Everyone has a favorite season. For me, it's summer. Give me the heat and humidity - I (and my hair) love it. I love having everyone home from school with me, the kids and my husband occupying their own spaces in the house around me as I work (grumbling about working, more often than not) in my office. The longs days melting slowly into night.
The fall, therefore, represents an end to those things that I love. The mornings turn cold. The kids and husband are off to school. Days get shorter, the nights are upon us abruptly. I find the sight and sound of leaves blowing across the surface of the road vaguely depressing.
And yet, autumn does have its undeniable charms. Here, in the Mid-Hudson Valley, there is much to enjoy about fall, I have to admit. The trees are absolutely aflame - but only in color. The mornings are cool, but they warm to afternoons in the 70s, gently cooling off again to chilly evenings, perfect for those toe-toasting fires on the hearth, ideal snuggling weather.
But to me, the best ~ the absolute best ~ thing about fall, the thing that provides some small consolation for sending my kids out the door every morning into the less-than-tender mercies of high school, are the fruits of the season. Specifically, apples.
Loaded with Cameos
When it comes to eating fruit out of hand, I am a grape/banana/stone fruit/berry kind of girl. Crunchy fruits have never appealed all that much to me. But take an apple, apply heat to it, and some kind of alchemy occurs - I can't get enough.
This past weekend our family went apple picking. For $17.50 we took home about 22 pounds of apples (in the bag; we took home more than that in total weight ~ I'm not counting what we ate straight from the tree). That's a lot of apples. And I have no doubt that I'll use every one of them, and probably wish for more.
We picked Fujis, Cameos, Empires, Stayman-Winesaps, Northern Spys, Golden Delicious, and Red Delicious. So far, we've eaten a few out of hand, and I've made Apple-Cranberry Crisp, Apple-Walnut Muffins, Waldorf Salad, and Caramel-Butter Glazed Apple Cookies. It's been four days. So many recipes, so few apples! I'm starting to wonder if we can squeeze in another round of picking before the season closes at the end of October.
This rustic apple crisp uses brown sugar to produce rich, caramel-like overtones in the apple filling. Tart cranberries help to balance the sweetness. Refrigerating the crumble and then spooning it on in clusters results in a nice, hearty texture with lots of buttery crunch. Happy fall!
Brown Sugar Apple-Cranberry Crisp
For Brown Sugar Crumble:
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter at room temperature
- 1 cup oats (rolled or quick cooking; not instant)
- 1 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
- 8 medium baking apples
- 1/2 cup dried sweetened cranberries or 1 cup fresh cranberries, chopped
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
- For Crumble: In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together oats, brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Cut in butter until the mixture forms pea-sized clumps with no visible butter showing through. Add walnuts and stir. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a 2-quart casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray. Slice or coarsely dice apples and add to baking dish. Scatter cranberries over apples, sprinkle with brown sugar, and toss to mix.
- Using the back of a spoon, level the surface of the apples in the casserole dish and drop the crumb topping over the tables in heaping spoonfuls. Cover the whole surface of the apples, but you don't need to level the crumble.
- Bake at 375 degrees F for 1 hour or until a knife inserted into the center of the crisp passes easily through the apples. If the topping is browning too quickly, just cover the dish loosely with a sheet of foil.
- Let stand 10 to 15 minutes before serving. Enjoy plain or with whipped cream or ice cream. Refrigerate leftovers and reheat in the microwave or standard oven before serving.
Makes 8 servings.
- The crumble can be made a couple of days in advance. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator and toss with a fork before using.
- I've made this with rolled oats and with quick-cooking oats. The former can be pretty chewy; the latter can be a little pasty on the second day. My suggestion? Half and half. I'd say go with the quick-cooking oats if you prefer a less chewy texture.
- You can use either fresh or sweetened dried cranberries. If you are using fresh, you can increase your sugar by a tablespoon, if desired.
- The amount of sugar added to the apples is flexible. Taste your apples ~ really tart varieties will take a bit more sugar than sweeter baking varieties will. Keep in mind, though, that the crumb topping does provide significant sweetness.
- You can use your favorite baking apples for this dessert. I like to use a combination of apples, in fact. Some apples keep their shape very well upon baking, others break down into applesauce. Using a combination provides for an interesting texture that is a combination of the two qualities. For the dish pictured here, I used Golden Delicious and Stayman-Winesap ~ two varieties that we picked locally.
- Cutting your apples into slices or dice is a matter of personal preference. I sometimes do both in one dish. My preference, though, is slices for pie and dice for crisps.