Thursday, September 13, 2012

Harvest Time

Wow, can you believe it's September already? I for one, am still in denial. There is still so much I need to do before the temperatures drop and the snow starts to fall! This is definitely a busy time of year, but also, a wonderful time of year. Wonderful, of course, because it is harvest season. Some of us are busy canning, and storing away what we can, while others (like myself) are just enjoying nature's bounty. Because I moved from a city apartment, to a house that's quite a bit away from it all, all that I was able to plant this year were flowers. However, despite this, I am still visiting Farmer's markets when I can and enjoying locally grown foods whenever possible. I am fortunate to live in an area surrounded by farms and orchards, there is no shortage of locally grown crops.

One of my favorite things about this time of year is the apple harvest. I love fresh apples, I love eating them raw, and cooking/baking with them. Of course, if you're eating apples that have been shipped to you from half way 'round the world, you probably don't share my love of them, trust me, I know your pain. I have eaten apples that were shipped here from Argentina, and well, if that was what I thought an apple tasted like, and what their consistency was like I would make nothing more than applesauce with them. However, I was fortunate to grow up in a town in Norther New York where apple trees definitely outnumbered people, so I have a great love of the fruit and it's many varieties. It is hard to say what my favorite it, currently I am loving Gala apples, and so is my son. But I also love Macs, and Granny Smiths.

So versatile, and so tasty, what do you do with your apples? Well one of my all time favorite recipes comes from the blog Piece of Cake. So you can either go to her site, or just continue scrolling down, this one is in my "favorites" tab in my recipe box, and I am sure you'll love it just as much as I do.

Chewy Apple-Oat Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

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.

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