I can’t explain it but I have always liked when it rains. A lot of people hate the rain. The rain makes it inconvenient when you have to walk the dog, you have to find your raincoat and umbrella, and you know it’s just going to mess up your hair. I like to watch people in their rain gear, as well. I never understood when people wear only a hooded raincoat that stops at the waistline, regardless of how hard it’s raining. The water just runs off the coat and drips onto your pants, then when you take the coat off you’re soaking wet from your mid-calf to your feet. I know this is the case because I am actually guilty of using a raincoat like that when it rains here… and I never put on gloves. I figure I’ll just keep my hands in my pockets, but that really doesn’t work well especially if I am walking the dog. So inevitably my hands get a little wet and when I do put my hands in my pockets they just make the inside of the pocket wet. My specific raincoat also has an issue where the pockets open at the top so you can easily put your hands inside, but when I am walking with my hands in my pockets water just runs down the jacket front (and the sleeve) right into the pocket and before I know it I have a little swimming pool for my fingers. One might think that I would just buy a different raincoat but since it doesn’t rain here very often I never think about that… until it’s raining… and then it’s too late.
Sometimes I forgo a raincoat all together and just use an umbrella. The only problem I have with that is after a short while my arm starts getting tired of holding the umbrella so I am constantly switching hands and the rain that drips off the front edge of the umbrella just seems to land on my pants anyway. So just like the raincoat, when I get to wherever I’m going my top half is usually dry but my pants down to my shoes are soaked. The thing I just can’t bring myself to do, which is the one thing that would solve all my rain problems is to buy one of those rain suits that come with a jacket, pants, and rubber boots, you know like normal people do. I know we had them when we were kids… bright yellow, heavy rubber, impossible to snap because the sleeves were too long, but as an adult I just can’t do it. Besides, did I mention – I like when it rains.
Way back, when I was in the eighth grade I remember we had a particularly rainy month. We had days and days of steady rain, then one day the sky opened up like you wouldn’t believe. That day it rained so hard that the school grounds were quickly flooded as well as a lot of the low-lying areas around town. Kids who didn’t bring their raincoats were running as fast as they could holding books or bags over their heads when moving between classes. Me… in my hooded, yellow raincoat… I strolled at a leisurely pace and when I got to class I put the coat over the back of my chair and let it drip dry, contributing the ever-growing puddles of water on the floor. Normally I would have ridden my bike to school, but since it was raining that day I got a ride to school but I would have to walk home. By the time school was out the rain had slowed considerably so I walked with only a few of the snaps on my jacket snapped up and left the hood hanging at the back. School was about two miles from home and (before the city finally decided to fix it) there was a particularly low area of town just about 6 blocks from the school that I had to cross over. This area would flood even in the lightest of storms perhaps with an inch or so of water over the sidewalk but on that day when the friend I was walking home with and I approached the corner the water was about five inches above the sidewalk at the curb and wasn’t draining at all. The street itself was a complete lake, water covering all four corners and then some. My friend and I waded a little ways through the water but stood back from the corner and looked at the giant pool that we knew we would have to cross. As we stood there, the cars that drove slowly through the intersection made waves that lapped up on our pants. By this point our shoes and the bottoms of our pants were pretty well soaked so we decided to push through and get to the curb.
As we approached the curb we both had the same idea at the same time… let’s see if we can get a car to splash us. Hey, we were kids… what can I say? So we got to the edge of the curb and we started waving at the cars coming down the street. In our best pantomime we motioned them to come closer and make a wave to splash us. None of them did… until a little VW bug saw us on the corner and deliberately moved slightly closer to the sidewalk and though he was driving through the water at considerably slower speeds than normal, the car made a wave of water that splashed well up on our pants. We cheered the person and waved our arms in the air, laughing and screaming, honestly having the best time. We tried a few more times with the next couple of cars that came by but their waves were nothing like the VW’s. Just as we decided we should really try and cross the street and make our way home, we looked down the road and saw that same VW turning the corner back onto our street. I remember looking at my friend and both of us yelling, “it’s the same guy”. Again, we started waving him over, jumping up and down and… he gunned it. We could also see him moving closer to us and before we knew what was happening the wave that was created from that little bug washed over our entire bodies, knocking us backwards, nearly pushing us to the ground. And it wasn’t just a wave… it was a tsunami. Just as he passed us he blew his horn a couple of times, which I thought was a nice touch, almost as if to say, I was kid once, I hope your having fun and I hope I helped. My friend and I again cheered, and we laughed harder than we had before. And, we were completely drenched. Head to toe. The rain jackets we wore did nothing to stop the water from getting inside. Water filled the hoods on the jackets, it ran down the neck, it had been forced up the sleeves, It bypassed the few snaps and hooks we had fastened and it soaked us so much our underwear was even drenched. There was not a dry spot on us. And as if that wasn’t enough… it started raining again. That walk home from school was one of the best walks home, I ever had.
I think that these Fruit Bars are a great thing to make on a rainy day. I also think they are a perfect thing to make on beautiful, sunny day. I have no idea where this recipe is from originally. The recipe, which is hand written on a 3x5 card comes from my grandmother and was probably written in the mid seventies. I actually held off making these for a very long time for some unknown reason, but probably because the name “Fruit Bars” just wasn’t very descriptive. I picked up the recipe card so many times in the past but then I would just put it back down in favor of something that seemed more glitzy or glamorous… like, ice cream. In fact, I had never really looked at the whole recipe until one cold rainy day last year. On that day I decided that I should really give it a try and see what this recipe was all about. What I found was, it was practically the simplest recipe to make, ever, and actually quite tasty to boot. What you get is basically a bar that has a base that is sort of a cross between a pie crust and a cookie topped with a cinnamon-y, apple filling, then more crust/cookie sprinkled on top. I will say, it’s a good idea to bake these in the morning and let them rest all day to firm up. We actually felt they had a better texture the next day, so wrapping them and leaving them overnight doesn’t hurt at all. The ingredients are things you probably have (or can get easily)… nothing special, no pink salt from the top most peaks of the Himalayas and no maple sugar from a remote providence of Saskatchewan. What you will need is a 10 by 15–inch baking sheet with ½ to 1-inch high sides (a rimmed cookie sheet or a jelly roll pan) and some aluminum foil.
Here is how they are made:
For the base:
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, chilled, cut into ½ cubes
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
For the topping:
4 granny smith apples
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of salt
For the glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1½ to 2 tablespoons milk
Preheat the oven to 350°F with the rack in the center position.
Line a 10 x 15-inch cookie sheet with a 14 by 14-inch piece of aluminum foil so that the edges overhang equally on the two long sides of the pan.
For the base
Combine the 2 cups flour, the ½-cup sugar, the baking powder and the salt in a large bowl, whisking them together so they are well combined.
Use the tips of your fingers (or a pastry blender if you have one) to cut the butter into the flour until it is well incorporated and looks like course meal.
Stir in the egg yolks until blended in. The dough will not hold completely together but instead will only clump up and that’s ok!
Divide the dough mixture in half and set one half aside for the time being.
Sprinkle the remaining dough clumps into the prepared pan and press them into a thin, even, solid base. If you need to steal a little bit of the dough from the other half that’s ok. Tip: Use a piece of plastic wrap to help when pressing out the dough to keep it from sticking to your hands.
Now we make the topping and finish,
Peel, core and thinly slice the apples and place them in a large bowl.
Add the ½-cup sugar, the ¼-cup flour, and the cinnamon to the apples in the bowl and toss well to coat them.
Place the prepared apples onto the crust in the pan, in an even layer.
Lastly, crumble the remaining half of the dough mixture over the apples.
Bake for 40-45 minutes
Remove from the oven and allow it to cool completely, in the pan, on a wire rack, at least 3 to 4 hours. Trying to cut them while they are still fresh and warm will only result in a crumbly mess, so be patient.
When completely cool make the sugar glaze
Stir together all the ingredients for the glaze in a small bowl using just enough of the milk to make a thick but still fluid glaze.
Use the aluminum foil overhangs to lift the fruit bars from the pan to a cutting board.
Drizzle the glaze in any pattern you wish over the fruit bars using a spoon. For for nice neat results use a piping bag or zip lock bag with the corner cut off.
Allow the glaze to set for about 10 minutes.
Carefully cut into 20 bars and serve.
Store leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
There you have it… my grandmothers Fruit Bars. At some point I think I’ll try some different fruit options, like cherries or even maybe pears, but for now I am going to take these and sit with my cup of tea and stare up into the sky and hope for rain.