Tips You Need For Making Apple Crisp

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Apple cobbler is a classic fall dessert usually made with warm, soft fruit topped with a crisp, crumbly, baked streusel topping. Although folks occasionally confuse crisps and cobbler, there are important distinctions that need to be made between the two. The cobbler is like an upside-down pie; there is usually a thin pie dough or biscuit layer on the top of apples with no bottom crust, per Blue Flame Kitchen. An apple crumble is more of a crisp than a cobbler because the apple crumble contains a streusel topping made with oats, butter, sugar, and flour (via the Farmers' Almanac). Therefore, for the purpose of this article, you can use these tips for either crisps or crumbles.

Both crisps and crumbles are excellent ways to use up a ton of apples at once or to use up apples with minor cosmetic damage. Plus, there's nothing more fall than a scoop of apple crisp topped with a hefty scoop of vanilla ice cream on a fall day. Here are some of our best tips for making excellent apple crisps and crumbles at home! 

Check the tenderness of the apples to assess doneness

Apple crisps can be deceiving. Do you want to pull the container out of the oven when the crumble is that perfect golden brown color? Or should you wait on the off chance the apples are not yet done? 

There are a few things you should be looking for in a perfectly cooked apple crisp. The first is the heavenly aroma that will fill your entire kitchen. Then, you'll want to look for a light golden brown color on the crisp. After you pass these first two tell-tale signs of a baked crisp, poke a knife into the apple layer of the crisp. You should feel some resistance, but not enough that it feels like you are stabbing into a raw apple. If your apples are not done enough, but the crust is well-baked, you can cover the pan with aluminum foil and continue baking. 

Only use ripe or overripe fruit

You should avoid using under-ripe apples for an apple crisp per LeafTV. Underripe apples are sour, hard, and not conducive to a sweet apple crisp. Plus, using under-ripe apples may cause some intestinal distress when eaten because of the leftover ethylene gas from the apples. Penn State Extension recommends pressing into the apple to assess its firmness if you're looking for the most perfectly ripe apple at an orchard. A perfectly ripe apple should be firm but not rock-hard. You can also gently twist and pull the apple from the tree to test its ripeness. If it comes off the tree with just a slight tug, the apple is ready to eat (or take home for a crisp). 

Southern Living recommends using up your overripe apples for a crisp. The apples will not have to soften as much during baking, and baking with these apples is a great way to use up leftovers. If you prefer a more hard apple crisp, you might use a mix of ripe and overripe apples to prevent the apple mix from breaking down too much during the baking process.

Add cornstarch to the fruit to prevent sogginess

Sogginess is not as detrimental in a crisp as a pie because the crisp does not have a lower crust layer. One of the easiest ways to avoid wet apple crisp is to use a thickener to bind the apple juices together. The most common thickener is a cornstarch slurry, mixed with the apples before being added to a baking dish. For the best balance, you should use a 2-to-1 ratio of water to cornstarch, shaken vigorously, to the apples. Moreover, some bakers are inclined to use a flour mixture to soak up juices. However, the flour method is not always effective, per Martha Stewart. You'd have to use twice the amount of flour as cornstarch for the same effect. Plus, if you add too much flour, you may find the taste of the flour comes through. Alternatively, Martha Stewart recommends tapioca starch instead of cornstarch for a similar thickening effect.

Use a mix of apples

It is important to consider what kind of apples would work best for your crisp. Some of the most popular types of apples used in crisps include the tangy Granny Smith, classic Golden Delicious, and popular baking Cortland apple. Some apples that are popular for eating are not always the most suitable for baking. The McIntosh, for example, gets very mushy very quickly. If you use too much McIntosh in your crisp, it may disintegrate in front of your eyes. On the other hand, the Red Delicious is much too sweet and plasticky for an apple crisp. 

Overall, mixing your apples tends to provide a more robust range of textures and flavors. Some of the best apples for baking include the dense Rome apple and the Cortland combined with the tartness of a Granny Smith or a Golden Delicious. Ultimately, finding the perfect ratio of apples in your crisp or crumble is a matter of trial-and-error and personal taste. 

Always core and peel apples

You might be tempted to leave the peels on your apples to prevent the slices from getting too mushy during baking. But, you should always peel and core your apples before baking the fruit into a crisp or a crumble. Market Basket notes leaving peels on the apples will disrupt the consistency of your apples and prevent the apples from melding together during the baking process. The peeled apples will provide a soft, delicate element to any baked dish. You may lose a bit of color from the apple peels, but the flavor and consistency will be well worth it. 

You'll also want to be sure to remove all of the parts of the seed and the apple core when you're prepping your apples. While you can purchase a fancy apple coring apparatus online to make this process easier, you can always just turn to a reliable paring knife to get the job done. 

Switch up your recipe by adding nuts

Adding nuts to your apple crisp is one of the most underrated ways to make your apple crisp more delicious. Walnuts, pecans, and almonds are some of the most popular nuts to add to a crisp because of the nuts' oaky flavor and crunchy consistency after baking. Diamond Nuts recommend using raw walnuts for baking as walnuts burn easily because it has a high oil content. Diamond also recommends trying black walnuts for a more savory flavor. Pecans require minimal prep; you can grind the nuts into tiny pieces for a thin, brittle texture that nicely contrasts the butter in the streusel. If almonds are your jam, you can blanch the nuts quickly in water to remove the skin before pulsing the nuts and stirring the tiny pieces into your brittle. 

If you're baking for a crowd, it's always best to check with the people you plan to bake for to ensure no one has a tree-nut allergy before you stir in your favorite crunchy, nutty addition to your apple crisp. 

Reheat your crisp in the oven

Cold apple crisp the morning after Thanksgiving is a good idea, but we believe baking your crisp in the oven is the best way to reheat this dessert. Apple crisp will usually last up to five days in an airtight container in the refrigerator, so you'll want to remove the portion you plan to reheat rather than heating and cooling the dish repeatedly. Pantry & Larder recommends preheating the oven to 350 F and heating your apple crisp portion for 10 to 15 minutes. A foil covering on the apple crisp will keep it from drying out in the oven.

Alternatively, you can also reheat your apple crisp using your trusty air fryer. To use, make sure to line the basket of the air fryer with parchment paper to prevent dripping juices into the machine, then heat the cobbler for a mere three to four minutes at 350 F and remove promptly. The circulation of the air fryer can quickly burn the crisp, Pantry & Larder notes, so always keep an eye on the machine to monitor for burning.

Always cut your apples in uniform pieces

Cutting uniform pieces is important in any cooking routine because all parts of the dish need to cook the same. The same goes for an apple crisp — because nobody wants to bite into a super hard apple slice and a mushy apple slice in the same bite. Using an apple slicer to ensure even slices will help the uniformity of slicing for apple novices. We are big fans of the 16-slice thin apple slicer from Amazon because of the consistent sizing it produces. Plus, you can just pop the apple slicer in the dishwasher when you're done with it! 

If you plan on using a knife to cut your apples, you'll want to go for a small paring knife. You should first slice the apple in half to create a flat surface. Although this basic knife skill may seem simple, it is paramount to keeping your fingers safe. 

Try adding a drizzle of homemade caramel sauce

A fantastic way to make your apple crisp even better is to add a drizzle of homemade caramel sauce. You can use brown sugar, vanilla extract, heavy whipping cream, and a ton of butter to make your caramel sauce; you can even make a salted caramel sauce for a uniquely complex flavor. Constantly stirring the caramel sauce is essential so the sugar does not stick to the bottom of the pan and burn. You'll also want to place extra emphasis on cooling the sauce at room temperature before sticking the jar in the fridge. This method will prevent crystallization and a grainy texture once the caramel is cooled.

The sauce will last in the fridge for up to two weeks and has multiple uses outside of drizzling on apple crisp. Drizzle warmed caramel sauce on top of ice cream or as a dipping sauce for your favorite chocolate chip cookie.

Experiment with adding fruit besides apples

You can use the same apple crisp recipe to fit other types of fruits, per recipe developer Jessica Morone. Thick fruits like peaches and pears do not require a significant adjustment in baking time (around 45 minutes), while berry crisps could finish baking in as little as 30 minutes. You might also have to make adjustments for the juicier fruits in your crisp — like blueberries and blackberries.

Some of the most compatible fruit to add to an apple crisp include pineapple and pear. Both of these fruits are relatively hearty, moist, and can stand up to the heaviness of a streusel. For some extra sweetness, consider adding sliced peaches to the mix. The King Arthur Baking Company recommends rinsing frozen fruit before adding the ingredients to a crisp. Rinsing removes some of the leftover juice that can cause excess bleeding and a squishy crisp. 

Add orange juice to the apples to slow browning

Citrus is integral in slowing the browning process in an apple crisp. According to materials from Purdue University Extension, a reaction called enzymatic browning is produced when the fruit is exposed to oxygen (polyphenol oxidase is the agent in the fruit that causes browning). When citrus is added to fruit like apples, this browning slows down.

Citrus is also important in counteracting the sweetness of sugar and fruit. The perfect apple crisp is tart, so adding citrus-like orange juice (or lemon juice) is essential to provide another level of complexity to the crisp. Baking Bites notes that the amount of acid you should add to a crisp depends on how many apples you plan on adding. One-half of a tablespoon of orange juice with three pounds of apples is minuscule, so it's best practice to follow the recipe to decide how much acid should be added.

Double-bake your crisp topping

When making a fruit crumble, you're looking for a contrast between the crisp, firm, crunchy streusel topping and the soft layer of apple underneath. According to the New York Times, pre-baking your topping is one way to ensure it does not become a sloppy mess when you add the apples underneath. All you have to do is spread the topping on a sheet pan and bake for a little bit until golden brown and crunchy. Then, layer the crumble topping on top of your apple crisp when you're ready to bake. You'll find much more crunch when you bite into the crisp and intensely satisfying contrast between the layers. You can choose to freeze the topping if you make too much ahead of time. But for optimal crispiness? We recommend pre-baking your crisp the day of and enjoying your crunchy layered dessert as soon as possible.

Try making bars for a portable apple crisp experience

Eating apple crisp leftovers is always a bit messy, but when you bake apple crisp into tiny portable squares, the pieces are much easier to consume and enjoy. You can make a flaky pie crust with a few simple ingredients: butter, flour, ice water, and salt. Pre-bake the crust using pie weights before preparing your apple crisp on top. These bars are perfect for bringing to your Thanksgiving dinner or packing in a lunchbox for a special treat. Refrigerate the bars to maintain freshness throughout the week. 

If you're looking to make an easier apple crisp bar, consider using a pre-made graham cracker crust. You won't have to worry about pressing and pre-baking your crust in anticipation of cooking the bars in the oven. You can also dress your bars with a drizzle of homemade vanilla glaze or a sprinkle of powdered sugar on top. 

Taste to assess the sweetness of the apples before baking

You should always taste as you go when cooking or baking. This is especially important when your apples are not the same mix as the recipe intends. When it comes to apples and sweetness, you should be deliberate in tasting them to test the sweetness of the fruit and the amount of added sugar. Moreover, you can always add sugar gradually to taste; you can't remove the sugar you've already added. 

You can experiment with mixing white and brown sugar to make your apple crisp. Brown sugar will impart more molasses and dark notes on your apples. You can use either light or dark brown sugar in your recipe, depending on how much molasses you want in your recipe. The type of sugar you choose will impact the flavor of the apple crisp, so try to stick to the recipe for the perfect ratio. 

Use a pastry cutter to cut the butter for the crisp

A pastry cutter goes by many different names: manual dough mixer, hand blender, and pastry blender. Whatever you call it, this tool is vital to adding tiny pieces of butter to your perfect crisp topping. Keeping the butter cold is one of the ways to get a better coarse topping on your apple crisp. Remember, you should never beat cold butter with a mixer because it can actually warp a balloon whisk or beater attachment. Instead, use a pastry cutter to break the cold butter into tiny pieces. If you don't have a pastry cutter handy, you can cut the cold butter with a fork, two butter knives, or a food processor into the flour, resulting in a similar texture to the pastry cutter. Outside of apple crisps, you can use the pastry cutter to make a basic pie crust by hand as well.