Humor me for a moment…I started out the month filled with hopeful thoughts of baking more pies in an effort to up my “pie game.” Inspired by the awesome pie porn from the prolific @jojoromancer on Instagram, I even went out (OK, really my fingers just used the keyboard) and bought the recently published book from @katemcdermott titled Art of the Pie: A Practical Guide to Homemade Crusts, Fillings, and Life. I made a delicious pumpkin pie recipe from this book for Thanksgiving and actually did put in a little extra effort to make my first braided pie crust. I know, it is just a baby step, but as the saying goes, a journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step.
So earlier this week, I had a craving for something sweet. My mind turned to pie, but as I was home alone, baking a whole pie during the holiday season when the risk of serious weight gain is already high wasn’t a great idea. Having a whole freshly baked pie at my disposal could quite possibly lead to diet mayhem, but I came up with a diet friendly solution.
I remembered seeing in my freezer a little zip lock pouch. In that pouch was a generous amount of crisp topping that I had made as summer was coming to a close. There is an easy but delicious recipe in The San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market Cookbook: A Comprehensive Guide to Impeccable Produce Plus 130 Seasonal Recipes for a Nectarine and Blackberry Crisp. The cookbook author recommended making extra topping to freeze and use later, so my thought was why not use it to make an individual size portion of apple crisp? In the time that it took to peel and slice a single large apple, my crisp was ready to bake. Compare that with the time required to make a pie crust from scratch, as well as peeling and slicing 3 pounds of apples — Food Network estimates the total prep and bake time for their apple pie recipe at 3.5 hours.
A variation of the crisp recipe can be found on blogger Tori Avery’s website. I will provide the topping recipe here and would estimate that a single recipe will likely yield four to six individual servings.
- 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1 tbsp sugar
- Pinch of salt
- Pinch of cinnamon
- 1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans, almonds or walnuts (I used walnuts)
- 6 tbsp chilled unsalted butter cut into 1-inch pieces
To prepare the topping, simply place the ingredients in your food processor and gently pulse to get a nice crumbly mixture. Package the topping up in a ziplock bag and freeze for future use.
When the urge hits you, pre-heat your oven to 375° F, and get out your individual serving pans. I have a couple of old ones from Staub, which are pictured above as I prepared to put them into the oven. Mine are shallow and five inches in diameter — the closest thing I was able to find online were these from Le Creuset. Put your pan(s) onto a baking sheet to catch any drips and facilitate putting them in and taking them out of the oven.
For two small crisps, I was able to use one large apple. If you have smaller apples then you will want to use two. In a small bowl squeeze approximately two teaspoons of fresh lemon juice. Peel your apple, and slice it fairly thin. Toss the apple slices with your lemon juice to prevent browning and then line your pans with the slices. Sprinkle each pan of apples with approximately one half teaspoon of cornstarch and one teaspoon (or more to your taste) of brown sugar. A dash of cinnamon is an optional add-on. Dot each with a half tablespoon of butter cut into small pieces. Now you can sprinkle on the frozen topping and pop your pans into the oven. Bake for approximately 35 minutes until the apples are tender, the juices are bubbling, and the top is a nice brown. Let your crisp cool for a few minutes and then enjoy!
By the way, this crisp topping is extremely versatile. I have typically made it during the summer months with blueberries, peaches, nectarines or plums. Now that I’ve made this with apples, I can see some cool weather possibilities. Apples are usually readily accessible and could be paired with cranberries or currants. Pears are another idea that came to mind. Let me know your ideas for quick, satisfying dessert options that won’t wreck your diet.
Have a safe, happy holiday season. I wish you all the best in the New Year ahead!