Apple Crumble Bars
These Apple Crumble Bars are like your classic apple pie but without the effort of making an actual pie. It’s got a buttery cinnamon shortbread base, a layer of sweet juicy apples and topped with a crispy streusel. What more can you want? It might sound like there’s a lot of moving parts, but trust me, these apple crumble bars are thee simple apple dessert you’ve gotta make this fall!
A Note on Ingredients
We love a good 10 ingredient or less dessert, but when there’s so few ingredients here, it’s important to bring out the big guns. With fewer ingredients comes the opportunity for each ingredient to shine on their own. So they better be good! Namely, use your higher quality butter and the best apples you can find. When there’s fewer ingredients in a dish, you’ll be able to taste every ingredient, in a good and a bad way. If you start with bad apples, baking them here ain’t gonna change the flavor that much.
How to Make Apple Crumble Bars
Step 1: Cinnamon Sugar Shortbread Base
The base of this apple crumble bar is a sweet and tender cinnamon-spiced shortbread cookie. It’s crisp and light yet tender and buttery with just the right amount of sugar and spice.
It’s a really short list of ingredients and a simple set of steps. First cream together softened butter and sugar. Then mix in the flour, salt and cinnamon. It will be crumbly but keep mixing. If you’ve never made a shortbread base before, try to be patient. It’s gonna look like it’s not gonna work, like it’s not going to come together, but I promise it will work.
Once the mixture looks like moist wet sand, start to press it into a 9×9 inch pan. Use your hands or an offset spatula or the bottom of a measuring cup (dip it in flour first, though, to prevent sticking). Try to get it as even as you can and then bake for about 15 minutes. Baking the base by itself first helps prevent a soggy bottom.
Meanwhile, make the apple filling.
Step 2: Apple Filling
The Best Apples to Use in Baking
The key is to use apples that are sweet enough for your taste that will also somewhat hold their shape and texture after baking. My go-tos are honey crisp, gala and pink lady, but feel free to experiment with your favorite kinds. One thing you can do is taste the apple filling before baking to make sure it’s sweet enough for your taste. If not, just add another Tablespoon or two of brown sugar.
Once you have your apples of choice, thinly slice them and mix together with a little lemon juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar and salt. Mix well and let them sit for a few minutes.
After the shortbread has baked for about 15 minutes, tightly layer the apple slices into 1-2 layers. It doesn’t have to look perfect because it’s gonna be covered by streusel, so just try to get them all in there somewhat evenly. Bake for about 20 minutes.
In the meantime, make the streusel topping.
Step 3: Streusel Crumble Topping
This crumble streusel topping is what my dreams are made of. It’s amazing and it’s so simple. All it takes is flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and melted/very softened butter. Mix everything together until it starts to stick together in clumps when you squeeze it.
Sprinkle the topping evenly over the apple layer and bake for another 20-30 minutes until the topping is golden and crisp.
Pro Tip: Use One Bowl
To minimize dishes, which we love to do, use only one mixing bowl. First make the base, then add it to the baking dish. Then, make the apple filling in that same bowl and add it to the baking dish. Finally, make the crumble topping in that bowl and add it to the dish. And there ya have it – only one mixing bowl required!
Serving Apple Crumble Bars
Once the bars are done baking, let cool a little before slicing. They’ll firm up a bit as they cool. Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and maybe even a drizzle of salted caramel sauce!
To reheat, just pop one in the microwave for 15 seconds!
Thanks so much for stopping by! If you make this recipe or have any questions, let me know! Leave a comment below or tag me @annietortellini on Instagram!
Apple Crumble Bars
Cinnamon Shortbread Base
- ½ C butter softened
- ¼ C sugar
- 1 C flour
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 4 C apples sliced thin, about 2 apples
- 2 Tbs brown sugar
- 1 Tbs cornstarch
- 1 tsp each salt, nutmeg, cinnamon
- 1 Tbs lemon juice
Streusel Crumble Topping
- ½ C flour
- ½ C brown sugar
- 1 tsp each cinnamon, salt
- ½ C + 2 Tbs butter softened
- Preheat oven to 350°F and butter a 9x9 or 8x8 inch pan (or line with parchment paper.
- Make the base: Mix together ½ C softened butter and ¼ C sugar with a rubber spatula. Once vigorously combined, add 1 C flour and 2 tsp cinnamon and mix well. Press the dough down evenly and tightly into the prepared baking dish.Bake the base alone for about 15 minutes while preparing the apple filling in the next step.
- Make the apple filling: Add sliced apples, 2 Tbs brown sugar, 1 Tbs cornstarch, 1 Tbs lemon juice and 1 tsp each salt, cinnamon and nutmeg to the bowl used for the shortbread base. Mix gently but thoroughly. After the shortbread base has baked for 15 minutes, add the apple filling evenly onto the base and bake for another 15 minutes while preparing the streusel topping
- Make the streusel topping: To the same bowl used for the apple filling and shortbread base, add ½ C flour, ½ C brown sugar, 1 tsp each salt and cinnamon and ½ C softened butter. After the apple filling and shortbread has baked together for 15 minutes, add the streusel topping evenly on top. Bake for another 20-30 minutes, until the apples are soft and bubbling and the topping is crisp and golden brown. Let cool before slicing and enjoy with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!