When it’s the dead of winter and there are no fresh, vibrant berries or stone fruits to speak of (at least, not the type that hasn’t been shipped thousands of miles and has the “meh” flavor and price tag to prove it), baking can seem kind of dreary. There are only so many brownies and chocolate chip cookies a person can take. It’s then that apples and pears are the answer. Hearty with a long storage life, you’re bound to find a couple rattling around the fridge just about any time of year.
These bars are a little like a Dutch apple pie in slab form, but made a little more interesting with the inclusion of pears, and with absolutely no pie crust making involved. In fact, if you’re a lover of crumble-topped fruit pies, this is the recipe you need in your personal canon—both the crust and topping are made from the same streusel-like mixture, so you get double the dose of crumble here, with a jammy, winter fruit layer in between.
PS: The jam filling is great on toast, all on its own, so if you have a glut of apples and pears, doubling the jam is not a bad idea at all.
CRUST AND TOPPING:
by Shauna Sever
Prepare the jam: In a 2- to 2 1/2 -quart/1.9 to 2.4 L saucepan, combine the pear and apple chunks, orange juice, and sugar. Set the pan over high heat and bring the mixture to a boil.
Lower the heat to medium, cover, and cook until the fruit is tender, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Use a potato masher or fork to mash the pears into small bits (but not completely smooth). Cook until the jam is thick and any excess liquid has all but disappeared, mashing often, 5 to 7 minutes more. Stir in the vanilla. Transfer the jam to a bowl and let cool to room temperature. You should have about 1 ½ cups/about 365 g of cooled jam.
Prepare the crust and topping: Spray a 9 x 13-inch/23 x 33 cm light-colored metal baking pan with nonstick cooking spray and line it with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, brown sugar, walnuts, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda. Add the browned butter, egg, and vanilla and mix until a crumbly dough forms.
Firmly press half of the crumble mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan to form a crust. Chill the pan with the crust and the bowl with the remaining crumble mixture in the refrigerator until the jam has cooled.
Position a rack to the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C.
Spread the jam over the crust, leaving a 1/2-inch/ 1.25 cm bare border around the edge of the pan. Sprinkle the remaining crust mixture over the jam, then press lightly with your palms all over the surface. Sprinkle with the turbinado sugar. Bake until slightly puffed and golden, about 35 minutes. Let cool completely in the pan set on a wire rack. Cut into bars and store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
How to Brown Butter
If you’re looking for the simplest way to bump up the flavor of pretty much any recipe calling for melted butter, browning it first is the ticket.
Place the butter in a 2- to 2 1/2 -quart/1.9 to 2.4 L saucepan over medium-high heat. Allow the butter to melt, then continue to cook the butter until it turns brown and smells nutty, about 7 minutes. Use your ears as well as your eyes—when the butter stops sizzling, that means the water has cooked out of the butter, while its butterfat and milk solids remain; the solids will be perfectly browned within seconds after the butter goes silent. Immediately pour the browned butter into a clean bowl (scraping out any brown bits along with it!) and let cool slightly before adding to your recipe (unless your recipe calls for hot melted butter, of course). Use as you would melted butter in any recipe, or freeze it solid and use it as you would sticks of regular butter.
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Shauna Sever is the author of the cookbooks, Marshmallow Madness!, Pure Vanilla and Real Sweet. Her next book, Midwest Made, is now available for online pre-order (Release date: October 22, 2019). She is also the voice behind the baking blog Piece of Cake. She's appeared on The Today Show, Food Network, Home and Family, Serious Eats, Chow and Ulive.com. Her writing and recipes have been featured in O, The Oprah Magazine, Food and Wine, Bon Appetit, Fine Cooking, Family Circle and USA Weekend.