Apple Cider Butter is one of my favorite fall treats to make. Apple butter is a fruit preserve made by cooking fresh apples with sugar and apple cider and reducing it into a thick rich spread. It is fairly easy to make and well worth the time, as the butter can be put to many good uses in the kitchen (and packaged in jars for gifts). My favorite way to eat it is on top of buttered toast or homemade biscuits, but I’ve baked it into Apple Butter Pie and these Apple Butter Bars are high on the list, too.
Apple Butter Bars are moist, cake-like bar cookies that are made with a generous amount of apple butter in the batter. The intense apple flavor of the preserve gives the finished bars a wonderful apple flavor, which is enhanced with just a hint of cinnamon, ginger and allspice. The bars are baked in a jelly-roll pan, so they turn out to be fairly thin, but are still moist, tender and perfect for snacking.
I used my homemade Apple Cider Butter in this recipe, and I definitely recommend giving that recipe a try to use as a base for this one. If you don’t make your own, apple butter is available in many grocery stores (Smuckers makes a great one) in the fall and winter. Applesauce can make a good substitution, but it doesn’t have the depth of flavor that apple butter does and it doesn’t have additional sugar (even sweetened brands won’t be as sweet as apple butter is). This means that bars made with applesauce instead of apple butter will be much milder, although they will still be tasty, so I recommend adding more spice to liven up your bars if you choose to use applesauce in them.
These bars can be eaten plain or with a dusting of powdered sugar. I usually take the powdered sugar route, personally, but this time around I added a drizzle of vanilla glaze to add a little extra sweetness and dress them up a bit. The bars keep well for several days when stored in an airtight container.
Apple Butter Bars
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup apple cider butter
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 10×15-inch pan (jelly roll pan) and line the bottom with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one by one, followed by the apple butter, spices and vanilla extract. Mix until well incorporated.
With the mixer on low, or working by hand, stir in the flour mixture until no streaks of dry ingredients remain.
Spread batter into an even layer in prepared pan.
Bake for 25-28 minutes, until cake springs back when lightly pressed. Cool bars completely in pan before glazing or slicing.
Makes 24 bars.
Quick Vanilla Glaze
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3-4 tbsp milk
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk vigorously until very smooth. Add additional milk (or sugar, if the glaze is too thin) as needed until glaze is thick but spreadable.
Drizzle over bars and allow to set before slicing.