Oct 19, 2009

Chewy Apple-Oat Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

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Aside from the occasional whimsical celebration cake or all-or-nothing recipe involving crazy things like corn syrup and sweetened condensed milk, most recipes that come out of the Piece of Cake kitchen are relatively simple, without a whole lot of complicated stuff going on. As much as I like a culinary challenge, my favorite treats are the kind that sit quietly on the counter and softly call to you all day long as you pass through the kitchen. You know–a sliver here, a nibble there, until all that’s left is crumbs and you wonder where the whole thing went. But some things don’t fit so neatly in to either category. Like a humble, chunky, apple-studded bar cookie made fancy with a slick of decadent icing.


When I first saw this recipe, I thought, Sweet Lord! That’s a whole lotta concepts going on. I mean, these bars are basically a chewy apple pie-oatmeal cookie-cheesecake hybrid. And if you can think of any more delicious things to cram into one sentence, please report to me. Because after I wrapped my brain around the recipe, I could not get it out of my head. With a few tweaks to the add-ins and more sophisticated icing than the original recipe called for, these bars emerged as one of the more addictive things to come out of the Piece of Cake kitchen in recent months.

If you’re looking for a great dessert for a tailgate or a pumpkin-carving get-together or just a little something to take over to a friend’s house for coffee and Oprah on a rainy day, look no further. The nubbly bar cookie base is crowd-pleasingly familiar, but the white chocolate and cream cheese frosting dresses it up just a bit and adds an amazing punch of flavor. Dusted with cinnamon and cut into two-bite-sized bars, they’re autumnal party perfection.


And a quick word about cinnamon: have you ever gotten your hands on some good Vietnamese cinnamon? Because it will completely Blow. Your. Mind. In fact, you may question what kind of lie you’ve been living using that drab, dusty brown powder from the supermarket all these years. Vietnamese cinnamon is like cinnamon on steroids. It smells and tastes exactly like Red Hots candy, people–hot and so intensely spiced and sweet that you’d think it couldn’t possibly come from nature. But it does! And if you’re me you trek regularly to a bulk foods emporium with a spectacular spice section to buy it by the cupful while people look at you suspiciously. And then once you get it home, you shove the filled spice tin under every nose that enters the house while being a Vietnamese cinnamon-raving lunatic. It’s really something. With high baking season upon us, there’s no better time to track some down.


Chewy Apple-Oat Bars with White Chocolate Cream Cheese Icing
Loosely adapted from the Land O’ Lakes website, of all places

Refrigerating the bars after icing them will set the icing as well as make for easy, clean cutting of the bars. Their taste and texture actually improve a day after baking, so make them a day ahead whenever possible. For a less decadent variation, skip the icing, and swap out the white chocolate chips for toasted walnuts.

Makes about 20 two-bize-sized bars

For the apple-oat bars:

1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 plus 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup old-fashioned oats (not quick cooking)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
6 tablespoons firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup diced apple (about one small apple, I like Fuji or Honeycrisp)
4 ounces white chocolate chips

For the white chocolate cream cheese icing:

2 ounces white chocolate chips
2 ounces cream cheese, softened but still cool
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar (more or less, depending on your sweet tooth and how stiff you want the icing to be)
Ground cinnamon, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8×8 inch square baking pan with aluminum foil (with a few inches of overhang on all sides) and spray the foil lightly with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and oats and set aside. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy. Add the sugars and beat until smooth and lightened in color. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl, and beat in the egg and vanilla until well-blended. On low speed, blend in the dry ingredients. On the lowest speed or by hand, stir in the apple chunks and white chocolate chips.

Spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake just until a toothpick comes out clean, about 35-38 minutes. Do not overbake. Let the bars cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 10 minutes, then use the foil “handles” to remove the slab from the pan. Let cool completely on the rack in the foil sleeve, at least 1 hour.

Meanwhile, make the icing. In the microwave, melt 2 ounces of white chocolate chips in a small microwave-safe bowl in 30 second bursts at 50% power, stirring after each interval until smooth. In a small bowl, beat together the cream cheese, butter and vanilla until smooth. Add the melted white chocolate and beat until smooth. Beat in the confectioners’ sugar until the icing is slightly thickened and sweetened to your liking.

When the bars are completely cool, spread the icing in an even layer over the bars, using the foil to create a dam of sorts that will keep the icing from dripping down the edges of the bars. Refrigerate the bars with the foil sleeve until the icing is firm, at least 1 hour.

Remove the slab from the foil to a cutting board and dust with cinnamon. With a large, sharp knife, cut into about 20 bars. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

  • Looks divine!

  • Oh Good Lord woman…I was all set to make an apple pie tonight and I have been suddenly, deliciously de-railed in that plan. I shall happily switch my recipe out and try this concoction and I will undoubtedly become immediately addicted!!

  • wow… just wow!

  • Shauna–Hope you love it! Report back!

  • Dear Shauna:
    I'm from Brazil and I love to cook. I'd better say I love to cook deserts!
    I really love your blog!!
    I'll make sure to keep up with your posting!!!!

    Marina

  • Complex or not, these sound So yummy! These are going in my file for sure!

  • oh MY! can those look any more AMAZING?!

  • These look like the perfect fall treat!

  • HI Shauna,

    Yes, I remember you:) and thanks for the comment. How's life going for you these days? We're still here, still H411, although some of the staff has changed. Anyway, hope all is well!

  • I made this cake last night and brought it to school this morning. I teach high school and each Wednesday morning we have a home room. Someone always brings a snack, so this was my turn. They absolutely loved it. I doubled the recipe and I think some of them had four pieces!

  • Oh, and I made the strawberry cake, too. It was for my daughter, too, but she was turning 17. She loved the cake and I love her. Enjoy every minute with her because, I know it sounds cliche but here goes, life goes way, way too fast.

  • abru–What great feedback! If high school students like it, that's high praise. :) Also, your comment about your daughter gave me a little tear…I'm already finding out the cliche is true! Baby C is 1 going on 17, for sure. Thanks for visiting!

  • ooooo this looks amazing!

  • I'm a new reader, and I came across your blog looking for a recipe to serve when my sister and her boyfriend came over to visit. They showed up early, and I didn't have time to frost the bars before the boyfriend was digging into them. Needless to say, he ate almost the whole pan, and asked to take the leftovers home with him. When I called my sister the next day, she said, "I hid those bars because I knew he would get up in the night and eat them and then I wouldn't get any!" LOL! Thanks for the awesome recipe! : )

  • wow! These sound amazing!

  • I think I just got weak in the knees… these apple bars look absolutely amazing! I love apples, oats, white chocolate, and cream cheese – so I will definitely be making these.

  • These are SO good! So easy to make, too. McCormick actually makes Saigon Cinnamon, for those of you still looking for some, & I love it! Thanks for the (once again) awesome recipe. :)

  • My God Woman…you are killing me, or rather driving me to BAKE! Can't wait for this one. A happy family I will have soon. Happy Fall to you.

  • I made this today!! It was so good! I didnt have any white chocolate though so for the cake I just left the chocolate out and for the frosting I used semi sweet chocolate chips instead of white. It was still wonderful thanks for the recipe

  • Wow. As a person who goes to eat out at well established restaurants on a weekly basis, I'm not easy swooned. The picture of this made me go crazy! I don't even like cooked apples- yet, this will be something I'll definitely make.

    I won't post this experience in my blog (which I would have referred to you, ofcourse) since I'm more concentrated on healthy and easy, but your recipe looks devilishly attractive and I know my hubby and my belly will be swooned just as I was when I saw the picture.

    Keep up the great work!

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