more if necessary)
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions for crust:

  1. Position rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease the bottom of a 9-inch square pan.
  2. Place flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and process until blended. Scatter the butter pieces over the flour mixture and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 6 seconds.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk egg yolk, 1 tsp water, and vanilla. With the food processor running, add the yolk mixture through the opening and process until the dough begins to come together in large clumps, 15-20 seconds (add more water as needed, but be careful to keep dough crumbly—this makes the crust nice and flaky).
  4. Scrape the dough into the prepared pan and press the dough evenly into the bottom of the pan. Bake 20-25 minutes.
  5. Cool completely before adding other pieces of the recipe. Leave the oven on at same temperature for later baking.

**NOTE: If using a dark pan, bake at a lower temperature (@325 degrees) and at the lower end of the time range. The crust should be slightly browning around the edges, and fairly light in the middle.

Filling

  • 2 Granny Smith apples
  • 1 pear
  • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons frozen juice concentrate
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons pear brandy
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown butter

Instructions for filling:

  1. Peel and core the apples and pear, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and place in a medium bowl. Add lemon juice, apple concentrate, cornstarch, and pear brandy and toss to combine.
  2. In a large skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add the sugar and cook, stirring constantly until any lumps of sugar are broken up.
  3. Add the apple mixture and bring to a boil. Cook for 5 minutes, or until the apples are softened on the outside but still crunchy on the inside. Transfer to a medium bowl and set aside to cool.

Topping

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Instructions for topping:

  1. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, sugars, cinnamon, and salt until well blended.
  2. Add the melted butter and mix with a fork, stirring until the dry ingredients are fully incorporated and mixture is uniformly moistened.

Sour cream mixture

  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cups chopped raisins

Instructions for sour cream mixture:

  1. In a small bowl, whisk the egg until blended.
  2. Whisk in the sour cream, cinnamon, salt, and raisins.

Assembly:

  1. Pour the sour cream mixture into the cooled apple and pear mixture, and stir to combine.
  2. Spread evenly over the crust.
  3. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the filling. Press down lightly with your hand.
  4. Bake the bars for 35 to 40 minutes, until golden brown and set (again, you may need a lower temperature and less time for a dark pan—I kept my oven at 325 and baked for 30 minutes).
  5. Cool the bars completely in the pan, set on a wire rack. This may take a few hours. Be patient, because they will not retain their shape until completely cooled (even then, they will remain soft, but they should take on a bar shape if handled carefully).
  6. Cut the bars into 16 squares. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar before serving.

Voila! They do take some time investment, but they are worth it.

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