Rustic, Heirloom Apple Squares: A Recipe and Sweet Autumn Memory…
Served warm with a cup of steaming tea, apple squares can bring back a rush of sweet memories for me. When I was a little girl, my third grade teacher always made homemade goodies for special events and bake sales. Margaret was a lovely woman; plump and grandmotherly and generous. She was my favorite teacher, and I brought her bouquets of sunflowers from my mother’s garden just to see her smile. As a child, I had a very difficult time learning to read. I made agonizingly slow progress, but Margaret stuck by me through my stammering and stuttering, proving my greatest champion and cheerleader. During recess I would often stay behind, sitting beside her while she ate her lunch, reading out loud from whatever book I chose. This was definitely not in her job description, but I am quite sure she didn’t have that document memorized. Usually, at the end of my private tutoring, I received a homemade treat from her lunch bag. Sometimes it was a cookie or a brownie, but one day in late autumn, it was an apple square. I had never tasted one before – it was moist and sweet and delicious. The heirloom apples came from a big, old tree in Margaret’s back yard. Of course, when she saw how much I liked the apple squares, they began to appear in her lunch box more frequently.
Many years passed, and although I never forgot Margaret, (I did surprise her on occasion with a bouquet of sunflowers), the ritual of afternoon apple squares somehow got away from me. Then, late this summer, my friend Rhonda sent a box of homemade ‘apple brownies’ to me. When I peeked inside, I immediately recognized my favorite third-grade treat. What Rhonda calls ‘apple brownies’, I call ‘apple squares’. Well, you can call them whatever you like – they are absolutely delicious. Because this recipe is so simple, the flavor of the apples takes center stage. With Margaret’s old tree in mind, I tried a combination of tart and sweet reinettes, (heirloom apples from Scott Farm),Â for my version of this treat. If heirloom apples are not available, any tart apple, (such as Granny Smith), will work for this recipe. Instead of peeling them, I left the skin on for color and texture, as Margaret did years ago. They are so quick and easy to make, how could I have forgotten about them? Thank you Rhonda, for bringing back such sweet autumn memories…
Rustic Heirloom Apple Squares
(adapted from Rhonda Canning’s apple brownies)
4 Â Â Â cups of tart heirloom apples, diced, (peels on for a more rustic effect)
1 + Â Â cups sugar (add more to taste, I prefer mine less sweet)
4 Â Â Â Â average size eggs
1 Â Â Â Â cup melted butter
2 Â Â Â cups all purpose flour
2 Â Â Â tsp baking powder
1/2 Â Â tsp salt*
1 Â Â Â Â tsp freshly ground cinnamon
1 Â Â Â Â tsp vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease one 9 x 13″ baking dish. Mix flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon together in a small bowl and set aside. (* if you are using salted butter, you may reduce or eliminate salt. I use unsalted, sweet farm butter). Combine melted butter and sugar in a large bowl. Add eggs and vanilla and mix thoroughly. Add apples to this large bowl and stir together with the buttery mix. Add dry ingredients, slowly stirring as you go. The mixture will get quite thick. When the ingredients are throughly blended, pour into the greased pan and bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes. To test, the top should appear golden brown and a wooden stick should pull out clean from the center.
Allow the pan to cool, then cover and let sit for a couple of hours. The apple squares will become super moist, and they taste best when allowed to rest for 2-3 hours before eating….
(In loving memory of my favorite teacher, Margaret E. Booker)
Article and photographs copyright 2009, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden
Gunmetal glaze plate featured in top photo by Aletha Soule.
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