November 18, 2010

Apple Crisp, plus Apple Crisp Bento

Apple crisp has always been one of my favourite desserts.

It's not the prettiest thing going, so it doesn't suggest you need to wait for some sort of special occasion, and it's not a lot of work, unless you're afraid of peeling a few apples. It doesn't have tricky pastry, or challenging timing issues. It can be eaten hot or cold, plain or garnished with ice cream, for dessert or even for breakfast, really, since it contains both fruit and rolled oats and can therefore be classed as health food. You can make them any size you like, but more on that later.

Somewhere in my house (I think), lies a recipe card with my mother's Apple Crisp recipe (serves eight). It didn't get put back in its box one day, and has been missing in action ever since. There's a reasonable probability that it got swept up with some recycling, and will never be seen again. This makes me quite sad.

Fortunately, it's not a terribly complicated recipe, and I've been scaling it back to four servings for years, and tweaking the spicing and toying with adding almonds or dried cranberries or whatnot, so I didn't really need my mother's recipe, although I'll be very happy if it turns up again next time I sort through the cooking bookcase.

Anyway, I've attempted to recreate the basic recipe here. It turned out exactly as I wanted, so I'm feeling pretty pleased about the whole thing.

Apple Crisp

Fruit Layer
4 to 5 medium apples (I like to use organic Galas)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Crisp Layer
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup brown sugar (lightly packed)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 cup butter, melted (or: 3 tablespoons butter, melted, plus 1 tablespoon cut into tiny pieces)

Peel and core the apples, and chop them into bite-sized chunks - I make them about the size of the end-joint of my thumb, but however you like (just not too small, or they will mush up). Toss with sugar and cinnamon, and pat them evenly into a lightly canola-spritzed baking dish A 1.5 quart cube-shaped baking dish works really well for this.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients of the topping with a fork. Add the melted butter all at once, and stir like mad to ensure that the oat mixture gets thoroughly coated with the butter. There should be no dry or floury-looking bits, so keep stirring until it all comes together. If you absolutely have to, add another tablespoon of butter (you shouldn't need to). If you press a bit of the topping between your fingers, it should clump in a crumbly sort of way.

Scrape the topping out of the bowl onto the apples. Spread it out to evenly cover all of the apples, and press lightly with your fingers to help create a surface-crust when it bakes. Don't press too hard, or you'll compact the topping into a dense wodge that is tasty, but less texturally pleasing. Note that you can fill your dish right up to the edge, since the apple crisp will "settle" a little as it bakes.

Bake uncovered at 375℉ for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the topping is a dark golden hue and has sunk down in the dish slightly. It might be a bit darker on the edges - that's okay. Allow to cool at least a few minutes before serving (but it is plenty delicious at room temperature, or chilled, too). Serve on its own, or with ice cream (or whipped cream) or coconut yoghurt. Totally up to you.

In other good news, as touched on above, you can make these pretty much any size you like. You'll want to adjust the oven time somewhat, especially if you have an extra small or extra big one. I made a little, bento-sized one in a silicone baking cup along side the larger one, just to see how it would turn out. I pulled it from the oven at 30 minutes, and it was just right. Here's a closeup:

I didn't really have a bento planned to go with it, so I made an ad hoc bento that I thought turned out pretty well: a Shichimi tōgarashi onigiri from the freezer (microwaved for one minute to revive it); some fresh-cut radishes and cucumber half-moons; ham-wrapped cheddar batons, and a snowpea salad with ginger & rice vinegar dressing (the red bits are bell peppers). And, of course, the mini apple crisp! There was supposed to be a few frozen blueberries tucked in around the apple crisp, in true bento-stuffing tradition where empty space is anathema, but I was running out of time and shrugged it off.

This looks like it might not be a lot of food, but in fact it was quite filling. More importantly, it was an absolute delight to have a little, guilt-free dessert at lunch time. Most importantly, I suppose, from bento standards, everyone who saw it thought it was the most adorable thing ever. I was pleased that the apples had not completely mushed out (in part a function of the type of apple I used), and I was really quite thrilled that making individual sized apple crisps really didn't take more effort than a single larger one. This makes the apple crisp a dessert more suitable to dinner parties than I had previously expected.

As a final note, I want to mention a delicious variation on apple crisp which I first made a number of years ago, and which is incredibly simple. All you need to do is shake a handful of frozen cranberries into the apple mixture, and give it a good stir. Instant holiday fare!


Tia said...

That is supercute! I love the display and colors.

Dawna said...

Thanks, Tia! Great meeting you at Quince last night!