The Essence

Living and growing a family in the North awards you with a real and tangible connection to the land. As a mother of 5 and as a home baker and wannabe chef, it is this connection that seeps into everything - motherhood, food, harvesting, and experiencing the very heartbeat of the bit of earth that sustains us.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Mennonite Apple Bars

It's funny that most of my posts thus far have been about cooking and dinners - as mostly I consider myself a baker. I cook dinner out of an obligation to feed my family good homemade food, but I bake because I love to measure ingredients into a bowl, I love to cream sugar into butter and knead soft dough into billowy rolls. I love to ice cakes, I love the look of a grid of cookies on their sheet, I love to crimp the edge of my pie into wavy corners. One of my favourite pastimes is to sit quietly with a coffee, flipping the pages of one of my cookbooks.
There is great pleasure in curling up with a good book, being immersed in its pages, but once it's done there is sometimes a feeling of sadness, a sense of being a bit cheated because the story is over. I rarely read a book twice, even a good book.
Except when it comes to cookbooks. You can go back to cookbooks again and again, and it's like your reading them for the first time. You discover a recipe you swear wasn't there before, or you learn a method you must have skipped over during the first read. For me, there is almost nothing I look forward to more than a mail day after I've received the notification from Canada Post in my inbox. I have a lot of cookbooks. And I've read them all cover to cover - at least twice.
I'm always on the lookout for an interesting new cookbook, and if I'm invited into your kitchen you might see my eyes searching your shelves, seeking out the spot where your cookbooks might be stored. My sweet friend Kirsten always has some new finds when I visit her kitchen and the following recipe for Apple Bars comes from a cookbook I perused while sitting on a bar stool at her countertop. I went right home and ordered it off Amazon.
Kirsten lives in Chilliwack and gets to be friends with the rather large Mennonite community there. Sometimes I think I might make a good Mennonite. Anyway, she met a couple neat ladies who were part of a group who made a cookbook that became a national best seller. Never pass up a cookbook written by Mennonites, especially one that is a national best seller. Kirsten bought it, of course, and so now I have it.
This recipe for Apple Bars is slightly adapted from Lovella Schellenbergs recipe in "Mennonite Girls can Cook".

Into the bowl of your KitchenAid, combine 21/2 cups of flour and 1 tsp of salt.

Cut up 1 cup of cold butter into cubes, and add it to the flour one at a time, until it has the consistency of oatmeal.

Separate 2 eggs, and add the yolks to enough milk to make 2/3 cup. Save the whites in a separate dish.

Mix the egg yolk and milk mixture into the flour and butter until it holds together, then turn it out onto your counter and knead it a few times. Wrap it in Saran Wrap and refrigerate until chilled.

Peel and slice about 6 cups of apple. I used Granny Smith, because they aren't too sweet and they hold together well. Plus my Nana only used Granny Smith for Apple Pie, so they must be the best. Toss the apples with 1/2 cup of sugar.

Cut your chilled dough in half. Flour a piece of wax paper, place half your dough onto it and press it into a little rectangle shape. Sprinkle it with flour and place another piece of wax paper on top. Roll that sucker out until it will fit over the sides of your cookie sheet. Carefully peel the top sheet of wax paper off your dough, then flip it over into your sheet. Peel the rest of the wax paper off.

Crush a cup of cornflakes and sprinkle them over your dough. Then dump your sugared apples in, spreading them evenly around. Now take a little pastry brush and brush some egg white onto the edges of your dough. This will help to "glue" the top on.

Prepare the second piece of dough the same way as the first, placing it over the apples. Trim the edges, patch any holes, and pinch the dough together against the side of the pan to seal it. Brush the top of the dough with your egg white, then sprinkle a bit of sugar over it. Poke it all over with a fork to let the steam escape.

Bake in a preheated 375C oven for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown.

Combine 1 cup of icing sugar, 2-3 Tbsp of cream or milk, and 1-2 tsp of maple syrup to make a thin drizzle icing.

These turned out really good, I will be making them a lot more! I think they would be good with cherry or rhubarb, or peaches. Thanks Mennonite Girls!

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