Last updated on September 18th, 2023.
As the leaves begin to change and the air turns crisp, there’s no better way to celebrate the arrival of autumn than by indulging in the warm, comforting flavors of meringue apple bars. These sweet and tangy treats are the perfect way to showcase the bountiful harvest of apples, and they make for a delightful addition to any fall gathering.
I buy too many apples every time I bake my favorite Apple Cake. Sometimes, I bake these Apple Muffins, and sometimes, I bake an Apple Galette, but this is my go-to recipe when I am in a buttery mood. A slice of apple bars is always a fun and confirming treat, but I wanted to upgrade this recipe from everyday crisp bars into a unique holiday season show stopper. And what better way to do so than a fluffy cloud of meringue topped with almonds and baked into a beautiful golden brown crown?
Before we dive into the baking process, let’s gather all the essential ingredients for our meringue apple bars.
For the Crust
- All-purpose flour, beached or unbleached
- Granulated sugar
- Corn syrup or honey
- Unsalted butter at room temperature
- Large egg
- Vanilla extract
For the Apple Filling:
- Fresh apples, Granny Smith apples honey crisp, or a combination of the two. Peeled, cored, and cubed into 1/8-inch cubes, or use apple slices. For more apple options, check out my post about The Best Apples For Baking.
- Lemon Juice
- Granulated sugar
- Ground cinnamon
- Potato starch, or corn starch
For the Meringue:
- Egg whites
- Granulated sugar
- Cream of tartar
- Sliced almonds, optional
How to Make Apple Bars
Making the Bottom Crust
- Using the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl.
- Mix in the egg, corn syrup, and vanilla, then add the flour 1/2 cup at a time.
- Press the dough together, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least one hour or overnight.
Making the Apple Filling
- Prepare the Apples: Toss the apples with the lemon juice in a medium saucepan or a medium bowl. Add the water and cook over medium heat; boil, then cook for four more minutes.
- Strain the apples, place them in a large bowl, and return the liquids to the pan. Add the sugar and cinnamon to the pan and cook until the sugar dissolves.
- Mix the potato starch with 1/4 cup of water, then add it to the liquid mixture. Once thickened, add the apples, stir to distribute ten, and remove from heat.
Making the Meringue
I have a complete guide for you on How To Make Meringue, including troubleshooting and tips.
- Whip the Egg Whites: In a clean, dry bowl, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Gradually add one tablespoon of granulated sugar and continue beating until stiff, glossy peaks form.
- Meringue Topping: Spoon the meringue over the apple filling, spreading it to the edges of the pan to seal the apples completely.
- Spread the dough into the prepared pan to an even layer, prick it with a fork, then bake for 14 minutes.
- Remove from the pan and cool for about 20 minutes, then top the crust with the apple mixture. (This is the best time to make the meringue.)
- Top the apples with the meringue and use the back of the spoon to spread it. Sprinkle with the sliced almonds and bake.
- Choose firm apples like Granny Smith or Honeycrisp for the best texture; its tart flavor will go best with the sweetness of the meringue.
- Allow the bars to set for a few hours before slicing for a neat and clean cut. Line your pan with parchment paper so that it hangs out of the walls of the pan for an accessible invert of the bars.
- The meringue should be used within an hour after it is made, so plan. I recommend making it when the crust is cooling after the first bake.
- The meringue is optional; for a crumb topping, use the Streusel recipe from my Apple Muffin recipe. Follow the recipe, but top the apples with the crumbs instead of the meringue.
The apple bars should be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 3 days or in the refrigerator for up to five days. Note that the meringue will weep syrup faster when kept in the fridge and in time. It is normal and happens with time; this is why it is best to eat it fresh.
The dough and apple filling can be made up to three days before and kept in the refrigerator.
Freezing options: Freeze the whole pan with the par-baked crust and apple filling for up to 3 weeks, refrigerate the night before, then top with the meringue and bake.
If baking apple crumb bars, wrap the sliced bars with plastic wrap, place them in a freeze bag, and freeze for up to 2 months.
Absolutely! While Granny Smith and Honeycrisp are excellent choices, feel free to use your favorite apple variety or a combination of different types for a unique flavor profile.
Cream of tartar helps stabilize the meringue, but if you don’t have it, you can try substituting it with an equal amount of white vinegar or lemon juice.
You can skip the meringue if you prefer a more straightforward apple bar. Just bake the bars without it for a delicious crumb-topped version.
Yes, use your favorite brand.
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Meringue Apple Bars Recipe
Buttery crust layered with cinnamon apple filling and topped with light and airy meringue
Short Crust Dough
- 2 Sticks Unsalted butter, soften (226 g / 8 oz)
- 1/2 tsp Salt
- 1 TBS Light corn syrup
- 1/2 Cup Sugar (100 g / 3.5 oz)
- 1 Large Egg, beaten
- 1 tsp Vanilla extract
- 2 3/4 Cups AP Flour (340 g / 12 oz)
- 3 Large Apples (500 g / 18 oz)
- 1 TSP Lemon Juice
- 1/2 Cup Sugar (100 g / 3.5 oz)
- 1 TBS Potato Starch
- 1/4 Cup Water
- 1 tsp Cinnamon
Meringue and toppings
- 1/4 tsp Salt
- 4 Large Egg Whites, room temperature.
- 3/4 Cup Sugar (150 g / 5.5 oz)
- 3/4 Cup Sliced toasted almonds
To Make The Dough
In a bowl of a standing mixer, beat the sugar, butter, corn syrup or honey, and salt until light and smooth, 4-5 minutes.
Scrap the sides and bottom of the bowl and on low speed, add the beaten egg. Mix until fully incorporated.
Add the flour 1/2 cup at a time, following the vanilla. Mix until you have a soft, smooth dough.
Wrap the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Remove from the refrigerator 10-15 minutes before baking.
To Make The Apple Filling
Peel and slice the apples into 1/8" cubes, place in a bowl, and sprinkle the lemon juice.
Place the apples and water in a pan over the stove, medium heat. Once it starts to boil, reduce to simmer and let cook for 3-4 minutes.
Place the apples in a bowl, leaving the liquid in the pan.
Add the sugar and cinnamon to the pan with the liquid and stir until the sugar dissolves.
Mix the potato starch with 1/4 cup water and add it to the pan. Once thickened add apples and blend.
Stir and remove from heat.
To Make the Meringue
Place the egg whites and salt in a bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
Gradually increase speed to high and beat until frothy.
Reduce heat to low-medium and slowly sprinkle the sugar. Return speed to high.
Beat until you have a shiny firm meringue. 4-5 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350F line a 9", or 9×13-inch for a thinner crust, baking pan with parchment paper, and grease the sides.
Roll the dough and flatten it evenly inside the baking pan. Using a fork, prick it thoroughly and bake it for 22-25 minutes for a 9-inch or 12-14 minutes for a 13×9-inch pan. Until the sides of the crust are starting to lightly brown.
Remove from oven and let cool in the pan for 15-20 minutes. Make the meringue at this point.
Evenly spread the apple filling on top of the baked crust and top it with the meringue. Sprinkle the almonds and return to the oven to bake.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the meringue is evenly golden on top.
Remove from oven and let cool completely before slicing.
- Opt for firm apple varieties like Granny Smith or Honeycrisp to achieve the ideal texture, as their tartness complements the sweetness of the meringue topping.
- Line your baking pan with parchment paper, ensuring it extends beyond the edges of the pan for easy removal and flipping of the bars. Allow the bars to set for a few hours to provide clean and tidy slices before cutting.
- Plan your timing accordingly, as the meringue should be used within an hour of preparation. I recommend making it while the crust is cooling after the initial baking.
- If you prefer not to use meringue, you can opt for a crumb topping. Use the Streusel recipe from my Apple Muffin recipe, following the instructions, and replace the meringue with the crumb mixture on top of the apples.