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Dessert Recipes

Sake Strawberry-Apple Bars and My Friend Masaki

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Juicy strawberries with sweet apples get even better with a little sake. A moist and juicy filling topped with  a salty pretzel-oat crust makes it difficult to eat just one bar!


I know I’ve mentioned that apple desserts are my favorite kind of desserts; a very close tie with Nutella desserts.SmileI remember eating apple crumbles when I was little. My little brother and I would return from a long day at school to the comforting smells of apple and cinnamon baking. My mom would make crumbles and bars as often as she would make us cookies. There wouldn’t be any lectures about not making a mess while we ate a crumble because a crumble is well, a crumbly affair to say the least. Her crumbles and bars were not made with sake...that's my crazy idea!

When I was studying at  University, I was surrounded by students from all over the world. One very good friend of mine was Masaki Yoshida from Japan. We met each other in one of our International Business classes. All Masaki wanted to be was American. He loved basketball, rap music, and drove a Nissan 300 ZX. Masaki was a part of our group of friends that was mostly students from South America and Italy.

We spent weekends together at the local bars and at parties; Masaki was one of us. One afternoon Masaki asked me if I liked sushi? Sushi? It was the mid-90’s and I had never heard of sushi. I grew up on pasta, lasagne, and fish. But it was cooked fish. Who would eat raw fish? Ludicrous! Masaki told me, “I take you to my favorite sushi place. We will eat sushi. You will love it.” And he giggled a little.

As he promised, he picked me up promptly at 7 PM in his silver Nissan and we zoomed over to his favorite sushi place. We walked in and everyone knew him and greeted him with happy smiles and spoke to him in Japanese. He ordered a large boat full of sushi and some hot sake. Vibrant colored tuna and salmon sliced in perfect chunks. Rolls that were almost too pretty to eat. Apprehension kicked in and I knew I had to keep an open mind. Chopsticks…what in the world were chopsticks? He taught me how to hold my chopsticks properly. He placed the long thin sticks on the inside of my thumb and index finger. Patiently, over and over again, he showed me how to grasp a piece of sushi. The sake was warm and lovely. It was a lesson in Japanese food and culture as he told me stories about his world and family. It wasn’t a date; we were merely friends and I later found out he was in love with my friend Jacqui.

We graduated together and even though Masaki had dreams of becoming a famous NBA player, he had to
return to his father and his familial obligations on the other side of the world. We kept in touch for many years. We emailed each other and sent postcards. Then about 8 years ago, I lost touch with him. I have looked him up on Facebook and googled his name with no success.

When this devastating tragedy struck in Japan the other day, I suddenly thought of my old friend Masaki Yoshida. Where is Masaki? I’m sure he is married and has children. How are they doing? Are they safe? I spoke with my friend Jacqui the day it happened and the first thing she asked me is, “Didn’t you immediately wonder  how Masaki is?”

I sometimes reminisce about what Masaki taught me about Japanese food and friendships. When I’m at my favorite sushi bar and order a large boat of sushi, it’s difficult not to smile and remember the first time I tasted my second favorite food.

My heart is breaking for the destruction and the 1,000’s of lost lives. I pray that my friend is safe and for all the other people affected by this horrible tragedy.
This is a crumble that is even more appealing because of the shortbread crust and the salty pretzel topping. There are oats mixed in with the butter and pretzel…it is slightly healthy.Winking smileI find sake at Publix in the nice sushi section.
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This is a crumble that is even more appealing because of the shortbread crust and the salty pretzel topping. There are oats mixed in with the butter and pretzel…it is slightly healthy.Winking smileSake is smooth baked into the apples and strawberries. I recommend you try it. If you don’t have sake, you could use lemon or orange juice. SmileI love to add strawberry or apricot jam to my fruit fillings for pies or crumbles. If you don’t have strawberry jam, you can use any other flavored jam. This is very similar to my Winter Mini Apple Cranberry Crumble recipe.

Some other lovely bars to check out made by my sweet friends:
Hungry Rabbit NYC’s Apple Brandy Bars
My Food Thoughts’ Strawberry Crumb Bars

Ingredients:

Crust:
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
4 tablespoons sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
dash of sea salt

Filling:
5 large granny smith apples (or your favorite baking apples)peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2” pieces
1/2 cup strawberries, cut into chunks
juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
4 tablespoons strawberry jam
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 cup sake (or orange juice)

Crumb Topping:
1 cup crushed salted pretzels
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup quick cooking oats
1 stick chilled butter, cut into pieces

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease a 8x8 inch baking pan. In a medium sized bowl, add the apple pieces, cinnamon, ground ginger, and  lemon juice. Let it sit while you prepare the crust. In a medium bowl, beat the butter and the sugar until fluffy. Beat in the flour until a soft dough is formed. Remove the dough and place it into your prepared pan. Press firmly onto the bottom and sides of the pan. applesakecrumble3
Bake for about 15 minutes or until golden brown. You will have to refrain from eating this sugar cookie crust! Yum!
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While the crust is baking, prepare the apple-strawberry mixture. In a medium sauce pan, sauté the apples in medium-low heat for about 3 minutes (until they lose their crispiness). Add the strawberries and the strawberry jam. Add in the sake combined with the 2 teaspoons of cornstarch. Let it thicken and set the pan aside to cool while you prepare the crumb topping.
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Crumb Topping:
In a medium bowl, stir together the crushed pretzels, oats, flour, both sugars, and oats. With a pastry cutter (or your fingers) cut in the butter pieces until the mixture has a crumbly mixture with the crumbs the size of
blueberries.
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After the filling cools, spread evenly on top of the crust.
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Sprinkle the crumb mixture evenly over the apple-strawberry filling.
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Bake about 35-40 minutes or until the the topping is golden brown. Cool the bars completely in the pan on top of the rack, then place them in the refrigerator to chill before cutting. DSCN6582
You can store the bars in an airtight container in the refrigerator if you don’t gobble them all up as soon as you bake them.Smile

Thank you again for all of your love and support in the last week with my news. It has all been overwhelming and I can't even tell you how good your friendship makes me feel. I meet the oncologist this Tuesday for the first time.

My darling friend Barb posted this lovely post the other day about St. Baldrick's Day and her support for children with cancer. She is donating a dollar for every comment (up to $250 of her own money) on this post. Go on over and leave a comment. It's for a wonderful cause:)

Thank you for stopping by today! Happy Sunday!

I've been nominated for Babble's Top Blogs! Yippee!  I've been nominated twice:)Thank you thank you thank you for the nominations. Click here to "like" me and I appreciate your votes! (It's in alphabetical order):)

http://www.babble.com/best-recipes/dinner/top-100-food-mom-blog-2011-nominate-a-food-blog/index.aspx

:)

49 comments

  1. oh my goodness. . . this sounds AMAZING! :-) Apple desserts are my favorite too. . can you find sake at your local liquor store?? I've only had it at restaurants! :-)

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  2. Oh these look so good! I love anything with crumbles on top! Thanks for sharing :)

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  3. thanks for sharing your Maskai and sushi story. I'm sure he thinks of his time in the US with you guys whenever he eats a hamburger or a big piece of lasagna.
    Your bars look great, I too am a big fan of anything apple and crumbly:)

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  4. So creative! I've never thought of baking with sake. Just drinking it :> I hope your friend Masaki is okay too.

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  5. Sake in the filling must taste delicious in these scrumptious bars. Thanks for sharing the story of your friend with us. Our hearts are with Japan right now.

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  6. I've never baked with Saki, but this does sound delicious. I hope your friend is safe! And thanks for the link to the St. Baldrick's post- I've left a comment there as well. :)

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  7. What a nice story about your old friend- I hope that he and his family are doing ok. It is surprising with today's current technology you haven't been able to find him. The bars look delicious by the way, love that you put pretzles in the topping!

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  8. If there is sake in it, it must taste heavenly!
    Indeed, the tragedy that struck Japan is overwhelming... We were wondering about our friends over there and fortunately they all are ok.

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  9. Thanks for the shout out, darling! These look incredible!

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  10. Mmm....Sake....looks absolutely divine! Love the 'good old days' story about you and Masaki, I do hope he and his family are safe, as with many others who have and friends and family in Japan, we hope to hear from them. The bars are so yummy looking!

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  11. I'm with you on the apple desserts, Lora, so I know I'd love your beautiful bars. Hope that your friend, Masaki, is OK...

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  12. My daughter LOVES apple crisps/crumbles. In fact, that is her "birthday cake" (and she's 19!) Thanks for a variation I'm going to try and see if it passes muster with her. :)

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  13. These sound amazing! I love the addition of the Sake, it must make the bars extra good :)!

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  14. I love crumb toppings and strawberry desserts :) This looks fantastic! One of my husband's students (at a flight school) is from Japan and wants very badly to be American and introduce him to sushi...too funny!

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  15. I love crumb toppings and strawberries :) This look fantastic! One of my husband's students at the flight school he works at is from Japan. He too wants to be American and introduce my husband to sushi...too funny! I hope your friend is alright...

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  16. I'm intrigued by the sake in this...what a great idea! Gorgeous bars. Love the combo of strawberry-apple (and that your friend drove a 300Z!).

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  17. This really looks fantastic..awesome combo!
    Hope your friend is alright! It is sad what mother nature can do!

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  18. Your bars look s good. My son doesn't like cake or chocolate, so I make apple crisp every year for his birthday. Love the pretzels in the crumb topping.

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  19. Yummies! I had warm sake for the first time last summer and it's sooo good. This is a great recipe and I too am sending well wishes to you and our friends in Japan.

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  20. Oh how I love hearing about your sweet friend from college. When I was in college, I was an ESL teacher to international college students from Japan. It was truly one of the best experiences.
    What a great idea to combine apples and strawberries in a bar! And I just love the pretzels in the topping, so creative. :)

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  21. i have some friends in Japan too and when i first heard the news I immediately email them.
    What a great memory about your friend.
    the bars sound so good. love the apple-strawberry-pretzel combo. thanks for sharing Lora

    p.s. voted you twice, good luck

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  22. Those look SO good!! I love bars like this, they always succeed in making my happy and are the best smelling desserts while baking.

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  23. Lora..great post for a great cause...will be dropping a comment there as soon as I have finished here :)

    Great sake strawberry and apple bars ! I will love this and have bookmarked it for future bakes :)

    Take care and God bless,
    Elin

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  24. These bars look amazing! I am so intrigued that there is sake in there as well. I've never baked with sake before, but am very curious. I'll def have to try this recipe. Thanks Lora!

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  25. Yum the bars look fantastic! I love the crumb topping! And Sake, so neat!

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  26. Wonderful post. I feel your worry for your friend. I had friends in Thailand when the tsunami hit a few years back. Hugs and prayers...

    These bars looks divine. I've never combined apples and strawberries and I've definitely never BAKED with sake. So intriguing!

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  27. Life pulls us in so many directions and unfortunately sometimes it pulls us so far away from those we are connected to. Onto happier notes... these bars sound amazing. Sake is something I have no experience with but the combination sounds delicious. The crumbly topping makes these even more appealing. Yummy!

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  28. These look awesome, love the furity touch to the bars!

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  29. This looks amazing... I hope you are able to find your friend Masaki and catch up soon.

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  30. I'm to a point now where watching anything about Japan makes tears well up. It's one horror after the other over there. I hope and pray that your friend is well. We continue to pray for your health too.

    Thanks for this recipe. It looks absolutely fantastic. Shortbread is one of my favorite snacks (just under cheesecake) and adding fruit to it can only make it twice gooder.

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  31. Thanks for that story. I hope he is ok as well. I feel so helpless being so far away from it all! We all just need to keep praying for everyone's well being.

    Oh man, those bars are great. I am totally that person that eats the crumbly top and leaves the middle behind

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  32. What a great looking fruit bar. I love putting apple and strawberry together, it's a good texture combo. These sounds so yummy!

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  33. You used such great flavor combinations in these bars, Lora! What a wonderful treat. Thank you for sharing your talents in the kitchen. I've been thinking of you and your health, and hope for nothing but the best for you! :)

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  34. It is amazing how we are all connected in this world, over the big oceans! Hope he is ok!
    The crumble looks lovely! I am not a big fan of sake but I bet it went well with the recipe!

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  35. Lora, apple desserts are in a close race with Nutella for me as well. I don't think I would pass up either ;o) This is a lovely looking fruit bar and I love your creativity when making all of these wonderful treats.
    Thanks for sharing the story about your friend Masaki. I'm hoping you'll cross paths again one day and he is safe!

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  36. I'm with you and my love for apple bars. My mom would make these half sheet pans of apple pie bars for our seemingly endless fundraisers. Maybe that's why I like the bars so much more than pies.

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  37. such a lovely, lovely story Lora - i do hope you hear about your friend. thoughts and prayers are w/him and the Japanese people

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  38. I have a cousin named Masaki, he lives in Kagoshima. My mom's side of the family is from Fukushima. Thank God they're all OK... I still can't believe this happened and I've stopped reading the news because its too sad :( I hope your friend Masaki is OK. Besos, Lora!

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  39. What a great post...and what a great tribute to your friend. My best friend is teaching English in Japan (thankfully I heard from her on Sunday), but my heart is just breaking for that country. It makes you thankful for every breath we're given. These bars look and sound scrumptious. Thank you for sharing this sweetness. Much love.

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  40. These bars look FANTASTIC!
    Praying for you, Lora, and praying for Japan.

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  41. This kind of reminds me of the strawberry pretzel salad we have for Thanksgiving :) I love the ingredients.. I am definitely going to be trying this once I get my hands on some strawberries!

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  42. this looks so lovely! thank you for sharing this post with us.

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  43. Wonderful crumble...looks amazing! I hope you find your friend and that he is okay.

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  44. Love, love, crumbles. Just love them. What a great afternoon snack.
    Cheers to discovering sushi with your friend. Positive thoughts coming your way that all will be okay.

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  45. I love this post... my heart goes out to your friend and the rest in Japan... hope all will be okay!

    The bars are absolutely scrumptious...sake, crumbles, strawberry...mmmmm!

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  46. These looks wonderful...
    I hope your friend is safe and that you are able to reconnect at some point.

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  47. Amazing job on this. It looks delicious and the pretzel topping is the perfect final touch.

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  48. Prayers for your friend and all in Japan! I love this recipe it looks so delicious! Thank you for posting! Angela

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