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Please Share Your Favorite Apple Crisp Recipe (No Oats) and a Question: Best Apples for Crisp & Pie?

Well, after all, my hostess decided she wants me to bring an apple crisp for Thanksgiving. And personally, I just do not like oats in desserts. One outstanding question: what kind of apples are best for crisps and pies? My tendency would be to go for Granny Smith apples or whatever those, commonly seen in SF produce stores, round chartreuse green apples are. I'll be trying out your recipes between now and the big day - for our own consumption, so will try a few different ones and give you feedback on how they turn out.
Thanks!

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  1. If I've just picked apples, I use a combination of all-macs will be saucy but I like to add one or two with others if I have them. If not, I usually use granny smith or golden delicious or again, a combination. I usually like something sweet with tart and I am not a huge fan of Cortlands which are plentiful around where I live because I find them very dry, although many like them because they hold their shape.

    1. Rhode Island Greenings are over by now, but there are lots of Sierra Beauties; Bates & Schmitt stand at the Ferry Building market Saturday has them, so does Mollie Stone's/Tower Market up on Portola, so does Berkeley Bowl. They're the best dual-purpose (eating and cooking) apple I know of (the Greenings aren't good eating.) They have a kind of spiciness that sort of makes cinnamon superfluous if you use them in a pie.

      My basic crisp topping recipe (courtesy Cliff, the pastry guy at Hayes Street Grill):

      1 cup brown sugar
      1 cup all purpose flour
      1 stick unssalted butter cut into 4 or five chunks
      1 cup pecan halves

      Pulse a few times in the processor to make a coarse meal. That's it. Delicious.

      4 Replies
      1. re: rootlesscosmo

        Wow, it sounds like you know your apples. I'm going to do a little online search - it's about time I was able to visually I.D. more than just Granny Smith and delicious. And it is so kind of you to give me/us the Hayes St. Grill recipe. For those not near SF, it's a great restaurant. I will add a little kosher salt. And also, as an aside, it won't matter if one uses broken nut meats since you're chopping them - cheaper.

        1. re: niki rothman

          That Bates & Schmitt stand has been a revelation. I recall Greenings (without the "Rhode Island" prefix) from my Manhattan childhood; a restaurant called the Tip Toe Inn (honest) on Broadway in the 80's (not the 1980's, the stretch between 79th and 89th Sts.) served what they called "Green Apple Pie." Greenings are dry, hard, not very flavorful to eat, but in baking they develop an intense, tart flavor, and they hold their shape even as the slices turn a deep brown. B&S have a few trees; they bring Greenings to market usually for a few weeks around the beginning of October. They've got other great heirloom varieties, too, including Cox's Orange Pippin, Bramley (another commenter mentioned these), Fameuse (aka Snow Apple--small and delicious for eating) etc. Right now the Sierra Beauties are at their peak. They probably will have quinces for another couple of Saturdays too.

          1. re: rootlesscosmo

            I hope I can make it to the Ferry Building in the near future. If I can I'll definitely check out the B & S stand and sample those apples.
            Thanks!

          2. re: niki rothman

            I made an apple spice cake last week with the Black Arkansas/Arkansas Black apples I found at the Berkeley Bowl and Monterey Mkt. They were wonderful in the cake. They held shape but were very tasty and moist. Don't know if they have them near you. Prob wouldn't be at Albertsons/Safeway-type stores. Maybe a local produce place.

        2. I have no suggestions on apples since I'll use any that are mostly sweet but lightly start and will hold their shape. I'll then add in about a 1/4 cup of citrusy white wine instead of the standard lemon juice for extra tartness - it isn't so much that I don't like lemons or don't use them on occassions, but I'm more likely to have a crisp white on hand than a few lemons. A little bit of cinnamon and ginger finishes my apples.

          As for the crisp topping, I do a similar one to rootlesscosmo except that I use spicy gingersnap cookie instead of pecans. (I also mix with my hands, but I think that's more of a "too lazy to wash anything but the bowl" type of thing.)

          2 Replies
          1. re: Ali

            This is so interesting. I actually have a tin of Swedish ginger snaps left over from last year's holiday season - and no longer crisp enough for anything but something like what you suggest. Also, do you think chardonnay would work? I don't drink and usually only have Japanese mirin in the pantry, but got some of this nice chardonnay as a gift. I tasted it and it seems to have a slightly sweet/not harsh flavor that would work in a dessert.

            1. re: niki rothman

              Those snaps will be perfect. After all, my original idea to throw in ginger snaps came about because I didn't want to waste otherwise good cookies.

              As for the chardonnay, I'm not quite sure. It depends, but if it isn't too oaky, it should work. The key with the wine is to use something with a nice acid level, a quality that chards usually share; the sweet-tart flavour in the wine brings out that same quality in your apples, making the crisp not too sweet.

          2. If anyone can track down Bramley apples, you will end up with the best apple pie/cobbler/crisp/danish/donut/whatever. Probably rare in the States but common in Britain. They are a cooking apple, not for putting in the lunchbox/pail!
            My mouths gone all weird thinking about them. :)

            4 Replies
            1. re: Sentiamo

              Bramleys were at Ferry Plaza earlier, but I haven't seen them in a couple of weeks. I would go for Sierra Beauty, also. Available, in addition to the above, at Monterey Market.

              1. re: Sentiamo

                Anybody know other sources for Bramley apples (from your salivation I'm very intrigued) and Sierra Beauties, or a source for more interesting apples (for cooking) than the usual - around SF or through mail order? Gravensteins are really nice for eating, but do they work in pie? And I'm ashamed to have to ask - where is the Monterey Market?

                1. re: niki rothman

                  I think you can eat bramleys raw - I always eat chunks when making strudel things, pies, turnovers, apple sauce, crumble (which sounds like your crisp!). But you should know that bramleys DO NOT hold their shape. If they are not quite ripe and sliced thinly then used in pie they do have a bit of solidity but if stove cooked or they are ripe you get sauce. (Unless you have really large chunks to start with, then you get lumpy sauce!)

                  1. re: niki rothman

                    Monterey Market is in Berkeley, at the corner of Monterey and Hopkins.

                    The only source I know for Bramleys is Bates & Schmitt. Their orchard is in Mendocino County, on Highway 128 just West of the tiny town of Philo; there's another apple grower there, Gowan's, that also has heirloom varieties (not sure which ones.) A person could do worse in these last pre-rainy-season days than take a leisurely drive up that way and bring back apples, Anderson Valley wines...

                2. I like making my apple crisp w/ something like 4-5 different kinds of apples--just depends what's available and what I'm in the mood for. I just get apples that taste good to me and don't worry if some may bake up more mushy then others. Last time I made crisp I used: granny smith, pippin, honeycrisp, braeburn, and fuji. I just add a little lemon juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar, and flour.

                  My topping is very close to rootlesscosmo's, although I like walnuts and just use my fingers to blend. Last time, I found that the topping was a bit too molasses tasting, so I'm going to try replacing some of the brown sugar w/ granulated. I'm also going to add a pinch of salt next time.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Carb Lover

                    Good points. I was wondering about walnuts since I have a bag of them in the freezer. I'm thinking about trying one version with my wonderful shortbread as a bottom layer - prebake it, then the apples, then the crumbs. And I'm going to bring vanilla ice cream too. Here'a a general question for everybody: how much cornstarch for how much apples? I AM going to add a little corn starch rather than risk a juice wash out.