I wanted an apple square with a buttery crust, a layer of sweet, chunky apple filling, and a crunchy, crumbly topping. And wouldn’t you know that that very apple square exists? It’s known as a mazurka, a term with which I was not familiar, until today.
I found this story of the history of the mazurka bar (and the recipe for the pastry) here, at the wonderful CakeSpy blog. And, it seemed like the logical place to start building the apple squares I had envisioned. The pastry is a blend of flour, brown sugar, butter, rolled oats, and coconut. Half the mixture gets pressed into the bottom of the pan, the fruit filling is layered atop, then the remaining crumbly pastry is applied over the layer of filling. For that filling I chose a combination of Honey Crisp and Courtland apples. I cooked the apples, and some golden raisins, just until tender. Then I assembled and baked the squares. And what a happy outcome! Tender, rich pastry with sweet cinnamon-scented apple filling. Perfect! And not difficult to make at all. Here is what you do:
Apple-Raisin Crumble Squares
- For the apple filling:
- 3 to 4 apples , about 1 1/2 pounds, peeled, cored, and sliced 1/3-inch thick
- 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- Pinch of salt
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup golden raisins
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- For the pastry:
- 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter (6 ounces), cut into 1/2-inch chunks
- 3/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant)
- 1/2 cup unsweetened , shredded coconut
- 1/3 cup raw , whole almonds, coarsely chopped
Make the apple filling: Combine all the filling ingredients in a large bowl and allow to macerate for 15 minutes. Transfer the apples and the liquid that has formed in the bowl to a medium, heavy saucepan. Simmer over medium heat until the apples are tender and the liquid has reduced to a glaze. This will take about 6 to 7 minutes. Watch carefully that the mixture does not scorch. You want the apples to remain intact, so don't overcook. Remove the mixture to a plate and spread out to cool completely.
Make the Pastry: Preheat the oven to 325°F with the rack in the lower third of the oven. Lightly butter an 8x8-inch square pan and line it with a piece of parchment paper. Let the paper overhang the ends of the pan; this will serve as a handle of sorts, to lift the squares from the pan.
Put the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse briefly to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the chunks are the size of peas. Add the rolled oats, coconut, and chopped almonds. Pulse the mixture until a crumbly dough forms; the rolled oats should be visible in small pieces and the mixture will come together when pressed between your fingers.
Press half the crumbly pastry mixture into the prepared pan. Cover it with a piece of parchment, and press firmly with the palm of your hand to compact the pastry into a firm layer. Remove the paper and spread the cooled apple-raisin filling over the pastry base. Cover the filling with the remaining crumble mixture and press again, firmly, to compact the top layer. Remove the parchment paper and place the pan in the oven.
Bake the squares for about 60 minutes, or until the pastry is golden and just firm to the touch. Remove to a rack to cool and then lift the squares out of the pan, using the parchment paper "handles". Carefully cut into 2-inch squares with a sharp, thin-bladed knife. (The squares may crumble a bit, they are easier to cut on the second day after baking). Store any leftovers, tightly covered, at room temperature for a day or two.