Heirloom Elation : Apple Brownies

One of my friends makes the most delicious apple pies. Not only has he mastered the art of a flaky crust, but he also goes out of his way to get great heirloom apples. I have access to a lot of different apple varieties at farmers markets here in DC, but there are some types he regularly uses that I have never seen in this area. This year my friend generously shared with me several varieties of apples that he brought back from Charlottesville: Albemarle Pippin, Arkansas Black, Esopus Spitzenburg, and Ashmead's Kernel. Of those, all of them were new to me except for Arkansas Black. 

I decided to use some of the Albemarle Pippins (along with some Calville Blancs I still happened to have on hand) to make Amy Traverso's "Apple Brownies." While I automatically associate the word "brownie" with chocolate, these bars are chocolate free. The recipe specifies an 11-inch by 7-inch pan. I actually own a pan that particular size, but I multiplied the recipe by 1.5 and used a 13-inch by 9-inch pan instead. 

To make the batter, you beat melted and cooled butter with sugar and an egg until pale; add diced apples and walnuts; and incorporate the dry ingredients (flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt). When I transferred the batter into the parchment-lined pan, it looked like a pile of apples and nuts with just the tiniest amount of batter.
The batter expanded in the oven to completely envelop the fruit and form a solid, golden brown top. The bars were extremely moist -- with the fruit tender but not soggy -- and had a compact but not overly dense texture. They cut cleanly and were easy to handle. I could not believe how freakin' delicious these were. They were super apple-y, with richness from the walnuts, the perfect amount of cinnamon spice, and well-balanced sweetness. This bar was so simple and yet so completely satisfying. I had an emotional reaction to eating a piece -- it made me feel comforted and contented, like receiving a warm hug. I can't say how much the quality of the apples I used is responsible for the outstanding result, but this was one of my favorite apple desserts ever. I don't think that "brownie" is the best descriptor for these bars, but I don't know what other name would do them justice.
Recipe: "Apple Brownies" from The Apple Lover's Cookbook by Amy Traverso, recipe available here from Martha's Vineyard magazine.