Chef Scott Peacock's irresistible apple crisp is brimming with the season's new-harvest apples and freshly ground spices. See the following slides for his recipe and step-by-step instructions for getting it right. We'll teach you everything you need to know about how to make apple crisp from scratch, including making the apple crisp topping and cooking apples. Make sure you have your apple pie spice handy!
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. In a large bowl combine 1-1/2 cups flour, 1 cup granulated sugar, 1/3 cup brown sugar, 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
Tip: For an apple crisp topping with extra crunch and crumble, try adding rolled oats to the mix. The dry ingredients are pretty similar—just combine rolled oats, brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon—but it will give your apple crisp an even crunchier topping.
Add 2/3 cup unsalted butter (cut into pieces) to the topping. With your fingers, work the butter into the flour mixture until it just begins to cling together. "Work it just past the just-crumbly stage," Scott says. 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 baked in a ramekin or custard cup."
Tip: Though you can use your fingers to mix in the butter for this apple crisp topping, other recipes will call for using a pastry blender to cut the butter into the topping. This method allows small pieces of the cold butter to remain whole in the topping mixture, which will make it more crumbly.
In a 4-quart bowl toss together 8 cups peeled apples (cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices) and 2 tablespoons lemon juice. "I like my apples a little thicker than for a pie," Scott says. "Slice them too thin and the apples will collapse and cook down to sauce."
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, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon 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.
Tip: You can grate your own nutmeg with a nutmeg grater, which you can find at kitchenware shops and some supermarkets.
Sprinkle apples with the sugar-nutmeg mixture, then with your hands, mix together. Though it may sound a bit messy, stick to using your hands for this step—you'll be able to mix the apples and sugar together more evenly and, unlike a spoon, be much less likely to damage the apple slices (as long as you mix gently).
Heap the apples into a lightly buttered 2-quart baking dish. "Apples collapse a good bit during cooking, so it is important to pile them above the rim of the baking dish," Scott says. "Otherwise you end up with a sunken crisp."
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," Scott says. "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, starting 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 the 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.
Top off your homemade apple crisp with a deliciously creamy custard sauce. Here's how to make it:
Heat 1 cup milk and 1 vanilla bean (twisted and bruised to release essence, but not split), in a medium-size nonreactive saucepan to just below the boiling point. Remove from the heat and allow to sit, covered, for 10 minutes to allow the vanilla bean to infuse the milk.
While the milk is steeping, whisk together 4 egg yolks and 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar. Remove the vanilla bean, and slowly whisk the hot milk into the egg yolk mixture. Transfer back to the saucepan, and return the pan to the stove.
Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the custard coats the back of the spoon. At no time should the custard reach a simmer or boil. Remove from the heat, and stir in 1 cup heavy cream. Pour through a fine-mesh strainer, and stir in 2 teaspoons vanilla extract and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cool slightly; cover and chill until ready to use.