These Apple Almond Shortbread Bars are intensely buttery, not too sweet and loaded with apples. This recipe is super easy and perfect for fall!
I can’t believe it’s October already, and I can’t believe I say that every single year. This summer FLEW, and it didn’t help that this was one of the rainiest, crappiest Septembers I can remember. While we did miss out on what’s usually our favorite month of the year, all that wet weather means we’ll likely be in for some really beautiful fall foliage. I’ll take it.
With October comes a huge shift in our eating habits. For the past two months we’ve been eating heavily from the garden and supplementing with the bounty of locally grown produce. Now, those fruits and vegetables are beginning to dwindle, and we’re moving towards heartier fare: Starchy roots and pumpkins, soups, stews, braises and baked goods that fill the kitchen with warmth and cinnamon.
I’m not mad about it. Once upon a time I entered this month kicking and screaming, mourning the lost summer days and downright pissed that I had to spend most of the daylight in school. Now, I breathe a sigh of relief as the days shorten, the sun sinks lower in the sky, and the landscape takes on a more golden hue. Bring on the sweaters and all the cozy feels. I’m sick of running the air conditioner and downright exhausted from the endless summer activities.
Ever year at our last farmer’s market of the season on Labor Day Weekend, I always buy up a bunch of apples even though I’m never ready for them. They sit in my fridge for at least a few weeks, and sometimes I completely forget about them until I’m cleaning out my crisper drawer. That’s what happened the other day, and I was craving something sweet, so a little baking was in order.
I’d been making fruit crisps, cakes and clafoutis all summer long, so I wanted to make something different to help usher in fall. I decided to do a riff on this Apricot Pistachio Tart by swapping in apples for apricots, almonds for pistachios, and making it into bars rather than a tart. This recipe is quickly becoming one of my favorite desserts ever, because it’s really easy to throw together (seriously!), can be adapted to so many different flavor combinations, and most importantly, it’s unbelievably good.
The shortbread crust is intensely buttery, barely sweet, and a just little bit salty. Then comes the almond layer, in the form of something called frangipane. It sounds ultra fancy and complicated because, you know, it’s French. But that really couldn’t be farther from the truth. Frangipane is essentially a pastry filling made from almonds, eggs, sugar and butter. It’s so simple to make, and tastes like heaven. The classic version is made with almonds, but you can really make it with any nut you want.
The frangipane gets spread on top of the shortbread crust, and then pieces of fruit – in this case, apples – get tucked in on top. The goal is always to create a pretty pattern, but in typical Coley fashion I spazzed out at the last minute and kinda screwed that up. I thought I’d be able to make a 3rd row of the fanned out apples, but then they didn’t fit, so I panicked and, well… you can see how that panned out. I kept the photos in here to remind you that I do, in fact, mess things up (quite often). Here’s the thing, once you slice these into squares, the arrangement of the apples no longer matters. Once you take a bite, you’ll realize the only thing that matters is how delicious they taste.
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These Apple Almond Shortbread Bars are buttery, not too sweet and loaded with apples. This impressive recipe is so much easier than it looks! Makes 9 big bars (pictured) or 16 smaller bars.
For the Crust:
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ cup (1 stick) butter, cut into pieces, plus more for buttering the pan
For the Filling:
- ¾ cup sliced or slivered almonds, lightly toasted
- 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ cup, plus 2 tablespoons sugar
- 5 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 apples, any variety (granny smith would be particularly nice), cored and thinly sliced or diced
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8×8″ pan with parchment paper.
- To make the crust, add the flour, sugar and salt to the bowl of a food processor and pulse once to combine. Add the butter, then process until the mixture comes together and forms large clumps, about 30 seconds to one minute. Distribute the dough around the pan and press it evenly around the base and up the sides. Use the bottom of a glass to help even it out if needed. Bake for 15 minutes, until lightly golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before filling.
- To make the filling, don’t bother cleaning out the food processor and add the almonds, sugar, flour and salt, then pulverize until they form a fine powder. Add the butter and process until evenly distributed, then add the egg and vanilla, and blend until smooth.
- Pour the filling into the cooled crust (it’s okay if it’s still a little warm, just not blazing hot) and spread it out into an even layer. Arrange the apple slices in a pretty pattern if you desire, or just throw the sliced or diced apples on top in a big (even) heap – it doesn’t really matter.
- Bake for one hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the filling comes out clean. Allow bars to cool completely before cutting and serving. I prefer them chilled (and they’re easier to cut that way too).
Keywords: apples, frangipane, bars, cookies, baked, fall, apple dessert, almonds, shortbread