Every time the temperature drops outside the idea of apple pie seems to always creep into my mind. Making a really good pie crust certainly has some complicated obstacles, so an apple crisp is an equally exciting easier option. And even better … both the filling and crumb topping can pre-made and stored in the refrigerator until ready to be used.
Honeycrisp apples can be hard to find, but I constantly praise them for baking apple crisp due to their high juice content, cider-like sweet flavor, and crisp texture. Instead of turning to mush like many other apple varieties, they are quite sturdy and retain their shape quite nicely. And while many recipes mix in Grannysmith apples for a tart edge, I prefer using cranberries to provide that balance. European style butter is extremely successful for baking because of its higher fat content and less water. As a result, you can enjoy a richer flavor and lighter texture in the crumb of your apple crisp.
Grinding Mexican Cinnamon
The use of Mexican cinnamon is what sets this apple crisp apart from the rest. You can read about how to locate it in my Shopping Guide, but basically it has a super warm and sweet flavor and aroma that is oh-so comforting in baked goods. You can use a coffee grinder (reserved just for spices) to grind your cinnamon, or simply use a mortar and pestle like I have done below. Then, use a fine mesh sieve to separate the powder from the bark remnants. To clean/deodorize your grinder or mortar and pestle, all you have to do is grind up some rice to absorb the flavors. I learned this trick from America’s Test Kitchen.
Ingredientsfor cranberry apple crisp
- 3 Honeycrisp apples
- 1 tablespoon + 1/4 teaspoon Mexican cinnamon, divided
- 1/2 cup + 1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided
- juice of 1 lemon (optional)
- 3/4 cup halved cranberries
- 1/8 tsp + 1/8 tsp teaspoon granulated salt, divided
- 4 ounces unsalted European style butter, softened at room temperature (not melted)
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup all purpose flour
- 3/4 cup rolled oats
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Peel and core apples. Cut lengthwise into quarter sections. Cut each section lengthwise into thirds to create 12 sections per apple. Slice each section crosswise into quarters and assemble in a medium bowl. Cut cranberries in half lengthwise.
- Toss apples and cranberries, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon of the cinnamon, and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Feel free to squeeze in a little lemon juice to prevent oxidation. It also lifts the flavor a bit. Set aside.
- Using a pastry cutter, cream butter until lighter in color and texture. Gradually incorporate remaining 1/2 cup of granulated sugar, vanilla, then brown sugar and cream together until consistency is even and resembles wet sand.
- Use the pastry cutter to cut in the flour, oats, remaining 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon, and remaining 1/8 teaspoon of salt into mixture until dry ingredients are evenly moistened and semi-lumpy with coarse crumbs. It helps to use your hands to break up any large lumps.
- Fill a cast iron skillet (or 9 x 9-inch square pan) with the apple and cranberry mixture, making sure to include the juices extracted from the apple mixture sitting at the bottom. Sprinkle crumbs evenly until apples and cranberries are almost fully concealed, making sure not to stir crumbs into the apples.
- Bake this for about 1 hour in a 350 degree oven, or until the crumb start to turn slightly golden brown.
- Allow your Cranberry Apple Crisp to cool for about 45 minutes, so the natural pectin in the apple can set. It will eventually firm up. Coming right out of the oven, it will be a bit soupy, which is is normal.
Yield: 10 servings