Apple and Bourbon Bars with a Bacon Shortbread Crust

Unlock the good bourbon and start baking. These bars are a quaint, yet indulgent dessert that finishes with the taste of a buttery, bacon shortbread crust.
By Taylor Mathis and Sally James

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The weather is cooler and the local mountain apples are filling the aisles at the farmer’s market. I was craving all things apple and wanted something portable, satisfying and fun to make for this weekend’s tailgate. Hand pies, while a great portable option, do not have the pop of sugar and the slightly salty crumb found on apple streusel pie. I settled on making an apple streusel bar cookie. Hand held. Check. Satisfying crumble topping. Check. Fun factor? Not really…

Apple streusel bars are a tasty, homey bar cookie that are a bit like sitting in Grandpa’s lap as a kid. It felt great to be there, and yet, once there, I could not wait to be put down on the floor and run back to the action outside.

What in the world could make my Grandpa apple bar cookie a worthy rival of the smoky, cheesy, frosted and grilled flavors sure to be found at this weekend’s tailgate spread?? BACON and BOURBON. You betcha, I went there! The result is a quaint, yet indulgent bite (good bourbon does that) that finishes with the taste of a buttery, bacon shortbread crust. Taylor’s brother Harrison, (of Harry’s Hot Ball fame, if you are familiar with The Southern Tailgating Cookbook) pronounced these little gems of apple “fun.” Seriously, he kept saying these bar cookies are really FUN to eat! So, unlock the good bourbon from the liquor cabinet, cook up some apples and bacon and make Apple Bourbon Streusel Bars with Bacon Shortbread Crust for your next gathering. Because being the “fun” one never goes out of style….

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Apple and Bourbon Bars with a Bacon Shortbread Crust
 
Unlock the good bourbon and start baking. These bars are a quaint, yet indulgent dessert that finishes with the taste of a buttery, bacon shortbread crust.
Author:
Recipe Type: Dessert, Baking
Serves: Makes one 9X13X2 inch pan of cookies
Ingredients
For the Streusel:
  • 1½ cups all purpose flour
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup dark brown sugar
  • 1½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 8 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • ⅛ teaspoon pure almond extract
For the Apple Bourbon Filling:
  • 7 cups bite sized peeled cored and chopped apples (we used Granny Smith)
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup apple juice
  • ¼ cup bourbon (we used Bulleit Bourbon)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup plus 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup dark brown sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons corn starch
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
For the Bacon Shortbread Crust:
  • 2½ cups all purpose flour
  • ¾ cup confectioners sugar
  • ¼ cup dark brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 13 Tablespoons unsalted butter,cold
  • 1 Tablespoon bacon drippings
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 Tablespoons bourbon (we used Bulleit Bourbon)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 8 strips thick cut bacon, cooked drained, (1 T. drippings reserved)
Instructions
  1. Make the streusel topping by putting the flour, sugars, cinnamon and salt into a medium sized bowl. Add the almond extract to the melted butter. Pour the butter mixture over the flour/sugar mixture and stir with a fork until the flour, sugar and butter are well mixed. Set bowl aside.
  2. Make the apple filling by putting the apples and butter into a large non stick frying pan. Turn the heat to medium high and cook the apples and butter, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes. Add the apple juice, bourbon and lemon juice. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes. While the apples are cooking, put the sugars, cornstarch, cinnamon and salt into a small bowl and mix with a spoon until combined. Add the sugar mixture to the apple mixture. Stir. Over medium high heat, let the mixture come to a boil. Cook, stirring constantly, for 2 to 3 minutes until the filling is very thick. Remove the apple filling from the heat. Set aside to cool.
  3. To make the shortbread crust, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In the work bowl of a food processor, add the flour, sugars, salt and cayenne. Pulse to blend. Cut the butter into small pieces and add to the processor. Add the bacon drippings. Pulse the processor on/off until the butter and flour mixture resemble coarse crumbs. In a small bowl, add the egg yolks, bourbon and lemon juice. Stir to blend. Pour the egg mixture over the flour and sugar mixture. Cut the cooked bacon into bite sized pieces and add to the processor. Pulse the processor on/off until the bacon and egg mixture are just blended with the dough. Butter a 9X13X2 inch baking pan and line with parchment paper. Empty the dough from the processor onto the prepared pan. Pat the dough out into an even layer. Bake the bacon shortbread crust for 20 to 25 minutes or until the crust is a light golden brown. Remove the pan from the oven.
  4. Spread the cooled apple filling onto the baked crust and spread out in an even layer. Break up the reserved streusel with a fork and spread the streusel crumbs over the apple filling in an even layer. Return the apple bars to the oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until the bars are golden brown and bubbly.
  5. Remove the Apple Bourbon Streusel Bars from the oven and place on a wire rack. Cool the bars to room temperature before cutting. Bars can be wrapped and refrigerated for up to 2 days prior to cutting and serving.
 


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