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Fruit Bars to Bake for Now and Later

Gift-giving and winter snacking are both easier when these make-ahead bars are in your freezer.

Fruit bars
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

My backyard orchard of dwarf fruit trees had a banner year, especially the apple tree, which is little taller than I am but was positively sagging with ripe, red fruit. After giving some to neighbors, dipping some in honey for Rosh Hashanah and eating a bunch out of hand, it was time to do something else with them. 

Something I could save for later.

I found a recipe for apple crumb bars that involved cooking down the fruit into a pie-filling consistency before spreading onto a shortbread crust and topping with crumbles of that same crust (plus some cinnamon, chopped walnut and other goodness). They were heavenly, that perfect combination of crisp and soft, and rich with flavors of autumn ripeness.

Those my family didn’t gobble up got wrapped in freezer paper and tucked into the freezer, with great anticipation for the stormy winter afternoon when a cup of tea and a warmed apple bar will be just the ticket to coziness.

Fruit bars are easy to make (most recipes can start with fresh or thawed-frozen fruit, requiring no pre-cooking) and are great to have on hand for a number of reasons, including:

–Getting ahead of holiday baking for gift-giving

–Having a treat ready to warm up in the oven and put out for friends or family

–Using the bounty of fall orchard visits, from peaches to pears to apples

De-stressing with a satisfying, easy baking project that will ground you and appeal to your senses of smell, taste and touch

–Eating something warm and fresh out of the oven!

The easiest fruit bars use the same dough for the base and topping, though flavor combinations and nutrient-dense add-ins like oats, nuts and spices can elevate the top of your bars.

Discover your favorite fruit crumble bars by searching online or in cookbooks for recipes, keeping in mind:

–If you don’t have fresh or frozen fruit, jam can make a lovely bar filling.

–Fruit that’s wetter, like strawberries, benefit from pre-cooking before using as a filling.

Taste fresh fruit for sweetness to minimize the amount of sugar you need to add to your filling.

–Completely cool your bars and cut into squares before storing in freezer bags or paper, ready to pull out and serve or gift at a moment’s notice.

What are your favorite fruit bars to bake?

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