Would you just take a look at that bar! Look at all those beautiful apples peeking out from a blanket of crisp topping, filled with brown sugar, oats, and cinnamon. Then there's the brown sugar shortbread, which is swoon-worthy all on its own. That's three layers of fall bliss right there, my friends.
I don't know about you, but fall baking is in full effect in my kitchen. Temps are starting to get cooler, I've had my first pumpkin coffee of the season, and already dreaming about Halloween cakes! Most importantly I can't get enough of apples, and I wanted to create a dessert that really highlighted them to kick off fall baking. This bar hits all the right notes, and I don't know if it's good or bad, but I can't stop eating them!
The first step in this bar is to make the crisp topping. Between the oats, brown sugar, and cinnamon, it is definitely a staple for the fall season. I highly suggest you make a big batch of it and keep it in the freezer. This way whenever you want to make these, a classic crisp, or the beloved Apple Crisp Cheesecake Bars, you're set.
Next up is the brown sugar shortbread crust. This stuff is ridiculous, and please know I mean that in the best way possible. I mean shortbread is fantastic to begin with, but the brown sugar gives it a warmth that screams fall.
Last up is the apple compote. This is a another recipe you will always go back to, and so good on its own that I had to make it several times :) I posted the before photo on Instagram last week, and the shot below is the after. When you let a vanilla bean get cozy with some apples, you will get unbelievable flavor, and check out all those pretty specks!
The most important thing when making this is to make sure your apples are all cut the same size so they cook evenly. I also want to mention that the type of apples you use will make a big difference. I've made this the bars with a few different varieties throughout the years and granny smith is the one you need to go with. The tartness adds a brilliant brightness to these bars.
Finally, you put it all together and send it off into the oven where everyone can get to know each other. About 25 minutes later your whole house will smell of cinnamon vanilla goodness. The shortbread is warm, buttery, and flaky. The apples take on even more flavor as they bake, and the crisp topping provides the perfect crunch to finish it all off. Paired with a cup of coffee or apple cider, this a great treat to welcome fall. The only question now is who will get the last piece?
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup rolled oats
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/3 cup unsalted butter, cold
Brown Sugar Shortbread Base
- 8 ounces unsalted butter, room temp
- 3/4 cup light brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp. bourbon
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 4lbs. granny smith apples - I used 9 good sized apples
- 1 tbsp. lemon juice
- 3/4 cup water
- 8.5 ounces sugar
- 1/2 vanilla bean
- Stir dry ingredients together in a bowl.
- Cut in butter with your fingers until you have pea sized pieces.
- Store in fridge until ready to use.
Brown Sugar Shortbread Base
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
- Spray 9 x 13" pan with nonstick spray, line with parchment paper, and spray with nonstick again.
- Cream butter, sugar, and salt until light and fluffy.
- Add vanilla and bourbon.
- Mix in flour just until combined.
- Press dough into pan and chill until firm.
- Bake for about 25 minutes, rotating halfway through.
- Peel and cut apples and place in saucepan with water, lemon juice, sugar, and vanilla bean. Make sure the your pot is big enough.
- Bring to a boil (this is just to dissolve the sugar) then drop the heat to medium low and pop a lid on it. Stir every so often to make sure that apples are cooking evenly.
- When apples start to get translucent, it's done. This should take 17-20 minutes.If you let them cook longer, they will get mushy.
- Remove from heat and allow to cool. Strain before assembling bars.
- Increase oven temperature to 350 degrees.
- Place apple compote on top of cooled shortbread crust. Please make sure you strain the apples first making sure there is no liquid and remove the vanilla bean.
- Sprinkle crisp topping evenly over apples.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes.
- Allow to cool completely in pan.
- Make a big batch of crisp topping and keep it in the freezer. You'll be set to make bars and crisps all season.
- Allow the bars to cool completely in the pan before you remove them!
- I suggest chilling the bars overnight before you cut them if you can wait that long.