Monday, October 17, 2011

What I did with the apples

I put them in a big bowl in the middle of the table.

It was gorgeous. 
It make the kitchen smell wonderful.
It was full to the brim.

For a few minutes.

One by one

The apples disappeared.

Juice dripping down your chin. 
Cool and crisp like nobody's business.

Crisp.  Hmm.  Now there's an idea...

Skillet Caramel Apple Crisp
This is a mash up of recipes I clipped from Cooks Illustrated and Bon Appetit. With the hand picked apples it was incredible, but even with store-bought, it will be one of the best apple desserts you've ever eaten.  The combination of apples with the buttery topping and the rich caramel sauce makes this the epitome of what a fall treat should be: comforting, warm, home-y, and deeply satisfying.

For the topping:
1 3/4 c. flour
1 c. sugar
generous 1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
generous grating of fresh nutmeg
1 c. (2 sticks) butter, cut into small pieces

For the caramel apples:
3 lbs. of crisp-tart apples, preferably a mix of varieties
Juice of 1 lemon, divided
3/4 c. sugar
6 Tbs. (3/4 stick) butter, cut into slices
1/2 tsp. salt

To make the topping, combine everything except the butter in a mixing bowl or in a food processor.  Whisk or pulse to combine.   Using a pastry cutter, or the food processor, incorporate the butter until the mixture is crumbly and moist clumps form.  If you are a traditionalist, you can add 1/2 c. of oats and/or 1/2 c. of toasted pecans or walnuts at this point  Personally, I like mine without.  Set topping aside, and preheat the oven to 375.

Prepare the apples.  Squeeze the juice from 1/2 of the lemon into a large bowl, and put the apples in there as you peel and slice them, stirring so they are coated lightly as you add more.  This will keep them from turning brown.

In a large  (9 1/2 to 10 inch) cast iron skillet (or regular skillet, if you don't have a cast iron one), stir the sugar and the butter over medium heat until a smooth sauce forms.

Add the juice from other half of the lemon and the salt.  Keep stirring gently until the sauce has gone from creamy beige to a light golden brown.  Add the apples and the juice from the bowl they were sitting in, and stir to coat the apples well.   Cook the apples for about 3-4 minutes, stirring from time to time.   Remove from the heat.

If you are using a cast iron skillet, crumble the topping directly onto the apples in the skillet.  Otherwise, turn the apples out into a 13 x 9 or large oval baking dish, and then crumble the topping over them.   Bake for 20 minutes, or until you can see golden brown caramel bubbling up through the topping.  If you are not using a skillet, add about 5 more minutes to the baking time.

Allow the crisp to cool for about 10 minutes, then serve warm with vanilla ice cream or freshly whipped cream.

Click to print this recipe!