Autumn is here and my thoughts turn to apple picking and then to baking something with all the apples we pick. And these Spiced Apple and Cranberry Bars are the perfect traybake for the season. Stewed apples and cranberries with a hint of spice and vanilla, sandwiched between a rich, buttery pastry.
I used fresh/frozen cranberries for my fruit filling but if you can’t get hold of those, you can use dried. In fact, you could use any fruit combination you like. But I like the pop of color you get from using cranberries. I have made this with Granny Smith apples and also with Pink Lady. I prefer to use an apple that doesn’t break down too much as it cooks so you can see chunks of apple.
The pastry is kind of a cross between pastry and a shortbread. It’s rich and buttery and doesn’t have too much sugar in it. For these bars, you need half the pastry for the bottom layer and the remaining half for the top. I pressed the dough into the bottom of my tin, which was easy to do as it’s quite soft. Then for the top layer, I crumbled pieces of the pastry over the top and flattened a few others pieces before placing it on top, leaving some gaps for the fruit layer to show through.
Now, you could be more particular about this than I was and roll the pastry out before covering the fruit layer. You could even cut the pastry into strips and make a nice lattice topping. And I was thinking about doing this. But then I looked at my more rustic version and I liked it just the way it was, so I’m sticking with that.
However, if you do choose to roll out the dough for the top layer, you will need to put it in the fridge for a while as it will be too soft to roll out immediately.
For the spice in my fruit layer, I used a ‘Pumpkin Pie Spice Mix’, which is very similar to the ‘Mixed Spice’ you can get back in the UK/Ireland. It’s a blend of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves. If you can’t get hold of this, then cinnamon would work well here too.
I also added vanilla to the fruit layer and to the pastry. There’s something about vanilla and baked goods that just works so well together. I used Nielsen-Massey Pure Vanilla Extract. Full disclosure, I was gifted a bottle of their vanilla in return for posting about it. But it also happens to be my favorite vanilla extract, so I had no problems saying yes. Nielsen-Massey Pure Vanilla Extracts and Paste (I love the vanilla bean paste too, as it gives you those little flecks of vanilla) uses premium, hand-selected beans and a cold extraction process that preserves vanilla’s flavor compounds to ensure a full, sweet, and creamy flavor profile with velvety after-tones. All-round good stuff really. And it’s family owned and operated.
And that’s about it really. Eat this one quickly as the pastry will get a little soggy after a day or two. It still tastes good though. And while it’s great as a bar/traybake, this would also make a great dessert with a little custard. Or a lot.
Spiced Apple and Cranberry Bars
- 8 oz or 225g butter
- 2 oz or 55g sugar
- 1 egg
- 12 oz or 340g plain flour (all-purpose flour)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp cornflour (corn starch)
- 1 tsp mixed spice (pumpkin pie spice) or use cinnamon
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 4 fl oz or 120ml water
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 4 oz or 110g cranberries, fresh or frozen
- 12 oz or 340g apples after they have been peeled and cored
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- Preheat oven to 400F/200C and line an 8"/20cm square tin with baking parchment.
- First make the fruit filling. Mix the cornflour/corn starch, sugar and spice in a saucepan and gradually blend in the water. Add the cranberries, apple and lemon juice.
- Bring this mixture to a boil and then simmer for 3 minutes. Leave to cool while you prepare the pastry.
- Cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the egg and gradually work in the flour.
- Place half of this mix in the tin and press it over the base. If you want to get fancy with the top half of the pastry, place it in the fridge.
- Spread the apple mixture over the base.
- Take the remaining pastry and crumble/place small pieces over the fruit. Just keep the pieces a similar thickness. Try to leave a few gaps to let the color of the fruit filling peek through.
- Bake for 35-40 minutes, until golden. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with sugar while still warm. Leave in the tin to cool, then cut into squares and enjoy!