Monday, 29 July 2013

Honey, Apple And Peach Crumble Bars

Another refined sugar free dessert for you readers. I'm too good to you. This recipe is adapted from a Fairtrade Foundation recipe - crumbly banana squares. Like most of my other posts, I've given the original recipe a few twists and tweaks. You can find the original recipe quite easily by searching for 'crumbly banana squares' on google. That recipe is great but mine, if I do say so myself, is sublime. The crumbly wonderfulness of these honey, apple and peach bars was purely an accident. All set to enjoy a week away with the family, I realised there was quite a large amount of fruit left in our fruit bowl that needed to be eaten before we left home. I wanted something quick and easy, that would use a lot of fruit and wouldn't be too unhealthy. And then 'ah-ha!' turn those crumbly banana squares into an apple crumble equivalent!

The bars are made by pressing a crumble topping-style oaty mixture into a pan, spreading a thick layer of fruit filling on top, and then covering with a sprinkle of extra oaty, honey-y goodness. The pressed down crumble layer bakes into a sort of part-cake, part-biscuit, flapjacky kind of base, making the finished bar sturdy enough to hold in your hands. The apple and peach layer gives enough natural sweetness that the bars don't require any refined sugar, (though I would recommend a finishing dust of icing sugar, mainly for aesthetics) and the top crumble layer bakes just like a normal crumble, partly crisping on top and partly soaking up some of the apple and peach flavour from underneath.

the base mixture should be a sort of cookie dough consistency...
...that can be easily pressed into your tin.
I appreciate that my instructions for the fruit filling below may seem rather odd. As the apples in my fruit bowl were pink ladies (eating apples) they were already quite sweet and not the obvious choice for stewing. Normal eating apples are difficult to stew in the way that you stew cooking apples. They don't soften very easily using this method and can take an age and a lot of care to reach the desired apple sauce consistency. I've found that eating apples can be 'stewed' quite quickly and successfully by cutting them into small chunks, boiling, then draining and mashing. The natural sweetness of the fruit means you don't need to add pounds and pounds of sugar to make them edible, making it a healthier alternative to regular apple crumble fillings. It sounds weird but it really works, trust me! Especially with the peaches that break down and help make the apples extra puree-like, whilst at the same time giving a wonderfully fresh and sweet hint of a peach flavour. If you want to forego the apple filling, feel free to stick to the original suggestion, and go with bananas. 3-6 (depending on how much you like bananas!) mashed with a splash of vanilla and spread over the base is great. If you're using bananas, try adding in a handful or two of sultanas to the crumble mixture withe flour!

boiling apples? no, I'm not mad.
perseverance! have faith!
I'm sure you could partner the wonderful crumble biscuity base/topping with almost any fruit (pear, berries, rhubarb - let your imagination run wild! Just make sure your filling isn't too liquidy, or the base and topping won't cook properly) but filled with a delicious eating apple & peach combo, these bars taste like the best apple crumble you've ever had, and you can even hold them in your hand, making them perfect on-the-go treats. Wonderful.

keeping the skins on the peaches give a wonderful texture surprise
the crumble topping should be drier, more of a 'traditional' crumble

Honey, Apple, And Peach Crumble Bars
Makes 12 Slices

175ml honey (you can use 175g of sugar, but if you have honey, why would you? Make these refined sugar free!)
175g margarine or butter
250g porridge oats
6tbsp self raising flour
4-6 eating apples, such as pink lady, depending on how thick you want your fruit layer to be
3 ripe peaches (the riper the peaches, the sweeter the filling will be)
splash of vanilla extract
icing sugar, to dust (optional)

1. Preheat oven to gas 5. Blend the honey, margarine/butter, 200g oats, and 3tbsp flour together in a mixer, a hand mixer should be able to deal with this if you don't have a stand mixer, or you can do this by hand by rubbing the ingredients together with your fingertips, though this will be quite a bit messier! You're looking for a very stiff cookie dough consistency - something that will hold together well, and that is too wet to be a 'traditional' crumble topping.
2. Line and grease a baking tin, I used a 9x9 square, but you could use a smaller or larger tin, the size of the pan will determine how thick your bars are. Firmly press two thirds of the dough-like mixture into the pan, packing it right down. Level off with your hands or a spoon.
3. Add remaining 50g of oats and 3tbsp of flour to the rest of the crumble dough mixture and blend with a mixer. The dry ingredients should transform the 'dough' into a drier, more crumbly mixture, that you can actually use as a crumble topping. If your mixture is too dry, however, add a few squeezes of honey, a little at a time until you reach the desired consistency. Set aside while you prepare the filling.
4. Core, peel, ad chop your apples into small chunks. Place chunks into a saucepan and cover with water, then bring to the boil and simmer until very soft, at least 5 minutes. When soft, drain the apple chunks and mash with a potato masher until you get an applesauce consistency - mostly paste with some apple chunks still remaining. If your apples are soft enough mashing them should be quite easy. Return to the heat and add the three peaches that have been stoned and cut into 8-12 pieces each. Stir these into the apples on a medium heat until the mixture bubbles and they begin to break down. Add vanilla. Mash a little more to coax the peaches into a chunky paste.
5. Pour filling over prepared base. Sprinkle with crumble topping, distributing in an even layer. Bake for approx. 30 minutes until a deep golden brown on top. Cool in tin for 15 minutes, then remove cake in baking paper and set on a cooling rack to cool a bit more. These could be enjoyed (with a spoon!) as a dessert with custard, cream or ice cream, or even by themselves when warm, or you can leave them to cool, sprinkle them with icing sugar if you want and cut into bars or pieces. They firm up a bit when they cool and can be easily handled.

Store in an airtight container for a few days. Though they don't need it, these will last longer in the fridge.

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