The right apples and freshly ground spices make the best version of traditional apple crisp. In his American Classics series, cooking guru Scott Peacock shares his secrets for this classic dish.
With your fingers, work butter into flour mixture until it just begins to cling together. "Work it just past the just crumbly stage," says Scott. The topping can be made in advance; store it for up to a week in the refrigerator or a month carefully wrapped and frozen. "I like to keep some on hand, then make an individual crisp using a single apple baking in a ramekin or custard cup."
When adding lemon juice, forgo the squeezer and use your fingers to catch the seeds. "I love the efficiency and pleasure of using my hands to cook," Scott says.
In a small bowl, combine the 1/4 to 1/3 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon flour, salt, and nutmeg. "A light grating of fresh nutmeg plays well against the acidity and sweetness of the apples," Scott says. Use the lesser amount of sugar for sweeter apples.
Sprinkle apples with the sugar-nutmeg mixture, then with your hands, mix together.
Cover the top of the apples with the crumb mixture, breaking up large pieces as necessary to cover. "Once you understand the proportions and technique, crisps are easy to personalize," says Scott. "Use ginger rather than cinnamon for a delicious peach or plum crisp."
Cover the crisp first with parchment, then foil. "This eliminates the chance of any 'tin can' flavor in the crisp," Scott says. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. Carefully remove foil and paper from the opposite side of the pan (to keep steam away from your face and hands).
Return to oven; bake 30 to 40 minutes more or until top is golden and the apples are just tender when pierced with the tip of a paring knife. To ensure the flour in filling is cooked, bake until thickened juices bubble up from the fruit. Let cool 15 to 30 minutes before serving. Serve with whipping cream or Scott's Rich Custard Sauce.