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The world needs apple crisp right now

Who can resist the sight, the smell, the texture of the crispy top and the spicy, softened apples underneath?

Dorothy Grover-Read’s culinary talents can be found on her blog “The New Vintage Kitchen” (vintagekitchen.org), billed as “[a] Vermont innkeeper’s collection of classics reimagined for today’s kitchen.” Her column has regularly appeared in The Commons’ Food & Drink section, which has been on hiatus during the pandemic.

BELLOWS FALLS—You know it’s autumn when you catch that first whiff of apples cooking — especially apple crisp — and right now, the whole world needs a nice big portion.

Who can resist the sight, the smell, the texture of the crispy top and the spicy, softened apples underneath?

In this version, I’ve added a couple of ripe pears that were asking to be used, and seasonal cranberries as well, which lend a lovely pink blush and special flavor to the basic crisp. If you don’t like cranberries, you can leave them out.

There are a few tricks and a few secret ingredients to a great apple crisp, and this recipe has them all.

Apple crisp rules

Secret 1: Use several types of apples. Like making cider or applesauce, a little sweet, a little tart, firm, and soft all combine to make a full and flavorful filling.

Secret 2: Always add a pinch of salt to the filling as well as to the topping. The salt enhances the sweet just as it does for the savory.

Secret 3: Add a hefty portion of vanilla extract — not typical in apple crisp, but essential in my book.

Secret 4: Don’t “sprinkle” the topping over the apples as most recipes tell you. Rather, add clumps of it, sort of like strewing little bits of oatmeal cookie dough over the top. The clumps will crisp up much better than a scattered topping.

Blushing Apple Crisp

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and butter a large baking dish. Your mother’s old Pyrex 8 in. {x} 13 in. is perfect.

In the prepared dish, place and mix well:

¶2{1/2} lbs. peeled, cored, and sliced apples

¶2 pears, peeled, cored, sliced

¶1 cup cranberries, rough chop

¶{1/2} cup or so organic white sugar

¶1{1/2} tsp. ground cinnamon

¶{1/2} tsp. ground ginger

¶A few grates of nutmeg

¶{1/2} tsp. salt

¶The zest of 1 lemon

¶The juice of half a lemon (approx. 2 Tbsp.)

¶1 Tbsp. vanilla extract

In the bowl of a mixer, or by hand, combine just until it becomes a unified mass:

¶1 cup of old-fashioned oats

¶1{1/2} cups flour

¶{1/2} cup white sugar

¶{1/2} cup brown sugar

¶A large pinch of salt

¶{1/2} tsp. cinnamon

¶Few grates of nutmeg

¶2 sticks butter or vegan butter

Clump the mixture on top of the apples, trying to cover most of them; a few holes and cracks will remain.

Depending on the pan you use, you could have some left over.

Bake for about 1 hour. Check at 50 minutes, and turn the dish in the oven halfway through.

Remove and let cool as long as you can stand to do so, so the juices will firm up. Serve straight up, or with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream on the side.

[Editor’s note: With no apologies, and with due respect and appreciation for polenta and tomatoes, we present dessert in the newspaper before the meal. Because, as Dot Grover-Read writes, we all need it.]

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Originally published in The Commons issue #633 (Wednesday, October 6, 2021). This story appeared on page B1.

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