This season, channel your inner pastry chef and bake up a delicious apple crisp with buttery oat topping. For maximum flavor, saute the apples first to ensure each piece is tender and caramelized before hitting the oven.
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The moment a piping hot apple crisp comes out of the oven, your kitchen will fill with amazing aromas. This sweet treat may not be as fancy as classic apple pie, but it’s just as tasty and easier to prepare when the craving hits. The caramel glaze, warm spices, and rustic oat topping are a winning combination. It’s one of my favorite fall desserts, especially when served warm with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream.
The key to a great apple filling is making sure the fruit is cooked thoroughly preventing a runny sauce. Undercooking commonly happens when tart apples are tossed raw with a flour-dusting, then baked. The topping cooks faster, so the filling never softens, and the juices don’t thicken up. The good news, this is easy to avoid by pre-cooking the apples.
What kind of apples do you use?
The best kind of apple to use is Honeycrisp. This juicy, tart and sweet fruit is my top pick when fall rolls around until the end of spring. They are great for cooking because they hold their shape and don’t become mealy like Red Delicious apples.
You can use other types of apples, such as Fuji or McIntosh. Fuji is closest to the flavor profile with a slightly more flower blossom taste. Granny Smith apples offer a more tart flavor profile, or you can use a combination with the sweeter varieties for a balanced taste.
Pre-cook the apples
To make a fork-tender filling with a syrupy glaze, you’ll need to pre-cook the apples. Slice them to a uniform 1/2-inch thickness to ensure even cooking and faster softening. To quick-start flavor development, toss the apples with sugar, a pinch of salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon juice, and zest to balance the sweetness.
Saute the apples until crisp-tender and coat with the sticky cinnamon sauce. I notice that the apples reduce to about half their volume. Even though 3 pounds of apples seems like a lot, don’t forget the shrinking factor as the moisture releases from their flesh. Do not overcook, since the apples will still have more heat exposure when baked with the topping.
The crunchy oat topping
After experimenting with the crisp topping, I found just the proper ratio of flour, brown sugar, butter, oats, and sweet spices. I use old-fashioned rolled oats because the flakes maintain their shape and stay chewy once cooked.
Be sure to cut the butter into dime-sized pieces before adding to the flour mixture. You can try including larger chunks for a more interesting texture.
Add the topping then bake
Evenly coat the surface of the apples with the oat mixture. Once baked, the proteins in the flour deepen in color and harden while the sugar creates a wonderful caramel flavor. Once the topping is golden brown, the outside will be brittle with a slight chew in the center.
If you can imagine tiny bites of oatmeal cookie crumbles, that’s what you’ll experience. The result is a lightly sweet but crunchy texture.
Serve this with
They both have streusel-style toppings made of butter, sugar, and flour as the base. However, crisps have oats, and crumbles do not.
Pre-cooking the apples first evaporates some of the internal moisture that would otherwise cause steam inside the oven and beneath the crisp topping. The result is a crunchy texture with a sauce that clings to the fruit.
You can saute then chill the apples 3 days before assembling and baking. You can make the topping 5 days ahead of time and refrigerate, or freeze for up to 30 days.
Gently pre-cook the apples for better texture
Don’t be tempted to crank up the heat to cook the apples in a shorter time. In this case, a little patience, constant stirring, and moderate heat prevent the apples from becoming too soft and mealy. Gentle heat helps retain the fruit’s internal structure, so it keeps its shape once baked. We want intact apples, not applesauce filling.
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Set the oven rack to the center position. Heat to 375ºF (191ºC).
Peel, core, and cut the apples into ½-inch thick slices.
In a large bowl, stir to combine sliced apples, granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, lemon zest, and lemon juice.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add the butter and the apple mixture. Saute until crisp-tender, and most of the moisture is released, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Lightly butter the bottom and sides of an 8 by 8-inch baking dish. Evenly spread the cooked apples inside the dish.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, rolled oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg.
Cut cold butter into ¼-inch cubes and add to the flour mixture. Use your fingers to break the butter into the dry ingredients, pressing together to create large pebble-shaped pieces of crumbly topping, about the size of a dime. Evenly sprinkle the topping over the apples.
Bake until the topping is golden brown and crisp, about 30 to 35 minutes.
Cool for 10 to 15 minutes. Serve warm with desired toppings.
- Apple Substitutes: Gala or McIntosh apples have a taste similar to Honeycrisp. Use Granny Smith apples for a more tart flavor.
- Make it in a Skillet: Bake inside an 8 to 10-inch cast iron pan.
- Make it Gluten-Free: Substitute gluten-free rolled oats and gluten-free flour.
- Make it Dairy-Free: Substitute coconut oil instead of butter.
- Storing: Cool completely then cover with foil or transfer to an airtight container. Refrigerate for up to 5 days.
- Reheating: Heat individual portions in the microwave in 15 to 30-second intervals until warm. You can bake the whole dish at 350ºF (177ºC) until the top is crisp and the filling is warm.
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Amount Per Serving
Calories from Fat 90
% Daily Value*
Saturated Fat 6g30%
Vitamin A 305IU6%
Vitamin C 0.5mg1%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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