vrai-lean-uh

Cooking, eating, making sweeping pronouncements

Posts tagged living your best life

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Apple crisp, to me, is the highest and best use for apples.
I like an apple, so I don’t say this lightly. But crisp is magic in a baking pan: the rich flavor of the cooked apples, the way the oat and flour topping becomes buttery and a little chewy when combined with the apple juices and a little bit crunchy where it browns at the top, the slight tartness. I would take a good apple crisp over an apple pie any day. And the beauty of the whole enterprise is that it’s so much easier to make than apple pie and you can legitimately eat it at any meal.*
I want you to go make a crisp right now. Or today. Or this week. I want this happiness for you.
Which means you might be buying apples soon, so we have to pause for a moment to discuss apple purchases. Cooking with apples is both complicated and easy.
Complicated: According to my apple cookbook** (don’t look at me like that), there are some six thousand known apple varieties, and they vary a lot. They vary in flavor, texture, the way they stand up to heat, the level of juiciness, and more. Some apples fall apart quickly when heated, some retain their shape well, some fall apart but their skins are basically indestructible. Some get kind of bland when cooked and others develop flavors that aren’t in the fresh apple. There are apples that are really well suited to crisps and those that really aren’t. I tend to like apples that retain their shape well when cooked, that are a little on the drier side (but not totally dry), that are well balanced in terms of sweet and tart flavors.
Easy: All that said, it’s hard to fuck up a crisp. I’ve had good luck getting a variety of apples and throwing them all in together. Some will fall apart during cooking, some will hold up. Some will be tart, others sweeter, the drier ones will mostly balance the softer ones. Even if you get only one variety of apple, and it’s an apple really not suited for crisps, you might end up with a somewhat flat crisp with a little less flavor, but it’s not going to be terrible.
Most recently I used a mix of Sharon and Wealthy apples from my apple CSA and it was amazing.
This is my recipe, based on Mark Bittman’s in How to Cook Everything.
Apple Crisp
The pan I use, the one in the picture, is about 8 x 10. The original Bittman recipe calls for an 8 x 8 square pan, so I’ve increased the recipe in places. I also play pretty fast and loose with the measurements. Again, it’s hard to fuck this up.
2 1/2 - 3 pounds of apples, cored and cut up into wedges roughly an inch big. I do not peel my apples. Bittman calls for 6 cups of apples. Mostly I just cut up apples until they fill my casserole dish almost to the top.
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Ground cardamom (not in Bittman’s recipe, maybe 1/4 teaspoon?)
Ground ginger (not in Bittman’s recipe, maybe 1/4 teaspoon?)
Juice of half a lemon
1/2 - 2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon brown sugar (Bittman calls for 2/3 cup for the smaller batch, I like it a little less sweet.)
7 tablespoons cold butter cut into bits, plus more for greasing the pan (which I remember to do half the time). Bittman calls for 5 tablespoons.
3/4 cup rolled oats (Bittman: 1/2 cup)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour (Bittman: 1/2 cup)
1/3 cup or so shredded unsweetened coconut (Bittman: 1/4 cup)
1/2 or so cup walnuts (Bittman calls for 1/4 cup chopped nuts, I measure out 1/3 - 1/2 cup walnuts unchopped and throw them into the food processor)
Dash salt
Preheat oven to 400.
Toss the apples with half the cinnamon, the cardamom, the ginger, the lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon of brown sugar. Spread it into a lightly buttered baking pan. You can also throw the apples into the baking pan as you cut them up, stopping when it the pan is almost full, and then mix them with the spices, lemon juice, and sugar directly in the pan.
Combine all the other ingredients— including the remaining cinnamon and sugar— in the container of a food processor and pulse a few times, then process a few second more until everything is well incorporated but not uniform (I look for pieces of butter the size of a grain of rice or lentil).
Spread the topping over the apples and bake for 30 - 40 minutes, until the topping is browned and the apples are tender. You may see the apple juices bubbling around the edges. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature (or, my personal favorite, cold from the fridge).
* I can hear you forming an argument and I just say, shhh. Open your heart to joy. Live your best life.
** An Apple Harvest: Recipes & Orchard Lore by Frank Browning and Sharon Silva.

Apple crisp, to me, is the highest and best use for apples.

I like an apple, so I don’t say this lightly. But crisp is magic in a baking pan: the rich flavor of the cooked apples, the way the oat and flour topping becomes buttery and a little chewy when combined with the apple juices and a little bit crunchy where it browns at the top, the slight tartness. I would take a good apple crisp over an apple pie any day. And the beauty of the whole enterprise is that it’s so much easier to make than apple pie and you can legitimately eat it at any meal.*

I want you to go make a crisp right now. Or today. Or this week. I want this happiness for you.

Which means you might be buying apples soon, so we have to pause for a moment to discuss apple purchases. Cooking with apples is both complicated and easy.

Complicated: According to my apple cookbook** (don’t look at me like that), there are some six thousand known apple varieties, and they vary a lot. They vary in flavor, texture, the way they stand up to heat, the level of juiciness, and more. Some apples fall apart quickly when heated, some retain their shape well, some fall apart but their skins are basically indestructible. Some get kind of bland when cooked and others develop flavors that aren’t in the fresh apple. There are apples that are really well suited to crisps and those that really aren’t. I tend to like apples that retain their shape well when cooked, that are a little on the drier side (but not totally dry), that are well balanced in terms of sweet and tart flavors.

Easy: All that said, it’s hard to fuck up a crisp. I’ve had good luck getting a variety of apples and throwing them all in together. Some will fall apart during cooking, some will hold up. Some will be tart, others sweeter, the drier ones will mostly balance the softer ones. Even if you get only one variety of apple, and it’s an apple really not suited for crisps, you might end up with a somewhat flat crisp with a little less flavor, but it’s not going to be terrible.

Most recently I used a mix of Sharon and Wealthy apples from my apple CSA and it was amazing.

This is my recipe, based on Mark Bittman’s in How to Cook Everything.

Apple Crisp

The pan I use, the one in the picture, is about 8 x 10. The original Bittman recipe calls for an 8 x 8 square pan, so I’ve increased the recipe in places. I also play pretty fast and loose with the measurements. Again, it’s hard to fuck this up.

  • 2 1/2 - 3 pounds of apples, cored and cut up into wedges roughly an inch big. I do not peel my apples. Bittman calls for 6 cups of apples. Mostly I just cut up apples until they fill my casserole dish almost to the top.
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Ground cardamom (not in Bittman’s recipe, maybe 1/4 teaspoon?)
  • Ground ginger (not in Bittman’s recipe, maybe 1/4 teaspoon?)
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1/2 - 2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon brown sugar (Bittman calls for 2/3 cup for the smaller batch, I like it a little less sweet.)
  • 7 tablespoons cold butter cut into bits, plus more for greasing the pan (which I remember to do half the time). Bittman calls for 5 tablespoons.
  • 3/4 cup rolled oats (Bittman: 1/2 cup)
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour (Bittman: 1/2 cup)
  • 1/3 cup or so shredded unsweetened coconut (Bittman: 1/4 cup)
  • 1/2 or so cup walnuts (Bittman calls for 1/4 cup chopped nuts, I measure out 1/3 - 1/2 cup walnuts unchopped and throw them into the food processor)
  • Dash salt

Preheat oven to 400.

Toss the apples with half the cinnamon, the cardamom, the ginger, the lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon of brown sugar. Spread it into a lightly buttered baking pan. You can also throw the apples into the baking pan as you cut them up, stopping when it the pan is almost full, and then mix them with the spices, lemon juice, and sugar directly in the pan.

Combine all the other ingredients— including the remaining cinnamon and sugar— in the container of a food processor and pulse a few times, then process a few second more until everything is well incorporated but not uniform (I look for pieces of butter the size of a grain of rice or lentil).

Spread the topping over the apples and bake for 30 - 40 minutes, until the topping is browned and the apples are tender. You may see the apple juices bubbling around the edges. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature (or, my personal favorite, cold from the fridge).

* I can hear you forming an argument and I just say, shhh. Open your heart to joy. Live your best life.

** An Apple Harvest: Recipes & Orchard Lore by Frank Browning and Sharon Silva.

Filed under fall apples living your best life