From America's Test Kitchen Season 11: All-American Fruit Desserts
Most apple crisp recipes are what you’d expect—unevenly cooked fruit and an unremarkable topping that rarely lives up to its crisp moniker. We wanted an exemplary apple crisp—a lush (but not mushy) sweet-tart apple filling covered with truly crisp morsels of buttery, sugary topping.
For apple crisp, we prefer crisp apples such as Golden Delicious, because they are hardier and turn tender, but not mushy. But they posed two problems. One, their mellower, more honeyed flesh lacked fruity punch. And while complete apple blowouts had been averted, the apples were still cooking unevenly. Stirring the fruit helped solve the problem but donning oven mitts to reach into a hot oven and stir bubbling fruit was a hassle. Instead, we turned to softening our fruit on the stovetop—in a skillet. The shallow, flared shape of the skillet also encouraged evaporation, browning, and better flavor overall. But to improve the flavor further, we turned to apple cider, first reducing it in the skillet to a syrupy consistency. This super-potent reduction contributed an intense, almost tarte Tatin–like fruity depth.
As for the topping, we added brown sugar to white to play up the apples’ caramel notes. Rolled oats gave the topping character and chew. Chopped pecans not only improved the crunch factor, but added rich flavor as well. We then slid the skillet into the oven for a quick browning and to finish cooking the apples.
Serves 6 to 8
If your skillet is not ovensafe, prepare the recipe through step 3 and then transfer the filling to a 13 by 9-inch baking dish. Top the filling as directed and bake for an additional 5 minutes. We like Golden Delicious apples for this recipe, but any sweet, crisp apple such as Honeycrisp or Braeburn can be substituted. Do not use Granny Smith apples in this recipe. While rolled oats are preferable in the topping, quick-cooking oats can be substituted. Serve the apple crisp warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.