Apple Crisp is a very easy classic quick dessert especially good when the new apple crop arrives in the fall. Often served with ice cream, this version features a Cinnamon Whiskey Sauce.
What makes this Apple Crisp different is not only the sauce, but I reduced the sugar so the apples would be front and center. When I had the bakery we made deep dish fruit tarts which were basically pies with a crisp topping instead of a top crust. However, what I found was pie fillings had a lot of sugar in them and they were too sweet. By reducing the amount of sugar, the fruit would stand out.
This Apple Crisp consists of only apples in the bottom of the dish, with a very crunchy crisp on top highlighted with cinnamon and nutmeg.
The Cinnamon Whiskey Sauce is the perfect accompaniment. Not too sweet, with the taste of whiskey and cinnamon, mellowed with a bit of cream and butter. It is a cooked sauce and a few rules apply.
Thickening the Sauce
The sauce has two thickeners; cornstarch and egg yolks. Each has its own special method cooking. Powdered starches such as cornstarch should be dissolved in one of two ways. It can be combined with a small amount of cold liquid, never a hot liquid, and added at the beginning of the cooking process or poured in later. This is called a slurry. If prepared ahead, the starch will most likely sink to the bottom, so it needs to be stirred again before using. The second method is to whisk the starch with the sugar before a liquid is added. Both ways are equally good – it just depends upon the recipe.
It is important to stir a sauce thickened with cornstarch constantly to keep it from lumping up. Cornstarch thickens at the simmering point, about 200°F. After it has thickened, do not keep simmering it or stirring too long as this can thin it out. It can be fixed by making another slurry and adding it to the liquid if it has thinned out. It takes 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon to thicken a liquid, depending upon how thick the sauce should be as well as how liquid it is.
Egg yolks used in the recipe provide two purposes. They thicken and also add richness to a sauce. They are added at the very end of cooking and it is important to temper them. Tempering refers to adding hot liquid to the egg yolks so they don’t scramble when added to a hot sauce. The egg yolks will thicken at the simmer also.
2 pounds apples – I use gala apples but others will work also
Zest of 1 small lemon
¾ cup packed brown sugar (150 grams or 5 ⅓ ounces)
½ cup all purpose flour (70 grams or about 2 ½ ounces)
½ cup regular oats (45 grams or about 1 ½ ounces)
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon cinnamon
¾ teaspoon nutmeg
⅓ cup unsalted butter, cold (75 grams, about 2 ⅔ ounces or 5 tablespoons)
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 9x9x 2 inch pan with a non-stick release. Set aside.
Peel and slice the apples thinly. There should be about 6 to 7 cups. Zest the lemon over the apples. Stir to distribute. Pile into the prepared pan evenly.
Combine the brown sugar, flour, oats, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in the bowl of a mixer. Mix on low to combine. Cut the cold butter into small pieces and add it to the dry ingredients. Mix on low, then medium to form crumbs and make sure all the dry ingredients are moistened.
Pour on top of the apples and spread out evenly. Place on a baking sheet so it will be easy to handle when it is hot.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until the apples are soft when tested with a cake tester and the top is crisp. Tent the top with aluminum foil if browning too quickly. Cool.
Cinnamon Whiskey Sauce
¾ cup granulated sugar (150 grams or 5 ⅓ ounces)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
⅛ teaspoon salt
1 cup + 2 tablespoon water
2 egg yolks, whisked
¼ cup whiskey*
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon cinnamon
*If using Fireball or another brand of cinnamon whiskey, use ¼ cup and reduce the cinnamon to ¼ teaspoon or to taste.
Into a medium size saucepan, whisk the sugar, cornstarch, and salt together so the cornstarch is evenly distributed. Whisk in the water until completely mixed.
Place over medium high heat and, stirring constantly, bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat.
Pour about ½ cup hot sauce into the egg yolks. Whisk to combine. Return this mixture to the saucepan and stir until it thickens. Remove from the heat.
Add the remaining ingredients, stirring gently to mix.
Cool to lukewarm. Serve with warm Apple Crisp. Refrigerate any extra sauce. Warm gently to serve again. The crisp topping will be at its crispiest when baked and served the same day.
To Make Ahead: Both the Apple Crisp and the Sauce can be made ahead. Just warm the crisp in a 350° oven until lukewarm.
Here are a few more apple goodies to enjoy: