We’ve heard the saying about an apple a day keeping the doctor away long enough to know that all apples are good for us. Yet not all apples are good for the same purpose.
There are over 2,500 varieties of apples grown in the United States, all possessing a balance of sweet and tart, just in different ratios. Some apples have flesh that breaks down when cooked, and moisture content varies from one variety to the next. For these reasons, certain apples are ideal for eating fresh while others are better suited to applesauce or pie.
My early education on how to best use the many varieties of local apples came from strolling the aisles at Cherry Hill Orchards. A sign hanging above each apple bin notes the name of the apple, the flavor profile, and for what purpose it’s best suited. A larger sign on the wall lists all of the apples the orchard grows and when each variety’s season starts and ends. Samples make it easier to narrow down the choices.
While many apples are capable of creating a scrumptious apple crisp, one of my favorites is the Honeycrisp. These apples have become wildly popular in recent years thanks to their appealing crunch and balance of sweet and tart. When cooked, Honeycrisps maintain their shape and juiciness, which is key to the success of this classic fall dessert.
Honeycrisp season typically starts in early September—although this year the first apples were plucked from their branches in August—and they can be purchased through December and often into January. Because these widely available apples are a favorite for both snacking and baking, they’re a staple on my grocery list from late summer to early winter.
This rustic, quick-to-prepare crisp is intended for dessert but healthy enough for breakfast. In fact, I’ve eaten it for breakfast more than once! I even like it cold—in which case a big dollop of vanilla or maple yogurt makes a tasty and sensible alternative to the more traditional whipped cream or ice cream.
When assembling the crisp, I simply toss the chopped apples in the baking dish, not bothering to mix them with sweetener, liquid, thickener, etc. The Honeycrisps are perfect as is, making this dish as unfussy as it is delicious. I once made this crisp without peeling the apples, and it was still very good. My preference, however, is to peel the apples; they’re a little more tender that way.
Yields 4-6 servings.
- 4-5 cups apples, peeled, cored, and diced*
- 1 cup old-fashioned oats
- 1/3 cup finely chopped raw pecans
- 1/2 cup almond meal**
- 1/4 cup melted coconut oil (may substitute a fruity olive oil or melted butter)
- 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- Optional toppings: whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, or yogurt
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and lightly grease an 8-inch square pan or a 9-inch round cake pan.
- Add the apples to the prepared dish.
- In a medium bowl, combine the oats, pecans, almond meal, melted coconut oil, maple syrup, cinnamon, and salt. Toss to thoroughly combine, and then evenly distribute the topping over the apples.
- Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the fruit is tender and the topping is golden. Serve hot or at room temperature, plain or with one of the optional toppings. Cover and refrigerate any leftovers; they may be reheated or enjoyed cold.
- *Though apples are often sliced or chopped for apple crisp, I like to dice them. Smaller pieces seem to better meld with the delicious topping. If you prefer a higher crumble-to-fruit ratio, use the lower amount of fruit and vice-versa.
- **The more finely ground almond flour will absolutely work in this recipe, but the coarser meal is well suited to rustic dishes such as apple crisp. If not concerned about gluten, you may substitute all-purpose flour.
- More options: Feel free to vary the nuts, add a handful of tart cranberries or sweet blueberries–or make an all-berry or peach crisp according to season. Out of season, frozen berries or peaches may be used, although they will likely be less sweet. If using, consider tossing them with honey, maple syrup, or sugar to taste.
Did you know? Apples are high in fiber and Vitamin C with a low glycemic index.
In the pictured batch, I used a mix of Honeycrisp and Golden Delicious apples. I occasionally include a pear and/or a handful of cranberries for variety. Feel free to experiment based on what you have on hand.