Apple crisp recipe with vanilla brown butter

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A delicious apple crisp, or apple crumble as it is called in the UK, consists of sweetened tart apply chunks covered in an irresistible crispy crumbly topping made with flour, sugar, and butter as the basic ingredients.  Variations to the apple crisp include adding different fruits such as peaches or rhubarb, either to substitute the apples or to provide a taste contrast to the apples.  This is not to be confused with an apple cobbler, in which the baked apple chunks are topped with a crust made of batter dough in a clumped manner giving it a cobbled appearance.

I always make apple crisps when I need to make a dessert quickly and I didn’t have time to prepare ahead of time.  It’s my “go-to” dessert when I have unexpected guests or too much food to prepare that I don’t have time to concentrate on making complicated dessert.  The best thing about an apple crisp is that the ingredients are always available in the kitchen, and the finished dessert always has a classic goodness that your guests would never believe that you put it together at the very last minute or as an afterthought.  You can dress it up to end a fancy meal or keep it classic to sweeten a casual evening.

I threw this apple crisp recipe together to lighten the mood after a dinner meeting at my house.  Gala apples were not too tart after adding the vanilla brown butter.  I piled on the crumbly topping since that’s always the best part.  The fresh vanilla gave it such delicious aroma that my guests couldn’t wait for it to cool before eating it.  I will make this again in the summer when rhubarb comes in season.

Apple crisp with vanilla butter

Grocery list

1 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cups baking almond slivers
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp unsalted butter

For apple filling:

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1/4 cup unsalted butter
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
3 lbs tart apples such as Gala, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 tbsp apple juice


Pulse together the flour, almonds, sugars, and salt in a food processor until they are finely chopped.  Add the butter and pulse until mixture forms into large clumps.

pulse almond and sugar and flour  Finely chopped almonds with flour and sugar

Coarsely crumble onto a rimmed baking sheet and freeze for 15 minutes.

Butter crumble topping

Make the apple filling:  Preheat oven to 400oF with the oven rack in the middle.  Scrape seeds from the vanilla bean into a small heavy saucepan.  Add the pod and the butter and cook over medium-low heat, swirling pan occasionally, until the butter is browned (about 4 minutes).

vanilla butter

Meanwhile, stir together the sugars and the flour in a large bowl.  Add the apples and the apple juice and toss to combine.

chopped apple with vanilla butter

Discard the vanilla pod, then toss the butter mixture with the apple mixture.  Spoon the filling into ramekins or gratin dishes and sprinkle with topping.

assemble apple mixture into ramekins  Apple crumble on top

Put ramekins onto a rimmed baking sheet.  Bake for 30 minutes, then rotate the baking sheet.  Bake for another 10-15 minutes until topping is golden brown and the filling is bubbling.  Cool to warm or room temperature.

Apple crisp with vanilla butter

Make ahead:  Apple crisps can be assembled into the ramekins (but not baked) one day ahead and chilled, covered lightly.  The next day, warm them to room temperature and bake as instructed.


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