Apple Breakfast Bars

Makes 12

Music Pairing: Apple Suckling Tree by Bob Dylan

If you’re pressed for time, or not crazy about apples, then skip making the filling and swap in 1/2 cup (132 grams) of pre-made jam or preserves. The last time I made these, I didn’t realize I’d run out of flax seeds, so I swapped in sesame seeds. It’s not the same nutritional value or health benefit, but they were still yummy.

Before you ask why there’s no cinnamon in the filling, I’ll cut to the chase and tell you. Most of the world thinks apples and cinnamon are a perfect marriage of flavors. I’m not in that camp. Decades went by before I realized this was also the reason I detested most apple pies. Virginia and I are in complete agreement on this, which doesn’t surprise me since she’s my mini-me. That said, everyone else who tasted the cinnamon version LOVED them, so if you feel inclined go ahead and add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon to the filling while it’s cooking. Personally, I love the pure, bright flavors of the apple alone, but if I had to choose a spice to pair with the filling, then it would be allspice, so that’s another option, too.

For the filling:

1 tablespoon (14 grams) butter

3 apples (345 grams), peeled, cored and thinly sliced

1 tablespoon (12 grams) granulated natural cane sugar

Pinch of fleur de sel

Wedge of lemon

For the crust & topping:

1 cup (150 grams) whole wheat pastry flour

1 cup (95 grams) old-fashioned oats

1/4 cup (54 grams) packed brown sugar

1 tablespoon (10 grams) flax seeds

Pinch of fleur de sel

8 tablespoons (112 grams) butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line an 8-inch square pan with a piece of parchment paper large enough to cover the bottom and come up, over the sides.

To make the filling, melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the apples, sugar, and salt, and stir to make sure the apples are well coated. Squeeze the lemon over the pan to release it’s juices into the filling; stir to combine. At this point the apple mixture should be bubbling. Reduce the heat to low, and let the apples simmer until they are very tender, and broken down (similar to a very chunky applesauce), 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

Meanwhile, get started on the crust and topping. Add the flour, oats, sugar, flax seeds and salt to a deep bowl. Whisk to combine. Pour in the melted butter, and using a fork, stir until it becomes a wet, sandy-looking mixture, and the dry ingredients have fully absorbed the butter. Divide the mixture in half.

Press half the flour and oat mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Spread the apple filling into an even layer on top. Sprinkle the remaining flour and oat mixture evenly over the filling. Use your fingers to gently press the topping into the filling.

Bake for 45 minutes, until the top is deep golden, and the filling is gently bubbling through cracks in the topping. Remove from the oven, and let cool completely in the pan set on a wire rack. If you left enough overhang on your parchment paper, you should be able to hold the ends of it to lift the bars from the pan. Cut them into 12 equal rectangles, or smaller bite-sized pieces if you prefer. Store bars in a covered container at room temperature for up to 5 days.