Apple Oat Bars with Pretzel Crumb Topping

Sweet and salty is totes all the rage for good reason.  It’s a delicious combination.  And there are so many different variations and ways to achieve that perfect sweet-salty balance.  Fleur de sel caramels…salted chocolate shortbread cookies…honey cayenne roasted pecans.  And these:

Remember a couple weeks ago when I had extra pretzel crust leftover from my strawberry-cheesecake-pretzel barsWell, that leftover crust mixture didn’t last very long, because I would sprinkle it over frozen yogurt and fruit and such.  But I still wanted to come up with a recipe that would use that kind of mixture…but I didn’t want to do another pretzel crust.  No, no.  I wanted to do something far more dangerous: pretzel crumb topping.

I’m all about crumb topping in its various forms.  It’s my favorite part of crumb cake and coffee cake and particular fruit crisps.  If I’m serving myself from something with a crumb topping, I’ll make sure I get the piece that has the most on it.  (Same goes for frosting.  People that are close to me know that I will fight someone for the giant buttercream flowers on a bakery birthday cake.)

So I thought and thought and thought and kept coming back to the combination of apples and pretzels, although I’m not sure why.  Apples seemed like they would be able to stand up to the saltiness from the pretzels, both in texture and flavor.  I was envisioning an apple-oatmeal bar, except with a pretzel crumb topping instead of just using the same crust on top and bottom.  I researched some recipes, and finally ended up drawing mostly from a recipe for blueberry crumb bars from AllRecipes and a recipe for caramel apple bars from Food Network.  I knew I would basically halve the oatmeal crust recipe I came up with because I wouldn’t need it on top too.  Finally, I just had to develop my pretzel crumb.  The pretzel crust recipe was a good place to start, but I would need different proportions, plus some flour to create a crumb texture.  I adapted a recipe for basic crumb topping from Martha Stewart, and I loved the result.

These bars baked up perfectly yummy.  They would be great for an afternoon snack…although with the oatmeal and apples in there, you could tell me you ate one for breakfast and I wouldn’t judge you.  The only problem was that the crumb topping didn’t stay as crisp past the first day…although this tends to happen with other crisp or crumb bars too.  Oh well.  They still tasted just as good.  Solution?  Don’t leave them hanging around longer than a day.  Shouldn’t be too hard.

Apple Oat Bars with Pretzel Crumb Topping

Makes 24 bars (one 9×13 inch pan)

For crust
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
3/4 tsp baking powder
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 1/4 cup oats
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (= 1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces (it’s ok if it’s softened a little)

For apple filling
3 or 4 large granny smith apples (or any apple you like for baking), peeled, cored and chopped into 1/4-1/2″ pieces (about 4 cups total; it’s ok if the pieces are different sizes…this lends some texture to the filling)
2 TBS unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup granulated sugar

For crumb topping
1 cup crushed pretzels (about 2-2 1/2 cups whole pretzels) – make sure they’re salted!
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup (= 1 1/2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1.  Preheat oven to 350ºF with a rack in the middle position.  Grease a glass 9×13″ baking dish.
2.  For crust – In a medium bowl, combine brown sugar, baking powder, oats, and flour.  Add butter, working it into the oat mixture until you the dry ingredients are moistened.  (You can do this with a wooden spoon…or in a food processor…or with your hands – my favorite.)  Stir in the beaten egg.  Transfer crust mixture to prepared baking dish, pressing it out evenly to the sides and corners of the dish.  Set aside.
3.  For filling – Place all filling ingredients in a large bowl and toss to combine.  Pour filling over crust and spread evenly.
4.  For crumb topping – In a medium bowl, combine the crushed pretzels, flour, and both sugars.  Cut in the chilled butter (like we did in step 2) until the mixture has a crumbly texture, with pieces about the size of a blueberry.  Sprinkle the crumb topping evenly over the filling.  Bake until top is golden brown and apples are tender, about 40 minutes.  Cool bars in the pan on a wire rack until completely cool.  Slice and serve.

Recipe adapted from AllRecipes, Food Network, Martha Stewart, and my brain

See?  They’re not too complicated, and you get some pretty yummy results.  Perfect activity for a weekend afternoon!  And not to make life harder for you, but these would probably be good with some vanilla ice cream on top.  Just saying.

What are you favorite sweet-salty treats?  Thanks for reading, happy baking!



  1. Great idea Hannah! I def want to try this (and is “totes” an abbrev for totally?)

    I love your blog and tried the Baked Brownies to much acclaim (Diva certainly enjoyed herself)

    Your lovin’ Dallas auntie,

    The other Connie

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