Recipe Review

I Tried Ina Garten’s Famous Apple Pie Bars and, Yes, I Get Why Everyone Loves Them

published Oct 2, 2023
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Apple Pie Bars in a stack
Credit: Molly Allen

It’s the season for apple picking, warm apple cider, and apple cider doughnuts. Of course, we can’t forget the most famous fall classic — apple pie! But what if you don’t want the same old classic apple pie? Well, we found a delicious variation for this dessert staple in the form of Ina Garten’s Apple Pie Bars.

At first glance, this recipe looked pretty simple. Ina was calling for a whole lot of butter, but I figured all those sticks must be worth it. Plus, I had plenty of apples on hand. After baking through it, I discovered these apple pie bars are perfect for fall, but I do have a few notes.

Get the recipe: Apple Pie Bars

How to Make Apple Pie Bars 

Credit: Molly Allen

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a 9-inch by 13-inch pan with parchment.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla on medium until the mixture is light and creamy. Gradually mix in the flour and salt.

Press two-thirds of the dough into the prepared baking pan and let it chill in the fridge for 20 minutes. Mix the walnuts and cinnamon into the remaining dough and set aside.

Once the dough in the pan is chilled, bake for 20 minutes until golden brown. Set the crust aside to cool while preparing the filling. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the apple slices, granulated sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg, and mix well. Melt butter in a large pot, add the apples, and allow the mixture to simmer on medium for 15 minutes. Stir often and cook until the apples are tender and the liquid has evaporated.

Pour the apples over the cooled crust. Use your fingers to pinch small sections of the remaining dough and top the apples with it. Bake for 30 minutes until the topping is browned. Once baked, cool the bars completely before cutting and serving.

My Honest Review of Ina Garten’s Apple Pie Bars 

With four-and-a-half sticks of butter and three pounds of apples on the ingredients list, this recipe is a bit of an investment. And while I thought this recipe produces a great treat overall, I definitely would consider a few changes. 

First, the flavor of these bars is absolutely delicious. There’s a great balance of buttery crust with flavorful apples and touches of cinnamon and nutmeg. However, I would amp up the amount of baking spices used. I’m a big fan of what cinnamon and nutmeg bring to the table, and an extra punch of flavor would make these that much better.

Flavor aside, the main issue I had was with texture. With bars, I anticipate a handheld dessert that can be eaten while holding a napkin to catch the crumbs. This is not the recipe for that. These bars are pretty flaky, which is great for flavor and mouthfeel while eating, but if you’re trying to eat one with your hands, it falls apart before you can take a bite. They’re definitely much better on a plate and eaten with a fork. The upside of that? They’re just begging to have a scoop of ice cream on top.

Once the crust was topped with the apples and I returned the pan to the oven, it took an additional 20 minutes of baking time compared to what Ina had listed in her recipe. This is a pretty popular topic in the comments on this recipe, and now I know why. I was waiting for the topping to brown for far longer than anticipated, which meant the bottom crust was slightly overbaked. Next time, I may try keeping the temperature at 375° and skip reducing it to 350° to help the topping bake faster.

Credit: Molly Allen

Three Tips for Making Apple Pie Bars  

  1. Don’t skip parchment paper: I made the mistake of only greasing the baking pan. Ina’s note about using parchment paper was hidden way at the bottom of the recipe, and I didn’t see it. Lining the pan with parchment paper will make getting the baked bars out so much easier.
  2. Keep an eye on bake times: The recipe calls for baking the crust at 375° and then reducing the oven temperature to 350° for the final bake. That reduction in temperature results in a lot of additional time needed to brown the topping. Set a timer for the anticipated bake times, but keep in mind these bars may take much longer to fully bake than you think.
  3. Switch up the types of apples: This recipe calls for Granny Smith and Golden Delicious apples, which help to produce great flavor. However, you could easily use any other apples you have on hand. Consider options such as Honeycrisp, Pink Lady, and McIntosh.

Get the recipe: Apple Pie Bars