Apple walnut squares (Kate Lawson / The Detroit News)
There’s a veritable feeding frenzy going on in my front yard these days. Acorns, butternuts, apples and quince are peppered across the lawn, and critters of every stripe — from squirrels and chipmunks to groundhogs and deer (and I’m pretty positive I get nocturnal visits from skunk, racoons and possum) — are scurrying about getting their fill and storing up for the winter. Even the hummingbirds are still around, getting their last shot of nectar from the salvia before making their journey south.
It’s been a pretty great year for fruit, I’ve noticed. In fact, a large branch on my heirloom apple tree finally snapped from all the weight of the fruit, and as I mentioned earlier, I actually had pears on an old tree that I had given up on years ago. The acorns and butternuts fall so fast and hard that I’ve considered a helmet for yard work and because we have a flat roof it sounds like we’re living in the middle of a driving range.
And just like the critters, I know it’s time to make good use of what Mother Nature literally throws at us. I know that acorns are edible, but the thought doesn’t appeal to me — I’ll let the animals sort them out. But I am making jelly from the quince and the pears and apples make great breads and desserts.
Here is just one example from a new cookbook by pie baking champion Michele Stuart, “Perfect Pies & More.” These apple walnut squares can be served as a breakfast treat or served warm with vanilla ice cream for a homey dessert. These are also fine to freeze, so my furry friends aren’t the only ones with a well-stocked larder.
Apple Walnut Squares
From “Perfect Pies & More” by Michele Stuart (Ballantine Books, $26)
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) salted butter, softened
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups chopped apples (about 3 apples, cored, peeled, and chopped)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9- by 13-inch baking dish and set aside.
To prepare the squares, in a medium bowl, use a pastry blender to mix together the flour, brown sugar, and butter until the butter is in pea-size pieces. Stir in the walnuts. Remove 2 cups of the mixture and press it into the bottom of the greased baking dish. Add the cinnamon, baking soda and salt to the remaining mixture, then place the entire mixture in the bowl of an electric mixer. With the mixer set on low speed, beat in the egg, sour cream and vanilla. Once combined, gently stir in the apples. Spoon the batter into the prepared baking dish, spreading it evenly across the bottom layer.
Place the pan on the middle rack of the oven and bake it for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center of the pan comes out clean. Allow it to cool before cutting 2- by 2-inch squares and serving.
Apple Walnut Squares can be kept tightly wrapped in plastic wrap for up to 2 days.
Makes approximately 2 dozen 2- by 2-inch squares.
Per serving: 201 calories; 9 g fat (4 g saturated fat; 40 percent calories from fat); 28 g carbohydrates; 23 mg cholesterol; 157 mg sodium; 2 g protein; 1 g fiber.