Birthday cakes are a big deal in my family. Every year my mom makes us the same birthday cake from scratch. It’s been a tradition since I can remember and something I look forward to every year. Because of that, I love baking cakes for other people, too. So for my boyfriend’s birthday, I offered to make him any layer cake he chose. Would it be Peanut Butter Chocolate? Chocolate Strawberry Pistachio? Cinnamon Snickerdoodle?
Imagine my shock when he requested a fruit crisp instead! I was surprised he’d rather have a crisp. But I’m not a selfish baker- so I happily obliged.
Actually, this specific crisp recipe is also a family tradition: my mom makes it every Thanksgiving. She was talking about it when she visited San Francisco a bit ago, and my boyfriend latched onto the idea of this crisp as his Dream Dessert. How could I not make those sugary dreams come true?!
This recipe comes from a cookbook series written by Abby Mandel called Cuisinart Classroom. The series encompasses volumes for things like dessert, breads, sauces, etc. A lot of my mom’s perennial baking recipes come from this series, so she bought me a copy when I struck out on my own after college. The whole series of cookbooks assumes you’re using a food processor for everything- to the point that some steps are “assigned” to a processor almost as a matter of principle. I think a lot of the recipes could be made with simpler tools instead, and this recipe certainly falls into that category, so don’t worry if you lack a food processor.
My boyfriend’s birthday was a while ago but because of timing, we just had the crisp earlier this week. We agreed that I’ll be tasked with coming up with creative crisp ideas for his birthday every year. So readers- got any good crisp recipes to send my way?
Yield: one 11-inch round crisp (my dish is actually only 9-inches so I had leftover apples and topping. Was bummed to toss the topping, but will confess I ate the sugary apples on their own as a treat the next day!)
Suggested equipment: the recipe assumes you are going to use a food processor, but you really don’t need it (sh- don’t tell Abby Mandel I said that!)
Total Time: ~70 minutes
Cook Time: ~50 minutes
I broke the original recipe into a few more detailed steps and wrote my own commentary below. I also omitted the nuts when I made it, but include the option for nuts below.
- 5 large tart apples (I used Granny Smith)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon and 1 teaspoon cinnamon, divided (you use 1 teaspoon at 2 separate points in the recipe)
- 1/2 teaspoon and 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, divided (you use 1/2 teaspoon at 2 separate points in the recipe)
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice- only if you think your apples are really sweet (if you’re using tart apples like I did, this likely won’t be an issue, and I didn’t use lemon juice)
- 1/2 cup walnuts or pecan halves
- 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
- 1 stick unsalted butter, chilled and quartered (chilling is key here for texture reasons so don’t ignore this!)
- 1/4 cup rolled oats or wheat germ (I used oats)
Step by Step Directions
Get prepped to bake
- Move your oven rack to the middle rung
- Pre-heat the oven to 350F
- Butter an 9 or 11-inch pie plate, or 2-quart souffle dish
- Insert the “medium slicing disc” into your food processor
Prep your apple filling
- Peel, core and half your apples
- Feed the apples into your processor’s feed tube to slice them up (see- you could totally do this without a processor, but I’m humoring Abby here!)
- Transfer apples to a large bowl
- Add the white sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp of nutmeg and mix in with the apples (and the lemon juice if you’re using it- I didn’t)
- Arrange the apples in the bottom of your baking dish
Prep your topping
- Change your processor’s blade to the “metal blade”
- If you’re using nuts: now is the time to chop them up! Pulse your processor to chop them coarsely
- Add the flour, salt, brown sugar, remaining cinnamon, remaining nutmeg, oats and butter to the processor bowl
- Pulse the machine on and off until the ingredients are mixed and the butter pieces are about the size of a small pea- took me a little longer than the 20 seconds suggested in the original recipe
Bake your crisp
- Spreading the crumbly topping over your prepared apples, making sure to cover the edges
- Bake the crisp for about an hour- I’d start checking around 45 minutes to see how it’s faring. Mine took about 55 minutes to bake evenly, but my oven’s temp had dropped over the course of baking
- When it’s done, it will look brown and crispy
- Serve warm for happiest results. We ditched the ice cream this time, but my mom usually serves this a la mode!