Warm spices, sweet-tart apples, and plenty of crisp topping are the hallmarks of this classic dessert that comes together easily with ingredients you likely have on hand.
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.
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.
- 5-6 cups Honeycrisp apples, peeled, cored, and sliced or chopped*
- 2 tablespoons (40g) + ¼ cup (80g) pure maple syrup, divided use
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon, divided use**
- 1 teaspoon vanilla or 1 tablespoon bourbon or rum
- 1 cup (90g) old-fashioned oats
- ⅓ cup (38g) finely chopped raw pecans
- ½ cup (56g) almond flour or meal***
- ¼ cup (56g) melted butter (or melted coconut oil)
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- Optional toppings: vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, or vanilla yogurt
Preheat the oven to 350℉, and lightly grease an 8-inch square pan or a 9-inch round cake pan.
In a mixing bowl, toss the apples with the 2 tablespoons maple syrup, ½ teaspoon cinnamon, and the vanilla, bourbon, or rum. Transfer to the prepared dish.
In a medium bowl, combine the oats, pecans, almond flour, melted butter, ¼ cup maple syrup, remaining ½ teaspoon 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, as is or with one of the optional toppings. Cool and then cover and refrigerate any leftovers; they may be reheated or enjoyed cold.
*If you prefer a higher crumble-to-fruit ratio, use the lower amount of fruit and vice-versa. I specify Honeycrisp apples, which are naturally sweet-tart and maintain their texture when baked. That said, you may absolutely use other apples like Granny Smith, Fuji, Jazz or Pink Lady–and a mix is always nice.
**To play up with warm spices, you may add ¼ – ½ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg to the apple mixture. You could also replace this and the cinnamon with ¾ – 1 teaspoon apple pie spice.
***The flavor and texture of almond flour work well in the crisp topping. However, if you don’t have it on hand and are 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.
Prep ahead options: You may prepare the apples 6-8 hours in advance, tossing with the maple syrup, etc. Cover and refrigerate in the mixing bowl. When ready to bake, toss and transfer to the baking dish. The dry ingredients for the crisp topping can be mixed several days in advance. I like to add the butter and maple syrup to the oat mixture no more than two hours before baking. At this point, the assembled crisp may sit at room temperature until being baked.