Almond Bourbon Ginger Apple Crisp
by Cecilia Tan
Here’s another “what to do with seasonal harvest ingredients” recipe. This one is the result of me trying to find a recipe for a cooked apple dessert that I would actually like. I don’t like cooked apple desserts very much, and I only like some varieties of raw apples a little–and corwin likes neither but he’ll deign to eat a dessert if I make one. We get apples in our farm share, though, so it’s important to experiment in order to use everything up and prevent waste.
There are two main objections people seem to have to cooked apples: texture and flavor.
The flavor I dislike is the one that reminds me too much of the apple juice in a plastic cup with a foil top that we were forced to drink as kids in grade school. I’m also really not fond of grocery store apple sauce. Blecch. That sort of apple-y flavor is also one of the things I hate about some chardonnays and champagnes. Gack.
The textures I dislike are either rubbery or mealy. When the apples are at all rubbery it makes everything around them seem slimier. Ick.
The first attack on the flavor problem was simple: use the farm share apples (macoun or honey crisp?) and not grocery store apples.
The second was add a lot of complementary flavor profiles that I like: fresh grated nutmeg, fresh ginger, bourbon, ginger liqueur, vanilla, and toasted almond did the trick.
Freshly grated nutmeg is almost nothing like the pre-grated/powdered stuff, which even the expensive kinds may as well be grated particle board. Take the whole nutmeg pod and go at it with a microplane grater. It smells fantastic and doesn’t take a lot to make an impact. (Also great on eggnog, by the way.)
Once you have freshly grated nutmeg, you may discover, as I did, that cinnamon is actually the wrong flavor to go into something like this. Getting rid of cinnamon was one of the best decisions I made.
The texture question came up in previous experimental versions: the solution turned out to be make the apple pieces very thin, and add some corn starch, and pre-cook the apples a little.
In a previous version of this I didn’t put nearly enough booze. This may seem like a lot, but it’s going to cook off and leave something amazing behind:
So here you go:
4 small/medium apples or two huge ones
3/4 cup good-tasting bourbon (I used Jim Beam)
1 shot of ginger liqueur (Canton, King’s Ginger, whatever you have)
1/2 to 1 tablespoon grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon corn starch dissolved in 1/2 to 3/4 cup water
fresh grated nutmeg
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup sliced almonds
3/4 cup almond meal (I used Bob’s Red Mill brand)
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 stick butter (1/8th of a pound)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Peel and core the apples, then chop or slice them into thin pieces, no need to be neat, just try to avoid thick chunks. Toss them with all the other filling ingredients. Sprinkle a little sugar in if they’re very tart apples. Then pour all that in a 9-inch glass pie pan and put it in the hot oven for about 20 minutes. It should be hot and bubbling after 20 minutes with most of the booze cooked off and the apples getting soft. Your kitchen should also smell amazing at that point.
While that’s in the oven, make a streusel-type/coffee-cake-type topping with the oats, almonds, almond meal, brown sugar, and butter. If the butter is soft, I just mush it all up with my hands until everything is in little clumpy balls. (If the butter is frozen because, like me, you forgot to take it out of the freezer, I would nuke it for one minute on 50% power and then use my hands anyway.) I don’t think it works as well to melt the butter: you need it a little solid to clump everything together. I think I may have decided partway through the process to sprinkle in more oats and more brown sugar to get the texture right.
Once the apples have done their 20 minutes in the oven, pull it out and sprinkle the topping evenly across the surface. There should be some gaps between the clumps. Put it back in for another 20 minutes or until the almonds look nicely toasty.
The resulting thing has a crispy, nutty topping that gives you something to bite on, while the apple part has basically turned to a melded apple mush that is nonetheless still far superior to apple sauce.
I imagine it could also be made in individual ramekins very easily.
Serve hot, as is or with vanilla ice cream. Also good with just a little heavy cream poured over.
I think it’d also be great with pears or with peaches, but since the point of the exercise was to use up apples, yeah. I could also see experimenting with rum in place of the bourbon (I wonder if a reposado tequila would be good?) and other liqueurs instead of the ginger. (Gran Marnier?)
Sorry I don’t have a photo of the finished thing–we were too busy eating it! Also apologies on the inaccuracy of some of the ingredients: when I say 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup I may have started with 3/4 of a cup but didn’t add all of it, or started with 1/2 a cup and then thrown in a bit more, just depending on my instincts. I’ve faked my way through this recipe a few times now and it’s pretty forgiving as long as you’re in the ballpark.