November 02, 2012
Welcome back to the kitchen. As autumn rolls along I find myself spending many a pleasant evening curled up by the fire with a good book and a strong cup of tea. Apparently I really am turning into my father. But hey, he’s the one who most taught me to cook and appreciate food, so I guess that genetic predetermination can be a good thing!
In any case, I’m not much of a fan of sweets. If given the choice between dessert or a second helping of dinner, I’ll take dinner every time. And in restaurants the dessert course if often marked up enormously.
But here at home, in front of the fire, I will admit I’ve found a bit of a latent sweet tooth. Maybe it’s the darker days and my body trying to bulk up for winter, but my cup of tea just isn’t the same without something to go with it.
One of my very favorite fall crops is still very much in season: apples. And
I know, I know, you’ve had this a million times, and you may even think it’s a bit plane Jane. But bake up a big, buttery pan with a few personalized twists, and I promise you will convert back to crisp. We’re actually going to do a few variations here, but let’s start with a basic. Oh, and let me just say up front that apple crisp is one of those recipes that takes less than 10 minutes to get into the oven, and really doesn’t require any measuring at all. I will try to give some rough ideas on amounts and measurements, but I always eyeball it.
So for a yummy autumn apple crisp we’ll need:
-4 or 5 apples (mix varieties for best taste and texture results, or ask your grower what their favorite baking varieties are)
-splash of lime or lemon juice
-about 1 cup of brown sugar
-1 stick of butter (plus a pinch of salt if your butter is unsalted)
-2 or 3 cups of rolled oats (instant oatmeal is ok too)
-a few tablespoons of flour
-1 cup chopped walnuts
-about ½ cup currents (you can substitute raisins)
-a big dash of cinnamon (plus nutmeg, allspice, or other pumpkin pie spices in desired)
Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a small, high walled baking pan. Slice up the apples and remove the core and seeds. I like to slice them up pretty thin, but I tend to leave the skin on. But if you have one of those spiral apple slicers, that would be the perfect tool.
You want the apples to nearly fill the pan, leaving up to an inch of space. So slice up as many apples as your pan needs and increase other ingredients proportionally. Sprinkle about ¼ cup sugar over the apples along with some cinnamon and the lime juice, which will also help keep the apples color. Mix these all together.
Next, chop the walnuts and layer them over the apples along with the currants. In a separate microwave safe bowl, melt the butter in the microwave on high until no solids remain. Stir in the rest of the sugar and the oats and flour. Basivally, you want the oats to be well coated with butter and sugar, and not have too much that is dry, so stir well. Add in a little more cinnamon and nutmeg and spread this crisp topping evenly over the pan.
When the oven is heated up, just put the pan on a center rack and bake for about 30-45 minutes, depending on how big a pan you are baking. Your house will fill with an unmistakably autumn smell of apples and cinnamon an dit will be hard not to take this crisp out early and devour it before it’s time. But wait until the apples get all nice and soft before you take it out of the oven.
Yum! Now that is a dessert I can get behind, and it takes almost no time at all (except for the waiting!). I’ve got some high quality vanilla ice cream in the freezer that will top off this classic apple crisp perfectly. Nice work!
Now that we’ve mastered the basic apple crisp, let’s start talking about some variations. I’ve got my eye on one radical idea: how about a butternut squash and apple crisp? It could either be in the sweet category, or be a sweet side dish for porkchops or a roast. I think I would play with just a hint of spicy chili powder in the crisp topping for this crazy variation.
Or how about a pear and apple crisp with pecans and candied ginger? Yum! Just dice up the candied ginger really small so it isn’t overpowering. I’d serve this one with lavender and maple syrup whipped cream. Uh oh, my mouth is watering again.
Remember, this recipe is really hard to mess up, so you should feel free to play around with it. What would dried cranberries taste like instead of currants? Could we do another layer of the crisp mix underneath the apples, and maybe even grind up some of the nuts to go into that layer? Ooh, or how crazy would it be to try to sneak in a layer of honey-sweetened ricotta cheese between two layers of apples or pears? I think this would add an awesome creamy component.
So get some fruit from a local grower, grab some butter, oats, and sugar, a few spices, and you are ready to make the perfect dessert at a moment’s notice. I think fruit-based desserts are king, and you can eat them any time of day with little guilt. I’d love to hear your favorite fall treats. Send me any questions or comments to Isaac@kohoradio.com. Cooking local in the KOHO Kitchen, I’m Isaac Kaplan-Woolner.