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~ Apple What? Bars, Blondies, Brownies? Squares!!! (Pennsylvania Dutch-Style Apple-Streusel Squares) ~

IMG_3951Where I grew up, these were called apple squares -- a lesser known but very popular and delicious apple dessert in Pennsylvania Deutsch country (the land of apple desserts).  Lots of women made them.  I liken them to a moist and crumbly cross between a Jewish apple cake and a German apple-streusel coffee cake.  Recently, I've seen them referred to as apple blondies and apple brownies, but, unless my "cheese has slid off my cracker" they have little to do with either:  A brownie is made with chocolate and a blondie is a brownie made with butterscotch instead of chocolate.  I can almost buy into them being called bars, because they can be cut into bar shapes, but, classic bars are more cookie-like, with the ingredients being layered in the pan. These are made with a super-thick batter, lots of apples, nuts and topped with buttery streusel.

Mine is not a recipe you will find in a cookbook.  These are:

IMG_3950Nana's Pennsylvania Deutsch-Style Apple-Streusel Squares!

IMG_3765A bit about the cake pans I use to bake bars, blondies, brownies and squares in:  Square pans produce squares.  Period.  This set of professional cake pans have square corners too, which produces perfect squares.  The four pictured here are  8" x 8" x 2"; 10" x 10" x 2"; 12" x 12" x 2", and; 14" x 14" x 2".  

Everyone knows how important the casserole size is when cooking:  2-quart, 3-quart, 4-quart, etc., affects IMG_3774the quantity you prepare, how the food cooks and the end result.  

Pan size is even more important when baking. Always use the size the recipe instructs.  I am using a 10" x 10" x 2" pan.  A smaller pan will make the dessert too thick, a larger pan will make the dessert too thin.  Substituting the pan size will affect the baking time and the end result as well.  If you want apple squares that look and taste like mine, use the pan I tell you to use!

IMG_3783Note:  The closest size pan to the 10" x 10" square, and is common to most home kitchens too, is the 9" x 13" pan.  I give you permission to bake apple squares in it.

IMG_3778A standard piece of bakers parchment is 12" wide x 16 1/2" long. Cut it to 10" x 16 1/2" and fit it into the bottom of the pan, then, fold the two overlapping sides over each lip of the pan.  This makes it easy to lift the entire dessert out of the pan after it has cooled.  In the case of these apple squares, this is a big advantage when it comes time to cut and serve them in a pretty and presentable manner because of their super-moist, slightly-crumbly nature.

Now it's time to bake some Dutch-apple happiness:

IMG_3823For the batter:

1 1/2  sticks salted butter, at room temperature, very soft

1 1/4  cups sugar

2  large eggs, at room temperature

3/4  teaspoon apple extract

3/4  teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/4  cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 1/2  teaspoons baking powder

3/4  teaspoon sea salt

1 1/2  teaspoons ground cinnamon

4  cups peeled and diced Granny Smith apples, about 3 apples

1 1/4  cups coarsely-chopped pecans or walnuts

6a0120a8551282970b01538fc60d89970bFor the streusel topping:

6  tablespoons salted butter, cold, sliced or cut into cubes

1/2  cup sugar

1/2  cup flour

1/2  cup old-fashioned, uncooked oats

1  teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4  teaspoon ground cloves

Note:  This is a great all-purpose streusel topping for fruit pies too!

IMG_3810 IMG_3790~ Step 1. Prepare the streusel topping first. Place all ingredients, as listed, in a medium bowl.  

IMG_3796Using a pastry blender and a knife, "cut" the mixture into coarse, pea-sized crumbs.  Set aside while preparing the batter.

IMG_3831~ Step 2. To prepare the batter, place the butter, sugar, eggs and extracts in a large bowl.

IMG_3838On medium-high speed of hand-held electric mixer, cream the ingredients until light in color, about 3 minutes.  

On low speed of mixer, fold in flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.

IMG_3845 IMG_3841Mixture should be smooth and uniform in color.

Step 3.  Using a large rubber spatula, fold in the diced apples and chopped nuts.

IMG_3852Transfer this very thick mixture to prepared baking pan.

IMG_3856~ Step 4.  Using the back of the spatula (or a spoon) evenly distribute the batter into the pan.  If using a square-cornered pan, be sure it's worked into the corners.

IMG_3870~ Step 5. Using a large spoon, evenly distribute all of the streusel topping over the top.

IMG_3907 IMG_3873~ Step 6. Bake on center rack of preheated 350 degree oven 38-40 minutes, or until golden brown on the top, pulling slightly away from the sides of the pan and a cake tester comes out clean.

Remove from oven, place pan on a cooling rack and cool completely, in pan, about 3 hours or overnight.

IMG_3925~ Step 7.  When the uncut apple square has cooled completely, firmly grip the parchment paper "handles" and gently lift it out of the pan.  This is hard to explain, but:  as you lift, widen the stance of your hands, to keep the parchment as taut and flat under the square as possible.  If you lift straight up, the parchment will bend under the weight of the square, causing it to crack.

Picture-perfect square corners for picture-perfect squares!

IMG_3920~ Step 8.  Use a serrated knife to carefully cut into sixteen squares -- these are delicate, take your time.  These are not a pick-up-and-eat treat. These are a super-moist, slightly-crumbly, place-on-a-plate and eat-with-a-fork dessert.  For me, sixteen makes for the perfect portions:

IMG_3944Ice cream is nice:

IMG_3971Dare to be square!

IMG_3977Apple What?  Bars, Blondies, Brownies? Squares! (Pennsylvania Dutch-Style Apple-Streusel Squares:  Recipes yields 16 dessert-sized squares.

Special Equipment List:  pastry blender; paring knife; hand-held electric mixer; rubber spatula; 10" x 10" x 2" baking pan, preferably a square-sided professional cake pan; parchment paper; cake tester or toothpick; cooling rack; serrated knife

PICT1106Cook's Note:  To find out who "Nana" was in my life, and get another one of her fabulous recipes, click into Categories 6 or 19 for, ~ Nana's Applesauce-Oatmeal-Raisin-Walnut Cake~ (made with Nana's  homemade applesauce of course)!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014)


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