‘Great Sauces Transform Good Food into Gourmet’
‘How to’ crunchy topping
Mom used to make Apple Crisp during the Fall when apples are plentiful. She had a crunchy topping that contrasted with tender apple slices sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. I love texture contrasts so when I decided to develop a no-fail crunchy topping I learned about fruit desserts: crumbles, crisps, cobblers, buckles, dumplings, grunts and slumps. (For more about differences between fruit desserts see the Notes section.)
This Apple Nut Crumble is made with four intertwining layers of textures. First, part of the apples are grated so they breakdown into applesauce. Second, the rest of the apples are cut in chunks and bake just until tender. Unpeeled apples mean you have a little more texture plus the skin will cast a rosy, watercolor hue to the filling. Third, the dried cranberries soften but retain a little chewiness. And fourth, the topping is a crunchy, crumbly, nutty crown that doesn’t sog while baking.
That’s a perfect segue to share more about the crumble topping. It has several ingredients that ensure crunch: brown sugar, turbinado, oats, granola and walnuts. With butter and cinnamon it turns into an outrageously delicious, crispy topping over tender apples.
Recipe: Apple Nut Crumble
Prep Time: 13 Minutes | Cook Time: 40 Minutes | Yield: 8 Servings | Level: Moderate
3 lbs crisp apples, such as Fugi, Gala, Braeburn, about 6 large or 10 small unpeeled
6 Tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup dried cranberries
zest of 1 lemon
juice of half lemon
2 tsp vanilla extract
Special Equipment – large skillet, 9×13 baking dish
2 Grate 1/3 of the apples and place in a large skillet on medium heat with granulated sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Toss and cook for 3-4 minutes or until the apple softens. Remove from the heat.
4 Combine flour, brown sugar, turbinado sugar and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter until it becomes a fine crumb. Toss in oats, granola and walnuts. Spoon evenly over the apple mixture.
5 Bake at 375 for 35 minutes. Serve solo or with ice cream, whipped cream or Creme Anglaise.
There is a lot of flavor in the apple peel (plus vitamins and roughage). Using unpeeled apples intensifies the apple flavor and emphasizes the rustic nature of this dish.
I like to use a crunchy granola, walnuts and turbinado sugar in the crumble topping to increase the texture.
Turbinado sugar is also called ‘sugar in the raw’. It has a subtle molasses flavor but is paler in color than brown sugar. It’s spun in a cylinder style turbine to make the coarse crystals, hence the name. You can find it at most supermarkets.
Fruit desserts with various toppings all have a combination of fruit, butter, flour and sugar. The distinguishing details:
Crumbles and Crisps have a streusel topping, with or without oats and sometimes nuts.
Cobblers have sweetened biscuit dough dolloped on top that puffs when baked for a cobblestone look.
Buckles have a cakey batter on the bottom with the fruit mixture on the top. When it bakes the fruit sinks and causes the cake to rise up on the edge and buckle in the middle.
Dumplings are wrapped in pie dough.
Grunts and Slumps, two names for the same dish, are cooked on the stove rather than baked. They’re topped with sweetened biscuit dough then steamed lid on. This is often made in a cast iron skillet over a camp fire.
Betties have buttered bread crumbs on top and layered with the fruit.
Pandowdies are topped with pie crust. Once out of the oven the crust is cut or broken to reveal more fruit or may even be submerged in the fruit filling. It looks a bit ‘dowdy’.
Sonkers have batter or pie crust over a saucy fruit filling that’s served in a bowl.
Serve this dessert with vanilla ice cream, sweetened whipped cream or Creme Angliase.
- Use granny smith apples for a more tart result.
- Exchange turbinado for 1/4 cup brown sugar or sanding sugar.
Cook with Sauces
Apple Nut Crumble
Written by Helen Horton
Photography and Styling by Helen Horton
Updated: November 23, 2013