I am terrible at rolling out pie dough. No matter what I do, it inevitably resembles an irregular land mass of jagged edges and jutting peninsulas. "No one's pie crust is perfect," my mom reassured me, when I called to bemoan my latest attempt. "Mine certainly never are!" But the thing is, I've seen my mom roll out pie dough. She ends up with a mostly-round oval, approximately the same size as the pie pan. I end up with a Rorschach ink blot that is mis-sized in every possible dimension.
I deal with this shortcoming by only making single crust pies, so that the filling hides my Frankenstein's monster patchwork job where I had to trim off dough in some spots to fill gaps in others (see: Maple Walnut Cranberry Pie, Chocolate Layer Pie). Or, if I'm making a pan of apple bars, I trim off the edges before cutting the finished bars and no one is the wiser. And all those discarded edges with not enough crust and overcooked apples, sticky with pooled cinnamon glaze? They taste great with vanilla ice cream.
This apple bar recipe is adapted from my mom, and her genius trick is to sprinkle a layer of crushed cornflakes on the bottom crust before adding the filling. The cornflakes soak up the juices from the filling, preserving the structural integrity of bottom crust and making the bars sturdy enough to eat out of hand. If you don't have cornflakes, my mom has successfully substituted Wheaties.
For the filling, I used Haralson apples. They're a tart, crisp baking apple, and if you use a sweeter apple you will want to decrease the amount of sugar in the filling. Also, I misread the crust instructions--instead of using water, my mom's original recipe calls for you to add enough milk to the yolk to equal 2/3 cup of liquid. My version seemed to work well, so that's what I've included below.
- 6 1/2 cups peeled, sliced tart apples (about 6 medium apples)
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 1/2 cup flour
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup shortening
- 1 egg, divided
- 1 cup cornflakes
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Combine apples, 1 cup sugar, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon in a large bowl. Mix until apples are evenly coated with sugar and cinnamon.
Combine the flour, 1 tablespoon sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Cut in the shortening using a pastry blender or fork until mixture resembles wet sand. Add the egg yolk (reserve white) and 1/2 cup water and mix until a stiff dough forms, adding an additional 1-2 tablespoons water if needed. Divide the dough in half.
Roll out half the dough into a 10 inch by 15 inch rectangle. Press dough into a 10 inch by 15 inch baking pan, trimming any excess dough and using it to fill any gaps. Crush handfuls of cornflakes and sprinkle them over the dough.
Pour the prepared apple filling over the bottom crust. Roll out remaining dough and place it over the filling, trimming any excess dough and using it to fill any gaps. Beat egg white until foamy and brush over the top crust.
Bake for 45 minutes, or until golden-brown.
Combine the powdered sugar, vanilla, and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon in a small bowl. Add 1-2 tablespoons of water and beat until smooth. Drizzle glaze over bars while they are still warm.
Allow bars to cool completely before cutting. Store cooled bars tightly covered in refrigerator.