I love those apple squares you get at the bakery. It's a pastry crust loaded with apples and a nice sweet glaze. Nothing fancy, but that's what makes it so good. You don't always need fancy.
A couple of days ago The Chef came home with a bunch of apples and asked me to make some baked apples. I wasn't very inspired by that and pretty much just let the apples sit while I tried to get motivated to bake them. After a couple of days I came to terms with the fact I was never going to bake them. So, what could I do with them? Finally it came to me... I could make the Apple Squares I love so much!
It's been so long since I had one that I couldn't really remember what exactly went into it so I got on the Internet to start researching. Good thing I did because the pastry crust is a pretty unique one. I would have just made a traditional sweet pastry crust, but it would've been off the mark and I probably wouldn't have been able to figure out why. The crust is in fact a yeast raised dough. Once I tasted it I was thrilled because it was dead on!
Like so many baked goods there are a million recipes floating around, but the one that seemed to keep coming up was from the King Arthur Flour catalogue. I read over several different blogs that all referenced that particular recipe, so I decided not to reinvent the wheel and used that one, with just a few minor changes. I assumed I would make it once and see where it was wrong and then correct it and make it again. Not so... it was spot on! It really tasted just like the squares I've gotten at the bakery, but as an added bonus, not only did I get to eat a tasty pastry, but my house smelled wonderful!
The key to making this successfully is to be really organized. There are a lot of steps and you need to prepare the different components. Once you've got all your components ready it's a snap to put it together. Making the whole thing start to finish took me about two hours of pretty consistent work, so you do need a chunk of time to get it finished.
I used eight medium sized Granny Smith apples, but you could easily increase the quantity of apples if you want the square to be really loaded. Other good additions would be some raisins, craisins or dried cherries. You could probably cheat and save yourself some time by using prepared apple pie filling, but keep in mind that those apples tend to be a little mushier and one of the things that makes the Apple Squares so good is that the apples stay fairly crisp. I've never tried with the canned apples, so I can't give them a thumbs up or thumbs down.
yield: 18" x 13" pan
- 1/2 C Milk, warm
- 2 Eggs
- 2 t Yeast, instant
- 4 C All-purpose Flour
- 1 t Salt
- 8 oz Butter, cold, cut into pieces
- In a small bowl, beat the eggs and milk together, and set aside
- In a large bowl, combine the yeast, flour, and salt
- Cut in the butter with a mixer (or you could use a pastry blender or two knives) until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs
- Add the egg/milk mixture, stirring until a soft dough forms
- Divide the dough in half, form into thin rectangles, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for about 30 minutes
- 3/4 C Sugar, granulated
- 1/2 C All-purpose flour
- 1/4 t Salt
- 2 t Cinnamon, ground
- 10 C (about 3 lbs before peeling) Tart cooking apples; peeled, cored & very thinly sliced
- In a small bowl, combine together the sugar, flour, salt, and cinnamon; set aside
- 3 C Powdered sugar
- 6 T Milk
- 2 t Vanilla Extract
- In a bowl, combine the sugar, milk, and vanilla until smooth; set aside
Putting it all together:
- Lightly grease a 13 x 18-inch baking pan
- Cut a piece of parchment paper the size of the 1/2 sheet pan; remove one portion of the refrigerated dough and roll it over the parchment paper into a rectangle (the dough will be fairly thin); transfer the dough to the prepared baking pan by flipping it over into the pan and gently peeling the parchment off, then smoothing the dough where it needs it and working the dough up the sides of the pan
- Spread the apples over the dough being sure they are level and not domed, then sprinkle with the sugar mixture
- Roll out the remaining dough and place it over the top of the apples; pinch the edges together; cut steam vents in the top
- Gently brush the top with melted butter and cover with plastic wrap lightly, and let rise in a cool place for about 1 hour
- Towards the end of the rise, preheat the oven to 350 F
- Bake the pastry for approximately 25 to 30 minutes, until it’s golden brown; remove from the oven and cool on a rack for 20 minutes
- Drizzle glaze over the cooled bars; let cool completely; cut into squares