Over the years, I've eaten (and baked) too many so-so apple crisps. So I set out to create my very own 'perfect' recipe, barely sweet apples firm and tart, topped with an extra-crispy topping, thanks to a secret ingredient.
How one makes a bad apple crisp is beyond me. What can go wrong with apples and butter, cinnamon and nuts? Trouble is, over the years, I've eaten (and baked, myself) one so-so batch of apple crisp after another. The culprits?
The Sugar Too often, apple crisp is just way too sweet, masking the sweet seduction of the apples themselves.
The Apples For texture and tartness, apple variety matters. Some apples 'melt' into something cousin to apple sauce. Other apples are just too sweet for apple crisp.
The Topping Ever heard of Apple Sog? That's what I call too-soft and too-sweet toppings that turn apple crisp into Apple Soggy and something more like granola (too much oatmeal) or cake (too much flour) or a layer of frosting (too much sugar).
At last, I've found what to my taste, anyway, is the perfect combination for apple crisp, barely sweet, perfectly soft apples with an extra-crispy and flavor-rich topping.
So what do you think of my secret ingredient for apple crisp, graham cracker crumbs? The first time, they filled in for flour, just because I was short. But they added such a great texture, such a nutty sweetness, that I've been adding them to apple crisp on purpose ever since!
EXTRA-CRISPY APPLE CRISP
Time to table: 90 minutes
Serves 8 (easy to halve)
- Juice of two lemons
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- 6 large apples (see TIPS), peeled, quartered, 'thirded' and 'thirded' again
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs (the secret ingredient!)
- 1/2 cup oatmeal (old-fashioned or quick, not instant)
- 1/2 cup walnuts (see TIPS)
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon table salt
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cold or at room temperature
Preheat oven to 375F.
APPLES In a large bowl, stir together all the ingredients except apples. Drop in the apple pieces as they're prepped, stirring often so that each piece is lightly covered.
TOPPING In a separate bowl, stir together all the ingredients except the butter. With your hands, work in the butter until small, even clumps begin to form.
ASSEMBLE Lightly butter a shallow baking dish such as a quiche pan or pie pan. Transfer apples into the dish, then top evenly with the topping. (If making ahead of time, stop here and let rest for 3 - 4 hours.)
BAKE Bake for 50 - 60 minutes, covering with foil or a baking sheet for the last 15 minutes if the topping starts to get a little dark. Let cool a bit.
SERVE Serve warm, plain or dolloped with whipped cream. Just whip a cup of heavy cream with a tablespoon of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg and a 1/2 teaspoon of black walnut extract or vanilla.
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