Apple Crisp Topping Mix

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Our apple crisp topping mix recipe is a simple combination of the right ingredients, which we’ve diligently tested to get just right. This recipe combines sugar, flour and cinnamon in an easy to use blend that goes great on top of warm Apple Crisp, fresh from the oven! Use it as a topping or as part of our Apple Crisp mix!

Apple Crisp with Oat Topping Recipe

This is a straightforward recipe for apple crisp that calls for fresh, thinly sliced apples, brown sugar, spices, and butter, as well as a topping of butter, flour, and oats.

person holding three red apple fruits
Ingredients 
6 apples – peeled, cored, and sliced3/4 cup old-fashioned oats
2 tablespoons white sugar3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup brown sugar1/2 cup cold butter

 

Directions

  1. Set oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 degrees C).
  2. In a larger bowl, toss the apples with the white sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon to coat; transfer to a 9-inch square baking pan.
  3. In a another bowl, combine 1 teaspoon cinnamon, brown sugar, oats, and flour. Spread the mixture over the apples to the borders of the baking dish, then combine the cold butter and the oats mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. Gently pat the topping to make it uniform.
  4. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until edges are bubbling and the top is golden brown.

How to Make Apple Crisp With a Perfect Crumb Topping

Among baked fruit desserts, pie has a way of hogging the spotlight. But apple crisp gives you more fruit, flavor, and texture, in a fraction of the time.
A white ramekin of apple crisp with a dollop of whipped cream.

Pie is delicious. You’ve made it, go ahead.

Me? I’ll be here with some crisp, and I want you to come along.

Pie often takes center stage among baked fruit sweets. And I understand. the flaky, buttery crust. the painstaking design. Behind it all is a large—large—American tradition. All of this is lovely.

Pie preparation may be tedious, even for seasoned bakers. (Okay, I’ll be cordial and use the word “involved”.) Making dough, rolling it (but not too much), and shaping it (you’d best nail that rustic, almost-perfect shape!) are all necessary. Pie is delicious. Pie is a pain in the tuchus, even with Kenji’s simple pie crust recipe or Stella’s traditional, food processor-free pie dough.

Close-up side view of a glass baking dish full of apple chunks and crumble topping, on a wire rack

We now have expectations for our fruit treats. I want fruit all over the place, in large quantities. I desire butter. I want crunch and crackling. Additionally, I want just a touch of spice to enhance the natural flavor of the fruit.

Crisp handles everything. Pie can be made in a portion of the time and with a smaller portion of the work. The buttery, carb-heavy layer of delicious things has more fruit, more flavor, and more texture. You can start preparing one from scratch and have dessert ready in an hour. I challenge you to find a pie crust that extends the same politeness.

Make some crisp, then.

In Search of the Perfect Crisp Topping

A glass baking dish of apple crisp with a crumble topping

A “crisp” is different from cobblers, crunches, and crumbles in the murky world of fruit dessert nomenclature. Cobblers depend on a dough of some sort. Oats are required specifically for crumbles. Crunch favors crumbs from bread.

But where things become interesting is when crisp—crisp can use nuts. Because toasted nuts go perfectly with fruit. (Yes, even butter. That is assumed.)

One of the best chefs I know, Suzanne Drexhage, who spent a lot of time at Berkeley, California’s Chez Panisse and is now in charge of the kitchen at Bartavelle cafe and wine bar, has provided me with a wonderful, crisp template for years.

A side view of a glass baking dish of unbaked apple crisp, with chunks of red and yellow apples and a crumb topping, on an oven rack

The best nut, pecans, lemon zest, and lots of salt are used in Suzanne’s crisp topping to create a harmonious blend of toasted and light flavors that work beautifully for all sorts of fruit, but especially apples. It only takes a few minutes to prepare in a food processor before it is ready to bake. The only crisp topping you’ll ever need, it is versatile like all brilliant approaches.

I’ve altered her recipe over the years, making it increasingly my own, but up until recently, I’d never put it through a particularly thorough testing process. I decided that the time had come to dissect the topping piece by piece and figure out how to make the greatest dang crisp topping possible. Let’s look at it.

The Nuts

Overhead shot of raw pecan halves on a black background

No other good ol’ American nut compares to pecans for rich, roasted flavor and delightful crunch. There isn’t much to deduce here, other than the fact that whole pecans are typically preferred to chopped pieces when you’re purchasing (the former stay fresh longer). Also up for debate is whether toasting the nuts before baking is really necessary.

You ought to. For this dish, you may toast your pecans in the oven while it’s preheating, which gives them an unmatched depth of flavor. Even though the crisp would still taste good without the pecans, this one step makes them more noticeable in the finished product.

The Butter

Overhead shot of three packages of butter (Plugra European-style butter and two packages of American-style unsalted butter) on a wooden background

Is there a difference between regular American unsalted butter and luxury European butter with more fat and a tangier flavor for our current purposes?

Two batches of crisp were made, and I asked (blind) tasters what they thought. The decision? Although others were less certain of the changes, our recipe expert Daniel clearly favoured the crisp made with Plugra butter, a standard-bearer of the European set.

I’d say richer butter gives your crisp a slight flavor boost. Go ahead and gild the lily if you adore butter and don’t mind paying more money. The crisp won’t be much worse, though, if you’d want to reserve the delicious stuff for spreading over toast.

The Sugar

Glass bowls of various types of sugar (raw sugar, white sugar, light brown sugar, and dark brown sugar)

There are a dozen different types of sugar you could use for crisp, but the four options available in the largest supermarkets are basic white, light brown, dark brown, and (the pricier option) raw.

There are many other types of raw sugar available worldwide, but “turbinado” is the variety whose manufacturing technique is the most standardized and which you are most likely to find in American supermarkets. Less refined than white or brown sugar, it is a grainy, crystalline substance with a delicate toffee-caramel flavor that I enjoy for adding a touch of depth to sweets. (In reality, molasses and refined white sugar are mixed to create brown sugar.)

Which sugar makes the greatest crisp? White sugar creates a tasteless, excruciatingly sweet coating. Both light and dark brown sugar perform well, but they add a lot of strong, sour molasses overtones that, in my opinion, take attention away from the fruit underlying. The ideal mix of unrefined complexity and pure flavor, in my opinion, is provided by raw sugar, which enhances the fruit without overpowering it.

Although I’d be remiss if I didn’t point up that a few members of the Serious Eats tasting panel preferred light brown sugar over the raw kind because they like the deep, robust Christmas flavor it gave the apples. Although I disagree with them, you are welcome to replace the white sugar in this recipe with an equal amount of brown sugar if you prefer your crisp to have a deeper flavor.

The Spice

Close-up of whole nutmeg and whole lemons on a wooden surface

Lemon zest transforms an otherwise rich dish by providing citrus lightness and scent. Don’t be afraid to use it; one tablespoon of lemon zest is not excessive.

Cinnamon and clove are both bossy spices, which is not what you want for a topping for a crisp that can be used everywhere. My go-to spice at home is mace, a spice that is similar to nutmeg but, in my opinion, outperforms it. Imagine a nutmeg and coriander hybrid with citrus and cinnamon undertones. Then add the intricacy of raw sugar, which has the same nostril-widening effects as nutmeg, mint, and basil. Mace is that.

I would advise searching for mace if you can locate it (it is widely available online). However, nutmeg is perfect if you don’t want to purchase something online only to eat some apple crisp: it’s strong without stepping on other components.

But salt, and lots of it, may be the spice to remember while making crisp. Crisp is a sweet business, so use enough of salt if you want to completely appreciate the fruit, nuts, lemon, butter, sugar, and spice that are all vying for your attention.

Put It All Together

Close-up of unbaked crumb topping for apple crisp

Putting the crisp together is easy after you’ve identified the necessary ingredients (which is more than I can say about one particular other dessert). This recipe is simple enough to memorize and quick enough to put together with the use of a food processor before your kitchen slave helper has finished preparing the fruit.

And by any fruit, I mean. As it’s fall, I’ll stick with apples, but you can also use peaches, blueberries, rhubarb, plums, nectarines, and other fruits with this topping.

Measure the Dry Ingredients

Flour, sugar, and lemon zest for crumb topping

Pecans should be measured out and toasted. Then measure your sugar and flour. Yes, weigh. Baking is better by measuring in grams or ounces rather of cups or quarts, and a kitchen scale is well worth the minor investment. Making crisp doesn’t need to be an exact process, but it does benefit from it.

Using a flexible spatula to scrape a mixture of flour, sugar, and lemon zest from a metal bowl into the bowl of a food processor

Add the salt, nutmeg, and lemon zest after which you put the entire mixture to a food processor and pulse it a couple of times to properly blend everything.

Add the Pecans

Close-up side view of dry mix for crumb topping in the bowl of a food processor, with pecan halves on top

Your roasted pecans don’t need to be chopped; simply add them to the processor and pulse a few times to start breaking them down. A few whole pecan halves are just what you need right now because you still have more pulsing to do.

Overhead view of a food processor bowl full of dry, crumbly mixture for topping apple crisp, with a few larger pecan pieces visible

The above is what you want to see.

Add the Butter

Overhead shot of food processor bowl of dry ingredients for crumb topping, with chunks of butter on top

Cut your chilled butter into small cubes, and pulse it in the food processor for just a few seconds, until the mixture starts to come together in a shaggy, mealy mass.

Close-up of combined butter, flour, sugar, lemon zest, and pecans in a food processor bowl for a crumb topping

This is the texture you’re looking for: diverse particle sizes, but no full cubes of butter. At this stage, you’ll get a crisp full of textural contrast, but with integrated flavor. Pulse any longer, and you risk a sticky dough that’ll be too smooth to crackle in the oven.

Once your topping is ready, you can chill it in the fridge or freezer until you’re ready to bake. It’ll keep in a sealed container for days.

Prep Your Fruit

Chopped apple in a metal bowl with cornstarch and sugar sprinkled on top

Crisp shouldn’t distract you from the fresh, clean flavor of fruit, so go light with your additions. When I’m feeling lazy, I’ll just add some salt and booze (more on that in a minute) and get baking. But unless you make some alterations, doing so will get you a watery layer of apples swimming in juices. For a tighter fruit layer, add some cornstarch and sugar to bind the juices into a light gel.

Chopped red and yellow apples in a glass baking dish

Golden Delicious apples are your best option if you’re using one apple in a pie or crisp because they get meaty, not mushy, when baked.

I generally stick to Golden Delicious apples, but occasionally I’ll add a firmer, tarter apple, like a Fuji or a Jonagold, for a tiny bit of contrast. You have an option here. Oh, and don’t bother peeling; the acidity and astringency added by the skins is a wonderful addition.

Pouring whiskey into a tablespoon measure to add to apple crisp filling

But about that alcohol: A shot or two of brown liquor does wonders for enhancing the flavor of a crisp. More effectively supplying caramel and vanilla overtones than vanilla extract ever could are applejack, bourbon, rye, and even Scotch (keep in mind that this one adds gobs of smoke, too). The crisp won’t taste drunken; it will merely taste better if you use the alcohol sparingly.

Lay on the Topping

Using a flexible spatula to scrape crumb topping over chopped apples in a glass baking dish

All that’s left to do is top and bake your prepared fruit. Don’t press your topping too deeply into the fruit for a light, crackly texture. Simply spoon it out and spread it in an approximately uniform layer to the baking dish’s edges. Some flaws are perfectly acceptable. Do not forget: We are not baking pie. It doesn’t have to be attractive to us.

Bake It

Overhead shot of a baked apple crisp, with a well-browned crumb topping

When the topping is sandy, dry, and firm to the touch, with no mushy areas, your crisp is finished. Do yourself a favor and wait at least 15 minutes for the crisp to cool before savoring it. The fruit layer’s juices need time to settle, and as time passes, the crust will become even more solid and cracked.

Overhead shot of a round white dish of apple crisp with whipped cream, on a purple cloth, next to a spoon

There you have it, then. Yes, this will do. A buttery, flaky topping with contrasting aromas and textures, delicate fruit, hints of lemon and nutmeg, and caramel.

Apple Crisp

The best apple crisp recipe I’ve ever tried is this simple one. The baked cinnamon apples and brown sugar oatmeal crumble topping give it a warm, homey flavor. It’s the ideal fall treat because it’s made with simple pantry ingredients and fresh apples.

Prep Time30 mins

Cook Time35 mins

Total Time1 hr 5 mins

Course: Dessert

Cuisine: American

Keyword: Apple Crisp, Apple Recipes, Fruit Crumble

Ingredients

Crumble

  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • ⅔ cup packed brown sugar
  • ½ cup large flake oats
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup unsalted butter , cut into cubes

Apple Filling

  • 6 large apples , I recommend Granny Smith
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter , melted
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • ⅓ cup white sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg

Instructions

  • Set the oven’s temperature to 350F. In a 2-quart baking dish, grease it.
  • Mix the flour, brown sugar, oats, cinnamon, and salt in a medium basin.
  • Use a pastry cutter to cut the butter into the dry ingredients after adding it, or use your fingers to rub it in. It should have a crumbly texture when finished, but no significant butter lumps should be visible. As you prepare the filling, place in the refrigerator.
  • The apples should be peeled and cut into 1/8- to 1/4-inch-thick slices.
  • Melted butter, flour, water, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg are all combined in a bowl.
  • The mixture should be poured over the apple slices, then combined.
  • Place the apples in the prepared pan and top with the oats crumble.
  • Bake for 30 to 40 minutes in a preheated oven, or until the top is golden brown and the apples are bubbling around the pan’s edges.
  • Before serving, remove the dish from the oven and let it cool for at least 10 minutes.

Notes

Refrigerate leftovers in a covered container.

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