Spring is supposed to officially arrive tomorrow afternoon but someone forgot to tell the weather that since it's been pouring rain for the past couple of days and an even bigger storm is forecast for tomorrow. On the down side, that seriously curtails my long walking sojourns. On the positive side, there's something about cold, rainy weather that makes me want to bake. Okay, there's something about breathing that makes me want to bake but you know what I mean. Rainy weather is about comfort food: a bowl of hot soup, a plate of spaghetti and meatballs, a cup of hot chocolate, fresh warm bread, newly baked chocolate chip cookies and for me on this fine, rainy day: apple cobbler. Or rather, apple crisp.
Cobbler and crisp are actually two different things although many people use them synonymously. If you want to be a stickler, cobbler usually involves some kind of dough on top whereas a crisp usually has a streusel-like topping. I've often seen crisp toppings involve oats, nuts, and brown sugar whereas cobblers commonly don't have oats or nuts. My favorite apple cobbler recipe was actually meant to be apple bars but I like serving it as cobbler. While I love that tried and true recipe, this time I thought I would try a crisp and see how I like the oat topping with it.
When making an apple dessert like apple pie, cobbler, crisp, etc, one important aspect is what kind of apples to use. It's all a matter of personal preference so there's no one "right" answer. There was a time when I only baked with Granny Smith apples because they were tart and offset the sweetness of the rest of the dessert. Now I like to experiment and mix it up with other types of apples like Braeburn, Fuji and so on. The only apple I won't bake with or eat for that matter is Red Delicious. I don't like the mealy texture and prefer my apples to have a crisp texture. If you use really tart apples for baking, cut back on the lemon juice if it's called for in the recipe.
For this recipe, I used 2 large Granny Smith apples and 1 medium-ish-sized Braeburn apple. I only wanted to make a half-recipe of the crisp although I made a full recipe of the other filling ingredients (except for the apples) and only a half recipe of the topping (confusing enough?). As convoluted as that sounds, I'm glad I made it that way because there was a little more juice in the filling so the apple part wasn't dry and just the right amount of topping for the reduced amount of apples I used. I loved this crisp - the oat topping got crunchy in the oven and not only offset the sweetness of the (extra) juicy filling but added texture to the dessert. I might still like to have some dough for the bottom so next time I might combine the bottom dough from the Apple Crumble Bar recipe with the crisp topping from this recipe - best of both worlds. If you do add ice cream to this - and you should because otherwise, what's the point? - let the crisp cool for at least 20-30 minutes so the ice cream won't immediately melt over a too-hot crisp. Just a bit warmer than lukewarm is the perfect temp.
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2 ½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
7 ½ cups peeled, cored and coarsely sliced tart, flavorful apples, such as Stayman, Rome, Granny Smith or Pippin (I used Granny Smith and Braeburn)
1 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
¾ cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup old-fashioned rolled oats
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
½ cup walnuts or pecans (optional)
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350⁰F. Coat a 7 x 11-inch baking pan with nonstick spray.
2. In a large bowl, stir together the brown sugar, flour and cinnamon until blended. Stir in the apples, lemon juice and melted butter, tossing until the apples are coated with the brown sugar mixture. Spread the filling evenly in the baking dish. Bake for 25 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, make the topping: In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, oats, brown sugar, and nuts (if using). Add the melted butter, stirring until incorporated. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the apples. Press down lightly. Increase the oven temperature to 375⁰F and bake for 25 to 30 minutes longer, or until the top is nicely browned and the filling is bubbly. Transfer to a wire rack. Let cool to warm for at least 30 minutes. Spoon into bowls and serve with ice cream or whipped cream, if desired.
The crisp will keep, covered, at room temperature for 24 hours or refrigerated for up to 3 days longer. Let come to room temperature before serving.