The apples are in, time for pie. But for me, getting the pie crust to be light and flaky is a deal-breaker. My default is the equally delicious and far easier apple crisp.
Made in a skillet on the stovetop, this version is an expedited alternative, ready in 10 minutes (sometimes less). I also forgo peeling the apples to add color and chewiness to the rich, crumbly topping.
You can make a great crisp with just one kind of apple, but a mix will create a far more interesting and tasty result. Include softer apples that can break down into a saucy base and those that hold their shape along with a range of tart and sweet varieties.
Thanks to our local orchards, there are plenty of different apples ripe for picking. Right now, the early season apples give us great choices: Beacon, bright red, with a soft, tart taste; First Kiss, darker red with sprightly sharp notes; SweeTango, with hints of fall spices; and the fist-sized Chestnut Crabapples, with crunch and tang. Later in the fall, load up on the crunchy, juicy, tangy complex Haralson, my favorite all-around apple for eating and cooking, followed by the small, but mighty Frostbite and Keepsake. We'll enjoy fresh local apples well into the end of October and I plan to use them all.
This recipe for apple crisp is flexible so please tailor it to your tastes. Traditional spices include cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and mace. I like to include fresh ginger and a hit of black pepper with a splash of bourbon or rum to finish it off. Served warm enough to melt a generous scoop of vanilla or butter pecan ice cream, it's a surefire favorite dessert. Even better? Breakfast apple crisp.
Skillet Apple Crisp
Serves 6 to 8.
This deconstructed apple crisp is a quicker, lighter version of the old-fashioned favorite. Adjust the spices to your taste and be sure to use several different kinds of apples for a range of flavors and textures. From Beth Dooley.
For the topping:
• 1/2 c. (1-stick) unsalted butter
• 1 1/2 c. old-fashioned oats
• 1/2 c. chopped pecans
• 1/3 c. light brown sugar or maple sugar
• Generous pinch coarse salt
For the filling:
• 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
• 3 lb. mixed apples, (Beacon, First Kiss, SweeTango, Chestnut Crabapples), cored and cut into 1/4-in. slices
• 1 generous tsp. freshly grated ginger
• 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
• 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
• 1/8 tsp. ground cloves
• Pinch coarse salt
• 2 to 3 tbsp. maple syrup or honey, to taste
• 1 to 2 tbsp. bourbon, optional
To prepare the topping: Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Toss in the oats and pecans and cook, stirring constantly, until the pecans begin to smell nutty and the oats begin to brown, adjusting the heat so they don't burn, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove and stir in the brown sugar and add salt, to taste.
To prepare the filling: Wipe out the skillet and return to medium heat and melt the butter. Toss in the apple slices and stir to coat with the butter. Cover the pan, reduce the heat and cook until the apples are tender, checking the pan and stirring to keep the apples from burning, about 3 to 5 minutes. Toss in the ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, salt and maple syrup to taste along with the bourbon, if using.
Remove, scatter the topping over the cooked apples and serve warm.
Beth Dooley is the author of "The Perennial Kitchen." Find her at bethdooleyskitchen.com.