The time has changed and the days are getting shorter. November always seems like such a dreary month. Living on Canada’s East Coast, it also signifies colder temperatures surely followed by the long winter.
When it gets to November, I am ready for some comfort food. One of my all-time favorites is the traditional old-fashioned apple crisp dessert — the sweet apple flavour filling topped with a crisp, crunchy streusel. And, oh, the heavenly scent in the house when the apple crisp is baking!
Apple crisps are not hard to make and basically use pantry staples for ingredients. The key to a really tasty apple crisp is to use a blend of apples. I find honeycrisps, cortlands, humes, and ginger gold varieties work really well. Using a blend of apples allows their flavours and textures to play off of each other. The honeycrisps and cortlands are sweet-tart, juicy apples. The ginger golds and humes are less tart. The cortlands and ginger golds hold their shapes particularly well when cooked so they don’t cook to mush and the apple chunks or slices are still visible in the cooked crisp, giving it a pleasing texture.
I don’t always put four varieties of apples in a crisp. Frankly, I’ve made quite acceptable crisps with just one kind of apple. Essentially, I use whatever apples I have in the house and, most often, use only a couple of varieties. The apples I have used in my apple crisp today have come from Arlington Orchards, west of Summerside, PEI. This is a large apple orchard where many different varieties of apples are grown. It’s an annual October trek to Arlington Orchards for us and sometimes I get carried away and come home with lots and lots of apples for eating and baking! The photo below is just a sampling! I think I brought home seven varieties this year!
Apple crisps are best made and allowed to cool for about 30 minutes before eating. This allows the true flavours of the apples to be appreciated when the crisp is still warm but not too hot to eat.
Apple crisp freezes very well. I often make the crisps in individual ramekin dishes and freeze them, unbaked. Crisps can also be frozen after they are baked, then thawed and reheated in the microwave. However, I find there is some texture deterioration in the latter method.
¾ cup flour
¾ cup brown sugar
¾ cup rolled oats
¼ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
½ cup cold butter
¼ cup chopped pecans (optional)
2½ lbs apples (e.g., Cortlands, Honeycrisps, Humes, Ginger Gold, individually or in any combination mixture)
2 tsp lemon juice
⅓ cup white sugar
⅓ cup brown sugar
¾ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
1 tbsp cornstarch
Place oven rack in center of oven and preheat oven to 375°.
Streusel Topping: In medium-sized bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, rolled oats, cinnamon, and salt. Using pastry blender, cut in cold butter until mixture is crumbly. Stir in pecans. Cover mixture and place in refrigerator while preparing apple filling.
Apple Filling: Peel, core, and cut apples into chunks about ¼”- ⅓” thick or so. Place in large bowl. Sprinkle with lemon juice and toss to coat.
In separate bowl, combine sugars, spices, and cornstarch. Mix well. Add to apples and toss to coat.
Transfer mixture to greased 8”x8″ baking pan and arrange apples evenly over bottom of pan.
Sprinkle streusel topping evenly over apples.
Place baking pan on rimmed baking sheet (lined with tin foil for easy clean-up should apples bubble out).
Bake for 50-55 minutes, until topping is crisp and golden, apples are tender when knife-tested, and juices from the apple filling are bubbling up through the crisp topping. Remove from oven and let cool for 30 minutes before serving.
Serve plain or with a dollop of whipped cream or your favourite vanilla ice cream.
Yield: 6-8 servings
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