Makes 6 to 8 servings
WHEN YOU BAKE APPLES with caramel sauce, you get a juicy mixture—juicier than a traditional apple pie filling, because there are no thickeners. You also get one that’s less sweet— “burning” the sugar to caramelize it gives it pleasantly bitter undertones. These are the characteristics that make this filling a good match for a topping that’s sweet, earthy and crunchy. It’s a topping that began life as streusel and ended by welcoming whole wheat flour (the earthy element) and oatmeal. You can swap the apples for pears or make this with quinces or, better yet, a combination of quinces, apples and/or pears. While you’re fiddling, think about adding toasted nuts (walnuts or pecans) to the mix.
FOR THE TOPPING
½ cup (68 grams) all-purpose flour
¼ cup (34 grams) whole wheat flour
¼ cup (50 grams) packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 stick (8 tablespoons; 4 ounces; 113 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup (40 grams) oats (not instant)
FOR THE CARAMEL SAUCE
1 cup (200 grams) sugar
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
¾ (180 ml) heavy cream, warmed or at room temperature
½ teaspoon sea salt, preferably fleur de sel
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
About 2½ pounds (a generous kilo) apples (4 or 5 large), peeled, cored and cut into 1-inch chunks
Ice cream for serving (optional)
A WORD ON THE APPLES: Just about any apple can be used except McIntosh, which would get too soft. I like to use an assortment. For example, think about a mix of Fuji, Gala and Golden Delicious, and maybe throw in a Granny Smith. If you’d like, leave the peel on some of the apples.
AND A WORD ABOUT WORKING AHEAD: You can make the caramel sauce and topping well in advance. Even better, you can assemble the crisp, slide it into the freezer and wait for it to freeze solid, then cover it tightly and store it there for up to 2 months. Let it sit at room temperature while you preheat the oven. It may need a few more minutes in the oven.
TO MAKE THE TOPPING: Whisk both flours, both sugars, the cinnamon and salt together in a large bowl. Drop in the pieces of butter and press, mash and schmoosh the ingredients together until you’ve got moist clumps that hold together when pressed. Sprinkle over the vanilla, then add the oats and use a flexible spatula—or your hands—to mix them in. (Alternatively, you can do this in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment—after the mixture comes together, break it into clumps with your fingers.) Cover the bowl and refrigerate the topping for at least 1 hour, or freeze it while you make the caramel sauce and prepare the apples. (The topping can be refrigerated, covered, for up to 3 days.)
TO MAKE THE CARAMEL SAUCE: Pour the sugar, water and corn syrup into a medium heavybottomed saucepan, put the pan over medium-high heat and cook without stirring. Once the sugar melts and starts coloring, swirl the pan. Then cook until the caramel, which will boil and may even smoke, turns a medium amber color. You can check the color by dropping some on a white plate. As the caramel cooks, it might spatter onto the sides of the pan—wash down the spatters with a silicone pastry brush dipped in cold water.
Turn off the heat, stand back and add the cream, salt and butter. The mixture will sputter dramatically, but it will quickly calm down, and when it does, stir it until it is smooth and creamy. If, as you’re stirring, you feel as though there are lumps (or something not melted at the bottom of the pan), return the pan to medium heat and stir for another minute or two to smooth things out. Stir in the vanilla extract. Pour the sauce into a heatproof bowl or container and cover when cool. (The sauce can be refrigerated for up to 1 month. Reheat gently, thinning with a little cream if necessary before using.)
TO PREPARE THE APPLES AND ASSEMBLE THE CRISP: Center a rack in the oven and preheat it to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a baking mat—you’ll need the liner to catch drips. Butter a 9-inch deep-dish pie pan.
Put the apple chunks in a large bowl and pour over ⅔ cup of the caramel sauce. (You’ll have caramel sauce left over; save it for another use.) Turn the apples around until they’re evenly coated with sauce and then scrape them into the pie pan, mounding them in the center.
Cover the apples with the topping, pinching off pieces as you drop them on top of the fruit—the topping may look precarious, but once it’s in the oven, the heat will secure the clumps. (The assembled crisp can be frozen for up to 2 months; see headnote.)
Bake the crisp for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the topping is golden brown and the juices are bubbling. (Check it after 30 minutes, and if it looks as though it’s browning too quickly, tent it loosely with parchment or foil.) The bubbling’s important—when the juices are bubbling in the center, you know the crisp is done. Transfer to a rack and let the crisp sit until it’s just warm or has come to room temperature before serving.
If you’re serving a scoop of ice cream with each portion of crisp, think about drizzling a little of the leftover caramel sauce over it.
STORING: Like pie, this is best the day it’s made. If you’ve got leftovers, cover, refrigerate and serve them cold the next day.
Excerpted from BAKING WITH DORIE: Sweet, Salty, & Simple © 2021 by Dorie Greenspan. Photography © 2021 by Mark Weinberg. Reproduced by permission of Mariner Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.
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