This might make me seem un-American, but I like apple crisp better than apple pie.
You know why I love apple crisp more? Because of the crisp.
If you’re like me and you can’t get enough of apple crisp’s topping, then you gotta try this: Bake extra crispy apple crisp.
Apple crisp is a relatively modern dessert. It evolved in the United States out of other baked apple dishes, such as apple pudding, apple cobbler and apple pie.
For reference, while America’s first-known cookbook, “American Cookery,” printed in 1796, included multiple recipes for apple pie, it was another 128 years before apple crisp showed up in “Everybody’s Cook Book: A Comprehensive Manual of Home Cookery.”
Maybe it’s not “as American as apple pie,” but apple crisp has become an American tradition, especially in the autumn, when apples are abundant.
Much like its cousin, the dessert features baked apple slices, but it trades a pastry crust for a streusel one. Streusel is a crumbly topping of flour, sugar and butter that is baked on top of muffins, breads, pies and cakes. Think coffee cake or apple streusel muffins.
My topping is “extra crispy” because it doubles the topping called for in the average apple crisp recipe. I make it with butter, flour, oats, brown sugar and cinnamon.
The recipe also has way more cinnamon overall. Trust me. But if you really, really love cinnamon, you might want to add even more. Just be careful: Not enough cinnamon is better than too much.
When I served apple crisp at The Herald in celebration of the The Great American Eclipse on Aug. 21 — it sort of rhymes, right? — I was worried I had added too much cinnamon. However, my co-worker Mark Carlson, The Herald’s copy chief, told me he wasn’t missing cinnamon until I started asking around.
“Nice apple crisp. Not too sweet,” Carlson said. “A touch more cinnamon would have made it even better.”
Here’s a tip: After you peel and core the Granny Smith apples, cut them up so that each slice is 1/24 of the apple. It’s thin enough so that the sliced apples become tender after 45 minutes in the oven, yet not so thin that it feels like you’re eating baked apple sauce.
I like to serve extra crispy apple crisp with a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It’s good either hot or cold.
Have it for dessert or for breakfast. Yes, breakfast.
Apple crisp for breakfast is very American: The colonists were so fond of baked apple dishes that they often served them for breakfast, the main course at dinner and even as an appetizer. It wasn’t until the late 19th century that puddings, cobblers and crisps became desserts.
Extra crispy apple crisp
For the apples:
4-6 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced
½ cup white sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ cup water
½ teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
For the topping:
⅔ cup melted butter
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ cups quick-cooking oats
1½ cups unpacked brown sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
For the apples: Mix ½ cup sugar, 1 tablespoon flour, 2 teaspoons cinnamon together in a large bowl. Toss the sliced apples with the mixture. Place the apple slices into a baking dish. Heat water and vanilla (optional) in microwave until it boils, about 2 minutes. Pour hot water evenly over the apples.
For the topping: Combine 1½ cup flour, oats, brown sugar, ½ teaspoon cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder and salt in the same mixing bowl. Add ⅔ cup melted butter. Stir the mixture until the topping looks like breadcrumbs. Pour the crumble evenly over the apples.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes. Check that the apples are tender using a fork. Serve hot or cold with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Makes 12 servings.
Nutrition per serving: 334 calories, 11 grams total fat (7 saturated fat), 28 milligrams cholesterol, 65 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams protein, 166 milligrams sodium, 36 grams sugar, 4 grams fiber.
You Gotta Try This is a column by Features editor Sara Bruestle that runs periodically in The Herald. Contact her at 425-339-3046; sbruestle @heraldnet.com; Twitter: @sarabruestle.
How apple pie became American
A search of The New York Times archive yields more than 1,500 results for the phrase “American as apple pie,” dating back as far as 1860. The saying rose in popularity after World War II and was a common sentiment meaning “typically American” by 1960.
So how did apple pie become a symbol of our patriotism? It is most likely linked to an editorial that ran in The New York Times in 1902:
“Pie is the American synonym of prosperity, and its varying contents the calendar of changing seasons. Pie is the food of the heroic. No pie-eating people can be permanently vanquished.”
While the editorial dated May 3, 1902, was about pies in general — and also names mince, custard, lemon, rhubarb, berry, peach and pumpkin pies — apple pie was mentioned first and noted as the only one made “all the year ‘round.”
With that, the seeds of apple pie patriotism were planted.
Core facts about Washington state apples
Washington grows more apples than any other U.S. state. Washington’s annual harvest yields 10 billion to 12 billion apples.
It’s apple season. Harvest of Washington apples starts each year in August and continues until November.
Each Washington apple is picked by hand. There are no harvest machines to pick apples.
The top eight varieties of apples grown in Washington are: red delicious, gala, Fuji, Granny Smith, golden delicious, pink lady, honeycrisp and Braeburn.
If you put all of the Washington state apples picked in a year side by side, they would circle the Earth 29 times.
The average U.S. consumer eats about 19 pounds of fresh apples a year — about one apple per week.
The only apple native to North America is the crabapple.
Source: Washington Apple Commission