Autumn has officially arrived and what better way to embrace this colorful equinox than snuggling up with a warm piece of apple crisp. I’m not a big fan of the cold, but this is my favorite time of year to eat and cook. I’m sure the eating comes from an ancient physiological response to pack on extra calories in order to survive the harsh winter. Guilty. Though, I’m not as concerned with surviving as much as I am with living.
Apple Crisp with Vanilla Ice Cream and Salty Caramel Sauce
This season is all about comfort. From that Thanksgiving turkey with all the fixings, to a melt-in-your-mouth lamb shank, braised in a rich red wine sauce, I look forward to sharing all my favorite dishes so you too can survive this winter.
Kicking off this season, I wanted to share something sweet and substantial, yet fresh and flavorful –Apple Crisp.
This was a dessert my mother would throw together when she was short on time and ingredients. Funny thing though, this dessert resonated with me as a child more than other decadent, time-consuming desserts. Now, I make this dessert every fall when the fresh local apples are in season, and it’s become my wife’s seasonal favorite.
It’s simple and honest. Of course this wouldn’t be a gourmet comfort food blog if we didn’t “enhance” it just a little.
Typically Apple Crisp is made with a no-frills approach, served with store-bought vanilla ice-cream or whipped cream. Today, we’ll look at an apple crisp that utilizes nearly the entire apple, served with a salty caramel sauce and a home-made vanilla ice cream.
The three elements that make up this dish are simple and relatively easy. By simple, I mean basic techniques and few ingredients. By easy, well that’s up to you. In the crisp itself, we’re going to be using the apple peel as well as the apple. We want as much flavor from the apple as possible, so we’re going to peel the apple and then stew down the peelings to make a vibrant reduction. This is also the part I tell you to buy local apples, or go pick them yourself. If you’re in Norway like I am, you don’t want to be using apples from Chile. However, if you’re in Chile and you buy apples from a orchard within fifty kilometers, perfect.
When it comes to the ice cream, don’t be afraid of the xanthan gum if you’ve never used it. Xanthan gum is an additive regarded as safe, though its cultivation sounds rather suspicious: secretion from bacteria during fermentation of sugars such as glucose, sucrose, and lactose. Or we can just call it bacteria poop. Either way, it’s considered harmless to anyone without allergies and is found everywhere. In Europe the E number for xanthan gum is E415. It’s also relatively easy to find, since one of it’s primary uses amongst home cooks is in place of gluten. People with gluten allergies can use xanthan gum to get the same “mouth feel” from breads and baked goods. Check out health food shops for it.
In the third element, the salty caramel sauce, I’d like to point out the salt itself. Not everyone will have Hawaiian red salt, that’s okay. You should be able to find Himalayan pink salt though, but if you can’t then use the absolute highest quality, purest salt you can.
Now let’s get started.
- 1 kg or more fresh local tart apples
- 1-1/2 cup light brown sugar
- 200g unsalted butter, chilled
- 4 cups oats (not the quick cook ones)
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 2 tbsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tbsp corn starch
- 1/2 cup white sugar
Start with peeling the apples, but hold on to those peelings, you’re going to need them.
Core the apple, then slice into wedges. Not too thick, but not too thin. About 1cm wide.
After the apples are peeled, cored and sliced, put all the peelings into a saucepan. Rinse the peelings very well with cold water, and drain. Add about 1/2 a cup of water and 1/2 cup white sugar to the peelings and turn on medium-high heat. Cover and bring to a boil.
When the peelings start to boil, turn heat down to low, and simmer with the cover on for 20 minutes.
Now, using either a hand blender or a stand blender, blend the peeling into a fine paste. Careful you don’t splash yourself. Then return them mixture to the stove and continue simmering without a lid until the it has reduced by half. Remove from stove and let cool.
To make the crisp portion, first pour the oats, 1 cup brown sugar, flour, and 1 tablespoon of cinnamon into a large bowl. Next, add the butter in 3cm cubes. Use your hands to incorporate the butter into the dry ingredients. The crisp should hold together and there should be no lumps of butter.
Place all your sliced apples into a greased baking pan, roughly the size of a lasagna pan. Dust the apples with the corn starch and the remaining 1 tablespoon of cinnamon. Next, sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of brown sugar onto the apples, and toss to coat thoroughly. Add the apple peel concentrate to the apples. Again, be sure to coat well.
Take your crumble mixture and pour onto the apples, spreading it evenly. Press firmly to hold the crumble in place.
Bake at 190 degrees Celsius for 30-35 minutes.
Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream
- 1 Liter whole milk
- 1 cup caster sugar
- 200g cream cheese
- 1 vanilla bean
- 1 tsp xanthan gum
- 1 tbsp oil
In a medium saucepan, add cream cheese and sugar. Whip, using a hand mixer.
Add milk slowly, carefully incorporating the cream cheese. When fully mixed, turn on medium-low heat.
Slice the vanilla bean lengthwise, straight down the middle. Using the tip of the knife, scrape out all the seeds and add to the milk mixture. Then add the empty pod as well to ensure you get all that vanilla-ly goodness.
Bring the temperature up to a steaming simmer, but do not let it boil. Remove from heat and allow to steep for 10-15 minutes. After that, strain the mixture into a bowl and discard the pod.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, though big enough to fit the beaters of a hand mixer, add 1 tsp of xanthan gum and dissolve with 1 tablespoon of oil. Be extra careful not to get any liquid into the xanthan gum until it is fully dissolved in the oil.
Now, using the hand mixer, pour 1 ladle of the warm milk mixture into the bowl and whip. The xanthan gum will go into action very quickly. In seconds you’ll have a white gummy paste that looks like glue. Don’t worry, it’s suppose to.
Pour another ladle into the gum mixture and beat again. Repeat one more time.
Add about 1/2 to 3/4 of the xanthan gum mixture to the milk. Beat on high speed for 2 minutes. The gum will dissolve into the milk mixture causing it to thicken to a jelly consistency. Discard the remaining gum mixture.
Before adding the milk mixture into the ice cream machine, give it a quick whip, using a whisk. Then pour into the ice cream machine and operate based on the manufacturer’s instructions.
Salty Caramel Sauce
- 1 cup caster sugar
- 1/4 water
- 50g butter
- 1/2 whipping cream
- 2 tsp Hawaiian red salt, or Himalayan pink salt
In a saucepan, add sugar and water. Turn on stove to medium-high heat and cover for 3 minutes. Do not stir, do not remove cover.
After 3 minutes, remove the cover and let the sugar boil. Keep a close eye on it as it begins to darken. First it will go from clear to a pale yellow, then darken to an amber color. When it reaches a dark amber color and at the first sign of smoke, quickly remove from heat and whisk in the butter, cream, and salt. Continue whisking for a minute.
If it seems too thick, add a little more cream. Also, using a cold metal spoon, test it by dipping it into the caramel. If it hardens to a toffee-like consistency, add more cream and butter. Ultimately, the sauce should hold up in the refrigerator without going hard. Definitely thicker, but not hard. Also, taste for saltiness. 2 tsp should be enough, but if you like it really salty then add more before it cools down.
And that is a classic autumn comfort dish. Go ahead, give it a whirl!
Special Note* If you’d like to omit the xanthan gum from the ice cream for whatever reason, I recommend using at least a 10% cream instead of milk and doubling the cream cheese. The cream cheese will contain thickening additives, most commonly gum acacia (E414) so you can still get that full creamy feel without it melting too quickly, which is always a drawback of home-made ice cream.