How They Made It: Apple Crisp with the Randalls from Outlander
Welcome back to our occasional series, “How They Made It,” where we explore the food and drink of Outlander. This month we’re serving an apple crisp to celebrate Fall with the Randalls. Slainté!
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Thinking about Thanksgiving with the Randalls
Last year at this time I talked about how Brianna, growing up in Boston, would probably have coerced Claire & Frank into celebrating Thanksgiving. Like Spice Cake and Praline Pumpkin Pie, desserts featuring apples are especially popular in the fall, when apples are at their peak. I can imagine Bree insisting upon some form of apple dessert at their Thanksgiving dinner, even during those post-war years, and Frank would be happy to indulge her (I have an active imagination, so work with me here). But what form would that apple dessert take? How about an apple crisp rather than the traditional apple pie?
Apple crisp or apple crumble?
In the US, an apple crisp is basically the filling from an apple pie with a crumbly buttery topping. That streusel topping is made from oats, flour, brown sugar and butter that have been rolled together to resemble coarse crumbs (think pie crust before you add the water). Over the Pond, a similar British pudding is known as an apple crumble, where topping made of butter, flour and brown sugar is rolled together so that it resembles breadcrumbs. Both are served warm with custard sauce or ice cream.
Apple crisp doesn’t have a long and storied history like, say, egg custard. According to my favorite internet source, Wikipedia, “the first printed mention occurred in 1924 with a recipe in Everybody’s Cook Book: A Comprehensive Manual of Home Cookery by Isabel Ely Lord. There was also a recipe for Apple Crisp in a newspaper article in the Appleton Post Crescent on Dec. 9, 1924. During WWII, when rood rationing limited access to pastry ingredients, apple crisps gained in popularity.” An instant classic, to be sure!
Easy as pie? Easier!
Apple crisps are easier to make than apple pies — there are no pesky pie crusts to trip you up. You just make the filling, mix together the streusel topping and bake. Simple as that! I found King Arthur Flour’s Classic Apple Crisp recipe, and used a combination of sweet and tart apples (l like Honeycrisp and Granny Smiths together, but you can use any apples you’d like). I also included walnuts in the streusel topping because I like the combination of the soft, buttery oats and the crunchy nuts. Adding nuts is optional, but such a good addition!
Buy enough apples to yield two pounds of peeled, cored and sliced apples (about nine cups when you’re done). An apple peeler/corer/slicer would make quick work of getting the apples ready. Unfortunately, mine was in storage, so I went with a knife and melon baller. Hey, whatever gets the job done, right?
Maximize the apple goodness
Here’s another hint: to really boost the overall flavor, I highly recommend using boiled apple cider in the filling; it has an extra zap of apple flavor. You can buy boiled apple cider from King Arthur Flour, but it’s really easy to make it yourself (all you need is apple cider and some time). Also, you can get creative with the liquid in the filling, just be sure to choose something that will complement the apples and cinnamon. Try rum, bourbon, hard or straight apple cider, or just apple juice (you can even use water in a pinch). I used a fruity white table wine that had notes of green apple for this batch, and will probably go with bourbon next (yep, I like to bake with booze).
The recipe called for quick-cooking rolled oats. If you only have old-fashioned rolled oats on hand (as I did), run them through a couple of pulses in a small food processor to break them up a bit (to mimic quick cooking oats). It may not be absolutely necessary, but it doesn’t hurt.
Apple crisp or apple crumble… either way it’s a hit!
This apple crisp had a intense apple flavor, sweet and spicy that contrasted nicely with the crunchy, buttery topping. I added a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and, just for funsies (and because it was sitting in my refrigerator calling out to me), a drizzle of salted caramel sauce. Yummm!
We know how much Frank wanted to indulge Brianna, and apple crisp was easy enough for Claire to throw together (okay, maybe they would have called it an apple crumble, but I won’t quibble). I think their Thanksgiving wouldn’t have been complete without one. Super easy and incredibly tasty, this comforting dessert deserves a place at your Fall festivities, whatever they may be. I know it will be at our Thanksgiving table!
What is your favorite Fall dessert? Something with apples? Pumpkin? Pecans? Or something else entirely?
Classic Apple Crisp
- 9- × 9-inch baking pan
- baking spray
- apple corer or melon baller
- small food processor
- pastry cutter
- half sheet baking pan
- 3 lbs whole apples , about 4-5 medium or large apples
- 1/4 cup rum, apple cider or juice (2 oz, 56g), see Recipe Notes
- 1/4 to 3/4 cup brown sugar (1-3/4 to 5-1/4 oz, 50g to 150g), light or dark, see Recipe Notes
- 2 Tbsp butter (1 oz, 28g), unsalted, melted
- 2 Tbsp boiled apple cider (1-1/2 oz, 45g), optional (see Recipe Notes)
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp ground ginger
- 3 Tbsp all-purpose flour (3/4 oz, 21g)
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour (3 oz, 85g)
- 1/2 cup quick-cooking or old-fashioned rolled oats (1-3/4 oz, 50g)
- 1/4 tsp salt, heaping
- 2/3 cup brown sugar (5 oz, 142g), light or dark
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 3/4 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 cup butter (4 oz, 113g) , unsalted, cold, cut in pats
- 1/2 cup pecans or walnuts (2 oz, 56g), chopped (optional)
- vanilla ice cream, optional
- For the filling: peel and slice the apples to about 1/4-inch thick. Toss them with the remaining filling ingredients, and spread them in the prepared pan.
- For the streusel: in a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, salt, sugar, cinnamon, and baking powder.
- If you're using old-fashioned rolled oats, run them through a couple of pulses in a small food processor to break them up a bit (to mimic quick cooking oats).
- Using a pastry cutter, add the cold butter, working it in to make an unevenly crumbly mixture. Stir in the nuts, if you're using them.
- Spread the streusel over the apples in the pan.
- Set the pan on a parchment- or foil-lined cookie sheet, to catch any potential drips. Bake the crisp for about 55-75 minutes, or until it's bubbling and the streusel is golden brown.
- Remove the crisp from the oven, and allow it to cool for at least 20 minutes before serving. If you serve the crisp hot/warm, it may be quite soft. If you wait till it's completely cool, it'll firm up nicely.
- If you're making the crisp ahead of time, allow it to cool completely. When you're ready to serve, reheat the pan in a 300°F oven for about 10 minutes. Alternatively, you can reheat individual portions briefly in the microwave.
- To make individual crisps, grease eight 8-ounce capacity baking dishes, and proceed with the recipe accordingly, baking the smaller crisps for 45 to 55 minutes.
- Apple Crisp is best served warmed. Even better, serve it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!
Discovering Outlander after Season 1 first aired, Tammy quickly went down the rabbit-hole on social media and podcasts and found a world of like-minded fans who not only tolerated her obsession, but encouraged the madness! She combined her Outlander-inspired interest for scotch whisky with her continuing passion for baking and storytelling in her blog, Scotch & Scones…Explorations in a glass and in the oven. Joining the staff of Outlander Cast as the resident baker has brought Tammy full circle, from a podcast fan to a contributing writer. You can follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest at @scotch_scones, and find her on Facebook at @scotchandsconesblog.