Sunday, October 7, 2012

Apple Crisp

Two Apple Crisps in dish with cream
Traditional and Updated Crisps

Recipe by Mom, Fannie Farmer, and Robin

Of all the seasons, autumn makes me most nostalgic for my mother. It’s the season she died, and also the season in which she seemed most alive. She loved the variety of New England seasons, but the crispness of fall days invigorated her and inspired her to activity. When I was young, she’d take my sister and I to local farms for apples and fresh-pressed cider. We’d visit the farm animals and perhaps pick out a few pumpkins or some Indian corn to decorate at home. Once she bought us tiny woven cornucopias filled with mini candies. My memories of those times are surrounded with the golden glow of October sun in an unbelievably deep blue sky.

Basket of Apples with Spots
Organic Apples, Complete with Spots
After the long, hot, humid summer, October’s bright cool days inspired my Mom, like many of us, to cook more. Warming stews with garden tomatoes, applesauce, and pumpkin pie were standards. And there was my favorite, apple crisp. I’ve wanted to recreate this for some time. She allowed me to make it myself once when I was young, helping me a bit with cutting up the apples. Luckily she loaned me her 1945 edition of the Boston Cooking School Cookbook only a few days before she died, so I have her original recipe.

Two Baking Dishes of Apples and Cinnamon
Apple Crisp Bakeoff: Start Both Like This
Fannie Merritt Farmer, the Boston Cooking School Cookbook author, was the first American to write recipes using standard measurements. Previous authors had used a handful of this and a dash of that. Though my Mom called this recipe Apple Crisp, Ms. Farmer’s official name is "Apple Crunch or Apple Candy Pie." Since the recipe calls for either ¾ cup flour or 1 cup cornflake crumbs, presumably one title goes with each variation. In any case, “Apple Crisp” covers the gamut. And Ms. Farmer’s variations open the door for more substitutions.

Two Different Bowls of Topping with Two Baking Dishes of Apples
Updated (Left) and Traditional in Progress
I wanted to make Mom’s traditional comfort food and also make the dish more healthful, my usual quest. I settled upon making two Crisps…thank heavens for friends and potlucks! Apple Crisp I is like Mom made. In Apple Crisp II I substituted walnut oil plus a little salt for the butter, and finely ground oatmeal (technically Trader Joe’s Multigrain Hot Cereal) for the flour. While both of these Crisps were popular at the potluck, next time I’ll make a new Crisp using walnut oil and salt along with both flour and ground oatmeal. You can play with this recipe on your own too. Perhaps you want to substitute a healthier sweetener for the brown sugar, or use different spicing.

Two Baking Pans with Two Toppings
Crumbling on the Toppings
Though the recipe calls for tart apples, my tree has sweet and mushy apples. So I added some lemon juice (use more or less, depending on sweetness of apples). I also used green in addition to ripe apples. Using apples in different stages of ripeness, or several varieties of apples, will add to the complexity of the apple taste, so use whatever you might have on hand. May experimenting with Apple Crisp conjure up some happy autumn memories for you and yours.

Dish of Two Apple Crisps
Traditional (Left) and Updated
Apple Crisp I & II
serves 6 - 8

4 - 5 cups sliced (tart) apples
1-2 tbsp. lemon juice
½ cup water or apple cider
1 tsp. cinnamon
¾ cup flour or 1 cup finely ground oatmeal
1 cup packed brown sugar
½ cup soft butter or walnut oil
¼ tsp. salt ONLY IF walnut oil used

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Sprinkle sliced apples with lemon juice and toss to coat. Layer apples evenly in the bottom of baking pan. Pour water over the apples.

Sprinkle apples with cinnamon and a little less than half the sugar.

FOR APPLE CRISP I: Combine flour, brown sugar, and soft butter with fork or pastry blender until well blended.

FOR APPLE CRISP II: Stir flour, salt, brown sugar, and ground oatmeal together until blended. Stir in walnut oil with mixing spoon.

FOR EITHER CRISP: Crumble brown sugar mixture over apples with fingers. Pack down firmly and evenly over apples with hands.

Bake at 350 degrees F. until apples are tender and crust is brown, about 30 – 40 minutes.

Serve warm with thin cream or whipped cream.

Two Pans of Crisp Ready to Bake
Press Down Either Topping with Hands

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