Baking an apple pie takes some planning and time, about an hour for the baking alone. Express Bakers need the great apple flavor of a pie, but in less than half the time. This crumble doesn’t disappoint. For enhanced color and taste, I’ve added a few cranberries (another classic American ingredient) to the mix.
Heating the crumble topping in a skillet by itself releases the natural earthy flavors of the granola. A drizzle of maple syrup and a dash of cinnamon are all that are needed before the topping is ready to sprinkle over the cooked apples and cranberries.
While fresh cranberries are available during the winter months, they’re scarce in spring and summer. So plan ahead and buy a few extra bags to tuck away in the freezer. They freeze beautifully, so the crumble can be enjoyed out of season.
Yield: Makes 8 servings
For the filling:
3 tablespoons (1 ½ ounces/43 grams) unsalted butter, cut into 3 pieces
2 pounds (32 ounces/907 grams) apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced (I like Golden Delicious, but any firm, medium-tart apple will do.)
¾ cup (2 ½ ounces/71 grams) fresh or frozen cranberries
½ cup (4 ounces/113 grams) firmly packed light brown sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of table salt
For the topping:
3 tablespoons (1 ½ ounces/85 grams) unsalted butter, cut into 3 pieces
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, or more if needed
2 cups crunchy, lightly sweetened granola
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
Vanilla or cinnamon ice cream or sweetened whipped cream for garnish
1. To make the filling: Put the butter in a 10- to 11-inch (25 to 28cm) skillet with 2-inch (5cm) high sides and set over medium-high heat. When the butter is melted, add the apples, cranberries, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and salt. Toss until well blended. Continue cooking over medium-high heat, shaking the pan or gently stirring the contents with a wooden spoon, until the sugar is melted and the apples just begin to caramelize, about 5 minutes. Cover the skillet with a tight-fitting lid or a double layer of foil and reduce the heat to low. Continue to simmer, shaking the pan often, until the apples are tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, about 12 minutes longer.
2. To make the topping: Meanwhile, put the butter in a separate medium skillet and set over medium heat. When the butter is melted, stir in the 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and add the granola. Cook, stirring constantly, until the granola is hot and evenly coated with the butter and cinnamon. Taste the granola and add more cinnamon if needed. Drizzle the maple syrup over the granola and cook, stirring, until hot and well blended, about 2 minutes. Set aside and keep warm until the filling is ready.
3. When the apples are tender, uncover the pan. If the apples have released a ton of juice (more than 1 cup/8 fl ounces/233 ml), increase the heat to high and boil briefly to reduce the liquid. Slide the skillet from the head and scatter the topping over the filling. Serve the crisp straight from the skillet hot, warm, or at room temperature. Accompany with a scoop of vanilla or cinnamon ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream, if desired.