It is exactly the right time of year to be making apple crisp. Actually, I think its a little sacrilegious not to be making apple crisp. Just a bit blasphemous. But, if currently, you are not taking evening walks with a sweater on, counting the different shades and variance of color in the trees, drinking cider, counting down the days until Halloween, or wearing puffy fuzz socks up over your ankles, then. Well. I think I probably have to authority to say you are one hundred percent living a life of sin. Don’t let Fall frown down upon you.
A good launching pad into atonement would be making this apple crisp.
There are roughly 7,500 varieties of apples out there. You have roughly 10,000 taste buds on your tongue. That is roughly one and one third apples to one taste bud. That is intimidating, is it not? We have so many bumpy receptors for so many intricate levels of flavor, and almost as many types of subtle complexities within the apple family. Think how much we are missing out on. Right now.
Consequently, the nuances of apple flavors are lost to me. Eating a different apple every day would take the better part of my adult life. I am nowhere near being a connoisseur of the apple. Trying to identify their differences blindfolded would probably be like asking a 16 year old (punk that steals mom and dad’s booze) to tell you which is better in a blind taste, Barefoot or Hess Select. Well. Life is not made up of Pepsi challenges, but if it were, I’d like to win the apple challenge. Oh boy would I.
So I start here! In the Autumn of the year. Specifically with Gravenstein apples, found in the good ol’ Northwest. I couldn’t tell you what is in season this week where you are, but it would probably be best (for your health, happiness, mouth and overall morality) if you found out. You’ve got a good month left to eat way more apples than any other time of the year, all growing right around where you are (this is my assumption that the majority of readers live in the Midwest, or Northwest). And although you probably don’t have the belly capacity to make crisps, cobblers and pies with all of them, don’t worry. Most of them are just perfect after a simple shining against the breast of your red and black flannel shirt.
Gravensteins are baking apples. I like to bake, and my sweet tooth thinks I have a great hobby. But you can ruin a good apple if your sugar-pouring hand is a heavy one. A crisp is the lazy man’s beauty of a dessert. If you find a tart apple, it gets rounded out by cinnamon sugar topping, and in turn, the sweet topping does not smother your 10,000 taste buds from tasting said apple. If you find a sweeter apple, just go heavier on the nuts and oats than the sugar.
We’ve all had apple crisp; I know this is not anything new to any of you (and if it is I will deny your existence as a real human). And the only way to bring out the warm flavors of fall even more than cinnamon, butter, brown sugar, and apples roasted in the oven, is a hint of savory.
The rough chopping of sage atop your apples gives you a flavor burst that makes you think of pork loin and apple sauce. Or your grandma’s stuffing. Really, it makes me taste Thanksgiving. In that glorious moment when you’ve piled far too much food on your little plate, elbow cousin Lucy and Grandpa Dick as you try to jam your fork into the pie, and get a little potatoes and gravy in the bite as well. The merging of all the tastes of Fall occur in your mouth while you eat that plate. And this apple crisp is a fragment of that experience.
So if you aren’t crazy for sweet crumbly sugar topping (weirdo) this is the ingredient that will make you go back for seconds. This is the ingredient that will make you justify eating it for breakfast, with a bit of almond milk drizzled over the top. This is the ingredient that will make a new dish for your taste buds, and stir up years of holiday memories. Ah, sage.
I ramble. I drool nostalgia on the page. But I loved this apple crisp. And if you’ve got 20 minutes to spare, I most certainly suggest you roll your sweater up to your elbows and warm the kitchen with an oven full of this. May the Fall clouds rain cider upon your face in recognition of your efforts.
yields 6 servings in a 9″ pie plate or tart plate
5 medium apples, the best you can find
3 full sprigs fresh sage, or 10-15 leaves
scant 1/2 cup rolled oats
scant 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
scant 1/4 cup all purpose flour, sifted
scant 1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
8 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease you pie plate or tart plate generously. Set aside.
Measure oats, brown sugar, granulated sugar, and chopped nuts into a bowl. Stir until combined. Sift flour and cinnamon on top of bowl, stir until combined.
Chop your butter into peanut M&M sized chunks. Gently toss into cinnamon sugar mixture. With your fingers, move the butter around in the bowl, coating all sides with dry ingredient. Pinch the butter bits into smaller chunks, closer to plain M&M size. If your butter starts to melt from the heat of your fingers, set bowl in fridge to chill out. Once you have reached a good baby-butter-chunk consistency throughout the streusel topping, refrigerate anyways until ready to use.
Wash your apples and your sage. Core your apples by first halving them, then removing the core by making to angled cuts halfway down the apple (see picture above). Proceed to cut your apples into chunks varying from quarter size to half dollar size. I choose to leave the skins on for texture, and because I despise waste. It is personal preference though.
Toss your apple chunks into the prepared baking plate. Pluck sage from the sprig and roughly chop, spreading evenly over the apples.
Take out your streusel and layer evenly over the apple-sage pair. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until apple juices are bubbling up at the sides and the walnut tips have thoroughly browned.
Let cool to a bearable temperature and eat with a scoop of ice cream, or a drizzle of milk/cream/what have you. Be happy.