Gluten free apple snickerdoodle bars have all the taste of snickerdoodles in an easy bar cookie, with plenty of rich apple butter for flavor.
Snickerdoodles are those thin and chewy cinnamon-sugar cookies with the tangy bite and bumpy lumpy tops. In my experience, the most universally beloved flavors of baked goods are: vanilla, chocolate, cinnamon, and lemon. Each deserves at least one cookie.
I don’t make a lot of cookie bars, since they aren’t as beautiful as cutout or drop cookies. But cookies have to go in the oven and out of the oven, spaced inches apart from one another, over and over. It can be a bit of a drag sometimes.
These snickerdoodle cookie bars are pressed into one standard 9-inch square pan, and then baked. You can slice them into generous bars, making only 9 total, or even slice them into thin fingers for dipping into a sweet dip for a little celebration.
The recipe does not translate well into drop cookies, though, if you were wondering. I started out making drop cookies, but the recipe, especially with the addition of thick and rich apple butter, was just too precious and prone to failing. These bars work every time, even if you cut a corner or two.
What’s apple butter, and why are we baking with it?
I love applesauce, in every form imaginable. I love it smooth from the jar (unsweetened, please), and I love my own homemade super-chunk kind.
But applesauce, when used in baking, doesn’t taste like much of anything at all. If you want to flavor something with apples, you either need to use apples themselves (think apple pie, apple pie cookies, apple peanut butter cookies oh my!)—or apple butter.
Like pumpkin butter and pumpkins/squash, apple butter is made by cooking down peeled and cored apples with sweetener and spices. Cooking the apples breaks them down, like applesauce, but continuing to cook them concentrates and intensifies the flavors and reduces the moisture for a thicker paste.
I know it can be disappointing when one of my recipes calls for an ingredient that isn’t something you always have on hand, like pumpkin or apple butter. But I highly recommend you make a large batch of apple butter to use in recipes or just on a piece of toast all season long.
You might be able to take an apple butter shortcut, too. Try adding the sweetener and spices to jarred smooth applesauce, in place of the fresh apples, and cooking it down as you would the fresh stuff.
What’s that white drizzle on top?
The drizzle on top of each bar you see in the photos is just the simplest confectioners’ sugar glaze. It’s made by placing about 1/2 cup (58 g) confectioners’ sugar in a bowl, and then adding water or another liquid (milk, apple juice, etc.) slowly until you have a thickly pourable glaze.
I place the glaze into a piping bag or zip-top bag with the very corner snipped, and drizzle the glaze in a zigzag pattern on top of each cookie bar. It adds a little visual interest.
The cookies are sweet enough as is, so the glaze is not necessary for taste. But it does make the bars look pretty, since cookie bars are so terribly quick to make, compared to regular cookies, but not quite as naturally beautiful sometimes.
Ingredients and substitutions
The only dairy in these cookie bars is butter. You should be able to successfully replace that with vegan butter. My favorite brands are Melt and Miyoko’s Kitchen.
There are three full eggs in this recipe, and they are responsible for a lot of the texture of the bars. You could try replacing them with one “chia egg” each, but I’m not terribly optimistic.
You cannot make this recipe with applesauce in place of apple butter. Please see the full discussion of apple butter above.
If you have pumpkin butter, it might be worth trying to replace the apple butter with that, and the apple pie spice with pumpkin pie spice. But when I tried to replace the pumpkin butter in our recipe for gluten free pumpkin snickerdoodle cookies, it did not work. At all.
Gluten Free Apple Snickerdoodle Bars
For the cookies
2 cups (280 g) all purpose gluten free flour (I used Better Batter)
1 teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if your blend already contains it)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 1/2 teaspoons apple pie spice (See Recipe Notes)
3/4 cup (150 g) granulated sugar
3/8 cup (82 g) packed light brown sugar
9 tablespoons (126 g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
5 ounces apple butter (homemade or store-bought), at room temperature
3 eggs (150 g, weighed out of shell) at room temperature, beaten
For the topping
1/4 cup (50 g) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
For the apple pie spice
To make your own apple pie spice, combine 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon + 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom + 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg + 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger + 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice.
Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease and line a 9-inch square baking pan and set it aside.
In a large bowl, place the flour, xanthan gum, salt, baking powder, cream of tartar, apple pie spice, and granulated sugar, and whisk to combine well. Add the brown sugar and mix, breaking up any lumps. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and add the melted butter, apple butter, and eggs, and mix until combined. The dough will be thick, but soft.
In a small bowl, place the granulated sugar and cinnamon for the topping, and mix to combine. Sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar in a thin layer in the prepared pan. Place the cookie dough in mounds, scattered evenly over the interior surface of the pan, on top of the cinnamon-sugar. Using a moistened spatula, press the cookie dough into a single layer, and smooth the top. Sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar again on top of the cookie dough, in a thin, single layer.
Place the pan in the center of the preheated oven and bake for about 25 minutes or until just firm to the touch all the way to the center. Remove the pan from the oven, place it on a wire rack, and allow it to cool completely before slicing into squares and serving.