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Imprecision

2.November 2010

I’ve never been much of a Crisp fan. You know.  Apple Crisp.  Other Fruit Crisp.  Usually the topping is too bland or not crispy enough. (Ugh… dining hall apple crisp with soggy oatmeal on top.  Just thinking about it makes me gag.)  Usually the flavor is too indecisive to make an impression on me.

This year, though, I’ve made three apple crisps, inspired by friends who love apple crisp and by a general desire for dessert accompanied by an utter lack of planning.  And, damn, girl!  That’s some good dessert!  Times like these when I don’t have a plan and don’t make note of my recipe are the times when I like my food best of all.  That’s unfortunate for you, dear readers (hello out there!), because that means that I’m going to rhapsodize about this delicious creation, but I’m going to only provide the bare bones of what you need to know to make it happen.

This should all serve as a warning that for today, Darby O’Shea is philosophically opposed to measuring, following directions, or running to the store for a missing ingredient.  If you don’t have something on the list, fake it.  I think that in this run up to the holidays (I don’t know if you’re like me or some of the people I know, but there is massive pressure for perfection between, oh, Halloween and January 2) it’s good to take a couple hours and do something sloppy and imprecise and tasty without regard for rules or structures of any kind.

As I always say to my students, you’re clever.  You’ll figure it out.

Yeah, they don’t like hearing that either.

Apple Crisp: An Un-Recipe

Here’s what you need:

  • Apples.  Figure 1-2 apples per person.
  • Butter.  Probably a stick, stick and a half?
  • Sugar.  Brown (I generally prefer dark) and white.
  • Spices.  Look around in your spice cabinet.  Unless this is your first fall baking, I’m sure you have what you need.  I used cinnamon, ground cloves, nutmeg, ground allspice, and once I threw in some cardamom for  good measure.
  • Liquid.  I’ve used a combination of some, but not all of the following: maple syrup, apple juice, apple cider, heavy cream, half and half, milk, rum, port, and bourbon.  I generally try to get something creamy, something appley, and something boozy in there.
  • Thickening agent.  I like tapioca, but cornstarch also works well.  Or you can just not put too much liquid and leave this out.
  • Oats.  Or sugar cookie dough, but that’s another un-recipe all to itself.
  • Salt.
  1. Here’s the thing about this “recipe.”  I wholeheartedly believe in the value of impromptu cooking.  First step of this process: trust yourself and put away any measuring utensils you have handy.  Good.  If you still feel stressed, have a little sip of the rum or bourbon or port or whatever you have handy and calm down.
  2. Peel, core, and cut up the apples.  I personally prefer them in chunks – I “eighth” them (i.e. quarter them and then chop the quarters in half).  Put them in a baking dish.
  3. Throw in some spices (heavy on the cinnamon, don’t forget the cloves) and some sugar (heavier on the brown, but add some white for good measure).  You want your apples to all be coated and a little speckled-looking.  That’s enough.  Don’t forget a couple pinches of salt.
  4. Pour in a little liquid.  I like to have a base of apple-related liquid to get the apples simmering a little.  The boozy options give the whole thing a little kick and the creamy options give it some richness.  You do NOT want more than maybe 1/4″ of liquid in the bottom of your dish.
  5. Throw in some thickening agent of some sort, if you think you’ve got a lot of liquid.  Mix this whole mess around until it’s well distributed.
  6. Make the topping.  Take a whole bunch of oats (enough to cover the top of your apples pretty thickly), throw in some more brown sugar and some spices – cinnamon, clove, whatever.  Mix that business all together.  Then mix in enough melted butter that all of the oats are coated and a little glisteny.  Press this all on top of the apples until you have a solid coating of spicy, sugary oats.
  7. Pop the whole thing in the oven at about 375 until it’s good and bubbly.  If the oats are taking too long to brown and crisp up, but your filling is looking all syrupy and sludgy and caramely, bump the temperature up to 425 for a few minutes.
  8. Tap the top (careful, now!) of the Crisp to test for crispness.  It should be pretty solidly crisped and beautiful golden brown when you take it out of the oven.
  9. Serve it up hot (warn your guests!) with ice cream – I’m dogmatically opposed to any flavor but vanilla here, but really do what makes you happy – or without.  Or with whipped cream.
  10. Eat the leftovers for breakfast.  There’s fruit and oats in there!  It’s healthy!

**Note: I just did a little trip through my “Recipe List” and realized that I actually mostly fly by the seat of my pants when cooking.  So this isn’t really new, but I feel contrary today.  Anyway, just do it.  It’ll be good for you.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Jamie permalink
    2.November 2010 15:53

    THANK YOU. This is MY kind of recipe.

    • Darby O'Shea permalink*
      2.November 2010 15:54

      I thought you’d like it. :)

  2. 2.November 2010 17:44

    I love the “unrecipe”! Actually, your tips are great and the results look amazing.

    • Darby O'Shea permalink*
      2.November 2010 23:05

      Hey! Thanks! Thanks also for checking out the blog. Come back soon!

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