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Apple crisp/crumble recipe?

  • k

First of all I'd like to say Mark Bittman's pie recipe from How to Cook Everything (a great cookbook) produces an aromatic, buttery, flavorful pie, which is also beeeeyoootiful. Seriously, my pie looks better than a lot of magazine pictures, and makes many photographs in food/cooking catalogs look pitiful by comparison.

OK, enough bragging. What I really wanted to talk about was...

I love desserts made with apples, but am often too lazy to make a pie from scratch, and I've made apple clafouti three times in three weeks (see link). Crisps and crumbles seem like an attractive alternative, but the few recipes I've tried so far have been disappointing - the crust was too hard or too sweet, or the flavor of apples was overpowered by the brown sugar, or the apples cooked to mush... do you have a favorite recipe you'd like to share?


Link: http://www.saveur.com/SAV_Main/1,3136...

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  1. n
    Nina Wugmeister

    Thanks! I'm planning to make Bittman's Coq au vin with prunes tomorrow evening, and was deciding on dessert - I'll do the clafouti.

    1. this one is simple, no-fail & always gets raves:

      english apple crisp

      apples -- peeled, cored and thinly sliced (i would recommend a couple mm thick, or as thin as possible & granny smiths seem to work well), enough to fill 9x9" pan or pie tin & form a mound in center (or 7-10 apples)
      1/4 c sugar
      1/2 c butter
      1 T cinnamon
      3/4 c brown sugar, packed
      1 c flour

      place apples in pan. sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. mix flour with butter and brown sugar until crumbly. sprinkle over apples evenly & pat down firmly. bake at 350 degrees for 45 min or until apples are soft. serve (let sit for at least 1/2 hr after removing from oven) with ice cream or whipped cream.

      serves 6-9.

      1. Just returned from the market after buying ingredients for my favorite apple crisp recipe. Its simple and quite delicious. Got the recipe from a good friend of mine who's the best cook I know. Here it is;
        5 c peeled and sliced apples (granny's are good)
        3/4 c flour
        1 c sugar
        1/2 tsp cinammon
        1/4 tsp salt
        1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter cut in small pieces

        Preheat oven to 350. Butter 1 1/2 quart dish. Spread apples, sprinkle 1/2 c water on top. Combine flour, sugar, cinammon, and salt in a bowl. Cut in butter until it resembles course meal. ( I ususally just use my fingers to do this) Spread evenly over top of apples. Bake 30 - 35 minutes or until top is browned. Serve w a good premium vanilla icecream!
        Bon apetit'

        1. n
          Nina Wugmeister

          Katerina, what kind of apples have you found to be the best for the clafouti?

          2 Replies
          1. re: Nina Wugmeister

            Granny Smith. That's what the recipe called for, and it really worked. For pie I use Golden Delicious, but I think you need the tartness for the clafouti (the custard is mild and sweet).

            1. re: Katerina

              Hmmmm, this is weird. It says nowhere in the recipe they should be Granny Smith apples. Someone else must have planted the notion in my brain. But anyway, they did work really well.

          2. Making a clafouti or crisp, etc, only saves making the crust. And then you have to make the rest of it anyway. If what you really WANT is a pie, then I'll share my hard won secret to flaky crust with minimum fuss.

            I used to tremble at the thought of making a crust. Actually making a crust is dead easy, once you get the rhythm of it. First of all, you can make a double. triple, etc. batch and freeze up the crusts for future pies. Second, made in the processor it's a matter of seconds to mix. For a single crust tart: Dump in a slightly heaping cup of flour (no dip & sweep or spooning in) & a pinch of salt: 1 stick of frozen butter that has been cut into irregular chunks (cut in 4 lengthwise, then crosswise in 1/4 - 1/2" cubes). Run the motor til most of the butter is crumbled like cornmeal but there are still some visible bits of bitter as well (that's why you cut irregular sized cubes).

            At this point get out a funnel to put into the feed tube so that when you pour in the water you can cant the funnel so that the water doesn't simply fall into the center of the processor where it will do no good, but into the mass of batter which is out at the edge of the bowl. I usually dump in 1/4 cup cold water, check the batter to see if it needs any more, which it sometimes does. All those instructions of using the least amount of water possible is baloney, not apple pie. When the crust begins to clump, stop and pour out onto a piece of plastic wrap. Use the plastic wrap to push into a cohesive mass. I ususally fiddle with it a bit here, shaping it into either a disk or rectangle (depending on its future use, dividing if making a multiple batch) that is 1/3 - 3/4 inch thick. Put on a tray and refrigerate til ready to use.

            Roll it out, you'll find it best to use a good bit of flour as the dough will likely be sticky. And as it's a wet dough it can accomodate the extra flour easily. Form according to your use.

            At this point, if prebaking refrigerate 10-20 minutes before baking. If baking filled, dock and seal the bottom with a little jam (it'll add flavor as well as keep the crust from getting soggy), fill, and refrigerate 10-20 minutes.

            Peheat the oven to 425. This allows for the heat drop when you open the oven to put in the pie. Then turn it to whateve temperature you wish. Bake on the lowest shelf. Actually I keep a pizza stone on the floor of my oven and bake on that. (If you're using a glass pie plate, put it on a sheet pan before putting on the stone to reduce the heat shock)

            Sometimes towards the end of the baking process I will raise the pie to a higher shelf if the top does not seem to be browning as much as I want.

            This technique produces a flaky crust that rivals a puff paste pastry.

            If you are planning ahead, I suggest rolling out the dough to the thickness you want for a future pie and freezing on sheet pans til solid, then use a piece of cardboard to protect it. When you want to make a second or third pie, you won't even have to roll the pastry and it will defrost for handling quickly.

            2 Replies
            1. re: saucyknave

              Gee, thanks! You DO love your crust technique... but, sadly, I don't have a food processor. But I think I'll try your crust next time I want to make a pie, just to see if it's any better than mine/Bittman's.

              1. re: Katerina

                I'm not claiming it's the best, just the easiest :)

                Without a processor you'd lose much of the "easy" part. With one, it's practically no time to "cut in" the butter, add the liquid. Though my observation about the slightly higher amount of water would probably still hold.

                My tips for the refrigeration both before and after forming the pie until baking, the pizza stone, higher preheating and for a longer time, etc. might still help, though. I find it makes for a crisper undercrust. The drawback to my way of baking tarts is that you need to keep an careful eye on them.

                If you don't have a pizza stone, you could get the same effect with less espense by buying unglazed quarry tiles. I find leaving the stone on the bottom smooths out the heat in my gas oven. I cover it with foil to protect it against dripping, etc. At first I removed it when using it, but now I don't bother and it seems to work as well.

            2. I also love apples and live in NY apple country. Sometimes I make an unstructured tart, where you just roughly roll out the pate sucre, throw the apples and sugar on, and fold up the edges.

              Another quickie is sauteed sliced apples in brandy or Calvados, sugar and a little butter, folded into dessert crepes, maybe with a little whipped cream on the side. You can do both components a little before if you need to, or just make the crepe batter ahead, for company.

              1 Reply
              1. re: lucia

                Mmmmm, those sound great. I also make the "free-form tart" with other kinds of fruit - plums and nectarines when in season. I love the "rustic" look of it... am a total sucker for big closeup pictures of sumptuous food, especially the sort of "rustic tart on a simple ceramic platter set on a rough-hewn, weathered table set amidst the old olive trees on blah blah's estate in Tuscany". I know it's all styled and fake and a total cliche (jeez, how many more articles about sumptuous food in Tuscany do we need?!?) and all that, but I just can't take my eyes off that stuff. As I said, I'm a sucker who subscribes to a ridiculous number of food mags which I don't really read; I only use them as "food porn", because the recipes are usually too complicated.

                That was totally off topic, sorry.

              2. I remember an issue of Cook's Illustrated, a few years back had an amazing thing on cobbler/crisp/crumble/betty kinds of things. The recipes were great but even better, they were semi-generic with pointers on how much fruit to use (that covered several fruits) and recipes for several different toppings. One topping was crumbly, one was a sugar cookie topping (my favorite, especially with peaches), one was more cakey, etc.

                It was a great issue and I am sure it is in a box with all the other stuff that needs to be unpacked...

                Hey went to their site and checked and found it!! July 1996! The description is "Mix-and-Match Fruit Cobblers: Four cobbler toppings and a fruit chart give cooks freedom of choice based on fruit, time, and ingredients on hand."

                You need to sign up to access it, though...

                1 Reply
                1. re: Jill-O

                  Wow. I did sign up and pay $3.95 just to access that. It's pretty good. They even have a similar thing on crisps, which I can now download too. Thanks.

                2. Katerina, I too love clafoutis of all varieties, because they are both simple and good. I also have a crisp recipe that is almost as simple and very, very good. I make both with a variety of fruits, but the following is the basic recipe using apples. The origin of this recipe is a cookbook originally published in 1939 and republished in 1971: "The Yankee Cookbook" by Imogene Wolcott. I have adapted it a bit over the years.

                  For the fruit, use whatever apples you use for pie and cut them in similar size pieces. You will need 4 or 5 good sized apples, enough to cover the bottom of a large greased baking dish or pan (a pie plate will probably not be deep enough.

                  The topping could not be simpler. It consists of a cup of flour, a cup of sugar, a teaspoon of baking powder, and 1 egg. This amount of sugar works well for reasonably tart apples. To make the topping, mix together the dry ingredients and break the egg over them. Using a fork, incorporate the egg into the dry ingredients. Toward the end, fingers are the best mixer! It should be crumbly when you finish. Do not use a food processor on this. It over processes.

                  Place the topping over the apples and very lightly dust it with cinnamon. Then pour 1/3 cup melted butter evenly over the topping.

                  Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes. My favorite way to serve this (or apple pie) is with heavy cream.

                  Pat G.

                  1. n
                    Nina Wugmeister

                    I just had to say - made the Bittman apple clafouti tonight, thanks to Katerina's post - SO SO GOOD, thank you!!! (and so easy, I might add)...served it with some vanilla ice cream.

                    (by the way, main course was his coq au vin with prunes, also delicious - with mashed potatoes)

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Nina Wugmeister

                      My pleasure!! Just a small detail - it's not Bittman's recipe but Saveur's. Bittman has a great pie recipe in his book that I also use, but in my post I didn't make it clear the clafouti wasn't his.

                      The apple clafouti might be my favorite make-at-home dessert recipe of all. So simple, so good.

                      I tried to make Bittman's coq au vin some time ago, but the sauce was disappointingly brown, not red-winey at all, but it was probably my fault (am a far better baker than cook). How did yours turn out?

                      1. re: Katerina
                        Nina Wugmeister

                        The coq au vin with prunes was great! Use a fruity wine, and use more wine than he said. That's what I did. I also added some raisins.

                        What other fruits do you make a clafouti with? I thought about pears, cherries, plums...

                        1. re: Nina Wugmeister
                          Caitlin McGrath

                          I'm not Katerina, but you can make clafouti with just about any fruit that's good for baking. Cherry is very traditional.

                          (Oh god, Nina, I feel so much pressure now that I know you're taking everything I say here as gospel! [vbg])

                    2. Thanks for the link to the apple clafouti recipe. Judging from the muffled rhapsodic murmurs that are coming from my kitchen table right now, I think it was a success!