I have an old, weathered folder filled with hundreds of recipes. Pages torn from magazines, photocopies from the local newspaper food section and borrowed cookbooks, and printouts from various websites collected over the years are all crammed into this one folder. It's my recipe to-do list and it grows longer and longer every day. And that doesn't even include all the recipes I've flagged in my cookbooks and magazines or the recipes I copied and pasted from other food blogs and recipe sites.
I know I should just scan all the contents of this folder and store them electronically, but I like holding on to these sheets of paper. I have notes handwritten in the margins and some have pictures scotch-taped to them so I can see what the finished product is supposed to look. Sure, these things can be preserved in electronic form, but what about the smudge I left when I picked up the recipe with cake batter on my fingers? Or the crease from when I folded the recipe so it could fit in my purse? Each sheet is like a tiny sensory cue which dots the landscape that is my past. It's quite amazing that something so simple can remind me of people, places, and feelings.
To keep my folder manageable, I go through and purge every once in awhile. After all, this folder can only hold a finite amount. I throw out recipes I've tried but don't want to make again. I've found that most of the ones I keep are from my college years. I have fond memories from that time in my life. I was carefree and the world seemed full of opportunities, choices, and possibilities. A woman I worked with on campus brought these almond apple bars to the office one day and told me it won a blue ribbon at the county fair. She was gracious enough to share her award winning recipe with me. I've been holding on to this recipe for years, but I finally got around to making it. The bars were as good as I remembered.
Almond Apple Bars
(makes one 9x9 inch square pan)
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp kosher salt (or 1/4 tsp table salt)
3 ounces cream cheese, softened at room temp.
2 ounces (4 tbsp) unsalted butter, softened at room temp.
1/4 tsp pure almond extract
1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup almonds, finely chopped
2 tbsp all purpose flour
2 tbsp granulated sugar
2 tbsp light brown sugar
1/4 cup almonds, coarsely chopped
5 ounces cream cheese, softened at room temp.
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
pinch of salt
2-3 medium (~ 1 lb) Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored & cut into thin slices
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9x9 inch square baking pan with parchment. Butter the parchment.
To make the crust:
Sift flour and salt. Set aside dry ingredients.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter on medium speed until smooth, about 1-2 minutes. Add the almond and vanilla extracts and beat on medium until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the granulated and brown sugars and beat on medium speed until blended, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice.
On low speed, mix in the flour-salt mixture and the 1/3 cup of finely chopped almonds just until the dough comes together. It should be crumbly.
Reserve about 2/3 cup of the crust mixture (for the topping). Press the remaining dough evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Prick the dough all over with a fork. Bake until light golden, about 16-18 minutes. Remove crust from the oven.
To make the topping:
While the crust bakes, make the topping by adding the flour, granulated and brown sugars to the reserved dough. Mix until well combined. It should be crumbly. Set aside topping and 1/4 cup coarsely chopped almonds while you make the filling.
To make the filling:
In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg, lemon juice and salt until well mixed.
Arrange the apple slices over your baked crust. Pour the cream cheese filling over the apples and gently spread the filling to cover. Crumble the topping over the filling. Sprinkle with the almonds.
Bake until light golden brown, about 45-50 minutes. Let the bars cool in the pan for about 30 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely on a cooling rack before cutting.