Apple Spice Bars

Yesterday I went apple picking for the first time this season, and while it was a touch early for some of the varieties I like to have on hand, I managed to stock up on one of my all-time favorites: the McIntosh. There’s just something about McIntosh apples that I really like. I could sit there and munch on them all day, especially if I have a nice jar of peanut butter on hand. But if there’s one thing I absolutely love about McIntosh apples, it’s the fact that they’re the perfect addition to many of my favorite fall baking recipes, including these apple spice bars.

This recipe really embraces all the wonderful flavors of fall. You’ve got cinnamon, nutmeg, and brown sugar combining with fresh, juicy apples to form one of the most perfect concoctions you could ever imagine. If you decide to make them, do yourself a favor and spend some time in your kitchen while these babies are baking up. You’ll be overwhelmed by the warm, comforting aroma of spices as you stand there anticipating how good they’ll taste fresh out of the oven.

Of course, you’ll need to wait a little while to let your bars cool. And you should be warned that once they’re ready, you may have a hard time eating just one. I find that these soft, moist cake bars pair perfectly with a nice warm beverage, be it a strong cup of coffee or a mug of chai or herbal tea. And if you happen to be lucky enough to taste them while they’re still slightly warm, you’ll pretty much be in heaven.


Apple Spice Bars
Recipe very slightly adapted from Beantown Baker


2 cups AP flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled to room temp
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla
2 cups diced and peeled McIntosh apples
Brown sugar for topping, optional


1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×13 baking pan and set aside.
2. In medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and spices.
3. In a large bowl, combine the sugars and butter. Whisk thoroughly until well-combined. (Note: The original recipe suggests using a stand mixer. I didn’t want to bust mine out, and the power whisk method worked just fine for me.)
4. Add eggs, one at a time, beating or whisking well to combine. Add vanilla extract and mix thoroughly.
5. Fold in the flour mixture a little at a time until just combined. Stir in apples and mix well.
6. Spread the batter into your prepared pan and sprinkle the top with brown sugar.
7. Bake for 30 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. The top should be very slightly browned and springy.
8. Remove the bars from the oven and let them cool completely in their pan. Since they’re very soft, I recommend being patient and waiting a good two hours before cutting and serving. However, feel free to keep walking over and smelling them as they cool. It’ll be somewhat torturous, but trust me, the aroma is all part of the experience.

Vanilla Cardamom Shortbread Bars with White Chocolate Caramel Glaze

Just when it seemed like the weather was finally starting to get a bit warmer around here, bam—another cold front hit. Okay, it wasn’t exactly a cold front, but after several days of temps in the 60s and 70s (you know, actual spring weather), it went back down to the low 50s with a vengeance. Now I realize that 52 degrees isn’t actually freezing. But throw in cloudy, gray skies, a bout of rain, and, oh yeah, the fact that it’s late April, and all it took was a couple of cooler days to make me want to curl up in a blanket the moment I put the child to bed.

Of course, no couch potato moment would be truly complete without something freshly baked to accompany it, and so I decided to whip up some shortbread cookie bars. The base is very similar to that of the Samoa bars I made last week, only it incorporates a bunch of fall spices that jack up the flavor and work well with the caramel and white chocolate topping.

Now I have to say, I really love the way these babies turned out. But more so than that, they smelled absolutely amazing while they were baking up. Had I been able to somehow capture the smell and mass-produce a line of household products and candles to feature it, I would’ve found myself sitting on a goldmine. But alas, all I could do was enjoy the sweet aroma of vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom wafting through the air as the rain kept rapping against my windows and the wind howled in protest of spring.


Vanilla Cardamom Shortbread Bars with White Chocolate Caramel Glaze


For the shortbread cookie base:
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 large egg
1 and 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 cups Ap flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg

For the topping:
1/2 cup Kraft caramel bits (or a half cup’s worth Kraft caramel candies, unwrapped)
1 tbsp whole milk
1/2 cup white chocolate, melted


To make the shortbread cookie base:
1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking pan, or line with parchment paper.
2. Cream together sugar and butter until fluffy.
3. Beat in egg and vanilla extract.
4. Gradually beat in flour, salt, and spices at low speed until mixture is crumbly.
5. Pour crumbly dough into prepared pan and press into an even layer.
6. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until base is set and edges are lightly browned.
7. Cool completely on a wire rack before adding the topping.

To make the topping:
1. Combine caramel bits, milk, and white chocolate in a medium bowl.
2. Heat in the microwave for 30-second increments at 50% power, stirring the mixture in between. You’ll find that the caramel will melt before the white chocolate, so it’s important to keep stirring. When the white chocolate is mostly melted, vigorously whisk the mixture together to eliminate the lumps.
3. Drizzle the mixture over the shortbread base.
4. Allow to set in the fridge for an hour before cutting into bars.