Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Apple crumble: easy, adaptable, delicious

My favorite parts of Dutch apple pie are the spiced filling and the sweet streusel topping. Why, then, bother with the bottom crust? This recipe ditches the pastry, saving prep time and calories.

Like most fruit desserts, you can vary this crumble according to the season and what you have in your kitchen -- or in your garden, if you're lucky enough to have a fruit tree or berry bushes.

You can use a combination of fruits, too. For example, add a handful of fresh cranberries to the apples, or replace a few of the apples with pears.

For a nutty topping, add chopped pecans or walnuts to the flour mixture. To make an oat topping, use half a cup of flour along with half a cup of rolled oats.

So many types of apples are in supermarkets that I sometimes have trouble remembering which are good baking apples, which are good eating apples and which are good for both. Fortunately, the New York Apple Association offers a free iPhone and iPad app called Them Apples. There's a web-based chart, too, at

Yield: 8 servings

8 to 10 apples, peeled, cored and cut into chunks
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup white whole-wheat or all-purpose flour
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 dash salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
Vanilla ice cream or heavy cream, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 11-cup baking dish or coat with nonstick spray. Place apples and lemon juice in baking dish; toss to combine. Stir together granulated sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Sprinkle evenly over apples, then stir to combine.

Stir together flour, brown sugar and salt in a medium bowl. Cut butter into chunks and add to the bowl. Using a large fork, a pastry blender or your fingers, cut butter into flour mixture until medium crumbs form. Sprinkle evenly over the apples.

Bake on the middle oven rack until the mixture is bubbly and the apples are tender, about 40 minutes. If the top begins to brown before the apples are tender, cover loosely with a sheet of aluminum foil.

Let cool slightly, then spoon into bowls and serve plain or with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream or a drizzle of heavy cream.

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