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Apple Crisp, simple and comforting (without oats)

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It’s tough to beat apple crisp for a low effort dessert that’s pure comfort.

It’s a dessert that’s like my favorite well-worn hoodie. It’s not flashy or particularly stylish, but when there’s a chill in the air it’s the first thing I reach for.

Apples on a counter

Everyone should have an apple crisp recipe or two in their back pocket, ready to pull out when autumn arrives.

This one will do nicely.

I am forever playing around with crisp and crumble toppings (there’s an oatmeal cookie-like topping on this strawberry rhubarb crisp, a hearty sprinkle of walnuts and cardamom in this raspberry plum crisp, orange and vanilla notes in this rhubarb crumble), but the topping on this apple crisp is an especially good one.

Flour, brown sugar, pecans, spices in separate glass mixing  bowls

There’s flour and brown sugar and pecans—and no oats in sight. Not that there’s anything wrong with oats, but sometimes I think a simple streusel-like, big crumb texture is nice to have.

There’s a stick of melted butter, which you can brown if you like to play up the toasty, nutty flavors going on.

And then there’s a lovely mix of warm baking spices. There’s the expected cinnamon, of course, but there’s also a nice bit of ground ginger which plays nicely with the apples. And then in the background there’s a hint of cardamom and a whisper of coriander which take us somewhere into chai flavor territory.

It’s a blend of flavors that just works.

Sliced apples in a mixing bowl

But the great thing about a crisp topping is that there’s hardly any work involved.

It’s just a dump-and-stir kind of process that doesn’t require any advanced knowledge.

And unlike the kind of baking that requires precision for, say rising appropriately or having structural integrity, making a crisp is more like cooking. You can taste and throw in a bit of a different spice, adjust the sugar, swap in a gluten free flour, skip the nuts and it will all still pretty much work.

Apples and brown sugar in a baking dish with crisp topping in a separate bowl

The topping just has to bring in some complementary flavors and textures here. So feel free to play.

It’s good to make the topping to let it the flavors meld before you start on the apples.

As for the apples, any baking apples work well. I used Haralson apples here, but there are so many great baking apples out there that you should use whatever you like.

Granny Smith, Braeburn, and Mutsu apples are widely available apple options that would all work well in this crisp.

Apple crisp, assembled and waiting to go into the oven

The apples get sliced—thin enough to get soft but thick enough to hold their shape—and tossed with lemon juice and a bit of brown sugar.

Then they go into a baking dish where they get sprinkled with big clumps of crisp topping.

Then the whole thing goes into the oven where the apples slump, the topping turns golden brown, and the whole kitchen smells amazing.

Apple crisp with two bowls with ice cream

Then you need to let it cool enough that you can dish it out and top it with a scoop of ice cream (or not).

And then if you have any left you can eat it for breakfast tomorrow, which is honestly my favorite way to eat it.

Apple Crisp in a white bowl with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a spoon
Yield: 8 servings

Apple Crisp

Apple crisp with two bowls with ice cream

This crisp is so easy to make. The topping comes together quickly and can hang out while you work on the apples

When you melt the butter, you can take the extra step of browning it for more flavor (I usually do)—it brings out the nutty flavor and is really delightful—but it's not necessary.

Feel free to play around with the spices. I love this particular combination, but you can simplify and just use cinnamon or throw in other warm baking spices like nutmeg or cloves.

Use any of your favorite baking apples here. Granny Smith, Braeburn, Mutsu, and Haralson are all good options. A combination of apple varieties works well, too.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes

Ingredients

  • 155 grams (1 1/4 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 55 grams (1/2 cup) chopped pecans
  • 150 grams (3/4 cup packed) light brown sugar, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 115 grams (1 stick, 1/2 cup) unsalted butter, unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
  • 2 1/4 pounds apples (about 6 cups) peeled, cored, and sliced about 1/4-inch thick
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Add the flour, pecans, 100 grams (1/2 cup) of the brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, coriander, and salt to a large mixing bowl and whisk until combined.
  2. Pour the butter over the flour mixture and stir until the mixture is thoroughly moistened. Break into large clumps with your fingers
  3. Add the apples, lemon juice, and remaining brown sugar to another large mixing bowl and stir until the sugar and fruit are well distributed.
  4. Add the apple mixture to a 2-quart baking dish (or 8-inch square baking pan). Sprinkle the crumbs evenly over the top. (It'll be a nice thick layer.)
  5. Bake until the top is on the deeper side of golden brown and the fruit is bubbling, about 40-45 minutes.
  6. Let cool. This is excellent warm or at room temperature, especially with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It's also good cold from the refrigerator.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

8

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 327Total Fat: 18gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 35mgSodium: 138mgCarbohydrates: 42gFiber: 4gSugar: 34gProtein: 3g
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Lisa | Garlic & Zest

Wednesday 14th of October 2020

This is an amazing apple crisp. I love it without the oatmeal -- those crispy pecans are perfection.

Erica

Wednesday 14th of October 2020

This apple crisp sounds divine! Love the coriander and bit of lemon.

Emily Liao

Wednesday 14th of October 2020

Loved how easy this was to make! Perfectly crisp and flavorful.

Dannii

Wednesday 14th of October 2020

This is one of my favourite autumn desserts. Total comfort food.