IS THERE ANOTHER FOOD as universally craved as apple crisp? Our informal survey at the recently completed “Big E,” New England’s largest fair, suggests not.
Demand for this delectable apple treat reached near-fever pitch at our New England Apple Association booth in the Massachusetts Building at the 17-day event. Many people told us that they made the pilgrimage to our booth solely for the apple crisp. The faces of others lit up when they saw it on our menu. Their minds were instantly made up.
Others stood patiently for up to half an hour waiting for the next tray to emerge from the oven when we couldn’t keep up. Despite our warnings, they took it steaming hot!
We had to disappoint many, alas, as we were only able to serve apple crisp on weekends. For good reason: all 32 trays were made individually by hand by booth manager Bar Lois Weeks. Supply and demand were turned on their heads, as the homemade crisp from Bar’s family recipe was better than ever, while there was less of it to go around.
We hope to have more at the fair next year. In the meantime, apple crisp is easy to make at home using the very same recipe. Almost any apple, or a combination, can make a great crisp. Many of Bar’s trays used single varieties like early season apples Akane, Ginger Gold, and Paula Red. By the end of the fair she was mixing in Cortland, Honeycrisp, McIntosh, and Macoun.
SOME VARIETIES produce more juice than others, or take different times to cook until the apples are soft, but all make outstanding crisp. As with apple pie, use plenty of apples! They tend to cook down when baked, so you almost can’t use too many.
The soft, juicy apples contrast nicely with the crumb topping, which adds a satisfying, buttery crunch without overpowering the sweet, tangy apple flavor. The result practically melts in the mouth.
Grandmother Lois’s Apple Crisp is almost guaranteed to please anyone lucky enough to try some, topped with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, or by itself. No matter how you eat it, this deep-dish apple sweetness is practically irresistible.
But beware! Making apple crisp in huge quantities can be dangerous, as Bar relates:
BAR LOIS WEEKS
NOBODY WAS MORE SURPRISED than we were by skyrocketing apple crisp sales at The Big E this pandemic year. Whether it was a desire for comfort food in these uncertain times or nostalgia for Grandmother, we were not prepared.
I was also not prepared for recurring dreams of the indistinguishable sea of customers at the foot of our bed each night, all with the same order: “Apple crisp with ice cream.”
I’d half wake up, tell myself out loud, “There are no other people in the bedroom!” and fall back asleep to the same nightmarish dream.
Follow my family’s tried-and-true recipe, but be prepared for an onslaught.
Grandmother Lois’s Apple Crisp
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Sprinkle over the apples:
1/4 c sugar
2 t cinnamon
Mix together by hand and cover apples with the topping:
1/2 c cold, cubed butter
2/3 c brown sugar
3/4 c flour (half white whole-wheat)
3/4 c old-fashioned oats
As you squeeze handfuls, the cold butter softens and is absorbed into the dry ingredients. You’ll know when you’re done — the color will have changed from a light camel to a darker brown. Cover apples right to the edge with topping.
Bake 45 minutes until bubbly around the edges.
Serve with vanilla ice cream and/or whipped cream.