The best way to keep warm during cold fall nights is with a steaming bowl of my grandmother’s incredible apple crisp. I’ve kept her at the heart of the recipe, but added a little caramel flourish of my own. I like to think she would have approved!
Homemade apple crisp is one of the best parts about fall. If you ask my dad, he’d probably tell you that it’s the singular best part about fall. Few things compare to the smell of apples, cinnamon, and sugar bubbling away for an hour in your oven; it’s like the autumn fairy has broken into your house and spritzed her signature air freshener in every single room. That is how magical the scent of apple crisp is. It’s fall comfort in a bowl.
Every weekend when I was growing up, my family would go over to my grandparents’ house for dinner. It was usually Sunday evening, because Sunday was “family day.” It was the one day of the week when we would all get together and reconnect over a big meal. Roast chicken or beef, lasagna, or meatloaf were the dishes that most frequented the table, and they were always accompanied by mashed potatoes (my grandfather was Irish, so this was a must), a steamed vegetable, and sometimes garlic bread. I wasn’t a picky child — I would dive right into the main event with gusto, greedily taking way more than my small stomach could endure. While the final remnants of the meal were wiped off the table, I would lay groaning on the large carpet in the living room listening to the clunking and whirring of the dishwasher. I didn’t stay there long, though. As soon as the loud familiar creak of the oven door signaled the dessert’s appearance, I would magically have room for whatever sweet treat was passed my way. Funny how kids always have room for dessert. It was usually one of two options: a creamy raisin bread pudding or my grandmother’s famous apple crisp.
She always served it to us in her fancy crystal bowls, because she believed dessert should always be a special occasion. It would come to me piping hot, still bubbling from the oven, with a dollop of vanilla ice cream dripping through the crunchy bits and creating a river of cream around the edges. She would warn me it was hot, but often after I had already burned my tongue. I couldn’t wait — I knew how crispy, sugary, and sweet it was. And only after every last drizzle of cinnamon laced sauce had been swiped away with my finger would I put my spoon down and remember I was much too full.
My grandmother’s apple crisp remains my favourite crisp recipe. Both my mother and I have made it dozens of times, and it never fails. You can add berries to it, switch up the fruit for peaches or plums in the summer, or stick with the traditional apples and cinnamon.
One important thing to remember is that a good apple crisp has a 2:1 crumble to fruit ratio. My grandmother taught me that. There has to be enough crisp so that you can save just some crunchy, sugary, cinnamony goodness for your final bite. Who wants to end eating an apple crisp by eating apple? That’s just crazy talk. Another imperative element is the variety of apples you choose. My grandma always used an even amount of tart and sweet kinds to balance the flavours out and to make sure all the apples didn’t turn to mush.
I’ve stayed mostly true to her traditional recipe, but made a couple of changes just to make the dessert a little more natural. Instead of using refined white and brown sugars, I’ve chosen to use raw cane sugar which actually made the crumble a lot crispier. Score one for raw sugar! I added a little more cinnamon (logic not required), a few rolled oats, and a batch of my Maple Date Caramel Sauce. You know me. I just can’t leave the classics alone! But I feel like if my grandmother had been around to taste my variation, she would have happily approved. The caramel sauce just takes her incredible crisp to a whole new level, while still keeping her at the heart of the recipe.
Next time you find yourself with an overabundance of apples, you should throw on your apron and make this crisp. You won’t be disappointed if you do. Oh, and be sure to top this with some form of frozen goodness. Homemade vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt are best!
- 3 medium tart apples (I used Granny Smith)
- 3 medium sweet apples (I used a mix of Fuji and Gala)
- 4 tsp cinnamon, divided
- 1 batch of Maple Date Caramel Sauce
- ¼ cup (57g) cold unsalted butter, cubed
- ½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- ½ cup rolled oats
- ¾ cup raw cane sugar
- Preheat the oven to 350 F (180 C) and lightly grease a 2½ to 3 litre casserole dish with butter.
- Core, peel, and slice the apples into a large mixing bowl. Toss the apples with 2 teaspoons of the cinnamon and the caramel sauce until well coated. Pour the apples into the prepared dish and set aside.
- To make the topping, add the butter, flour, and 2 teaspoons of cinnamon to a small bowl and pinch the butter into the flour until a crumbly dough forms. Mix in the oats and sugar until fully incorporated. Sprinkle the crumble mixture evenly all over the top of the apples. Cover with a lid and bake the crisp for 50--60 minutes, uncovering the crisp for the last 15 minutes to crisp the top. The dessert is done when the apples are soft and the crisp is golden brown. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving with ice cream, frozen yogurt, or Greek yogurt.
- This crisp is best consumed the day it is made.