Fall is definitely in the air right now. I can feel the slight crispness in the morning and smell that intangible quality that comes from a mixture of cooler weather and drying leaves. I absolutely love that smell and wish it could be bottled for year-round enjoyment! Like many of you, late fall/early winter is my favorite time of year and I can never wait for it to start. Even though early morning is sadly the only time you would ever know it is fall here in Northern California, I can’t help but reach for cozy sweaters and steaming mugs filled with hot apple cider or mulled wine. (Let’s just forget about the fact that it is still reaching the mid-80’s in the afternoon and I am sweating buckets in my cozy sweater each time I step outside!)
To celebrate the fall, I wanted to make a dessert that captured some of my favorite qualities about the season. I immediately turned to apple crisp. This was for one of three reasons. One – I love the crumbly, brown sugar and oat topping that adorns apple crisps. Two – apples are at their best right now and, combined with baking spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, they pretty much define the fall season for me. Three – I completely suck at baking and apple crisps are basically idiot proof.
I know people find it funny that baking is so far outside my skillset in the kitchen. The reason is very straightforward: baking is an exact science, whereas cooking is much more forgiving. If you forget an ingredient or use too much of one while baking, you are almost guaranteed to open your oven and find a fallen soufflé, or a runny pie, or a cake with a massive fissure running down the middle. (I know from numerous experiences just like these.) There is practically no way to salvage these baking disasters, so you typically have to toss it and start all over again. Plain ol’ cooking is very different. When cooking, you can feel free to add more of your favorite ingredient or substitute something else with minimal fear that your meal will be an inedible, gloppy mess. But I digress…
With winter baking season just around the bend and Thanksgiving already in sight, I knew I needed to dust off my baking skills. This apple crisp recipe was exactly what I needed to regain my baking confidence and embrace the start of my favorite time of year. I slightly adapted this recipe from the incredible food blog Tastes Better from Scratch and I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!
For the Topping:
½ cup old fashioned oats
½ cup brown sugar, well packed
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of salt
1/3 cup unsalted butter, cold and cut into small chunks
For the Filling:
6 large to medium honeycrisp apples, peeled, cored, and sliced into thin strips
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
4 tablespoons flour
1 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
5 tablespoons whipping cream
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
A pinch of freshly grated nutmeg (Buy the whole nutmegs and use a microplane)
A pinch of salt
Pumpkin or vanilla ice cream
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees
Combine all of your topping ingredients into a medium sized bowl. Using a fork, a pastry cutter, or your fingers, gently mash the butter into the dry ingredients until it is thoroughly combined. Your topping will look crumbly in texture. (Note: I started out using the pastry cutter, but quickly became impatient and used my fingers to speed up the process. I actually preferred this method because I could more easily ensure an even distribution of butter throughout all ingredients.) Once combined, set aside for later use.
If you have not previously prepped your apples, do so now. I highly recommend using a countertop apple corer and peeler for this process. It makes a potentially laborious process a cinch. If you like to bake with apples and don’t already own one of these, please do yourself a favor and pick one up immediately. You will thank me later – I promise!
Place your apple slices into a large bowl and set aside.
In a medium sized bowl, whisk your melted butter and flour until smooth. Add the lemon juice, vanilla extract, and whipping cream, making sure to whisk until thoroughly combined and smooth. Stir in the brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Pour the liquid mixture over the apple slices and toss well to evenly coat them with the buttery goodness.
Pour the filling into an 8×8 baking dish, make sure the top is one even layer. You may need to redistribute some of the slices from the middle into the corners to fill in some holes. Lightly press down on the apples to slightly compact and ensure plenty of room for the topping. Gently pour the topping into the center of your baking dish and carefully smooth it out into one even layer, thoroughly covering the apple filling.
Bake on a foil lined baking sheet in the center of your oven for approximately 35 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling and the top is a beautiful golden brown color. Remove from the oven and let cool for at least 20 minutes to allow the filling to set before serving.
Serving suggestions: The crisp is delicious on its own, but I recommend serving it warm with a scoop pumpkin or vanilla ice cream. Don’t forget the salted caramel drizzle on top!