There are some foods that, for me, are memories come alive every time I make them. That’s the beautiful thing about food, isn’t it? Smell and taste can resurrect things you have long since forgotten, all in an instant.
My great Aunt Esther was the greatest cook on the face of this Earth. The woman rarely wrote any of her recipes down, preferring to make her dishes by eyeballing her ingredients, and adjusting them to her taste. She believed in doing everything by hand, and making everything from scratch. No shortcuts, no excuses, and no shame in using lots and lots (and LOTS) of butter. As you can imagine, these rules had delicious results.
One recipe Aunt Esther did write down (at my dad’s request) was for her apple crisp. Sweet (but not too sweet), crumbly (but just buttery enough), and (according to my dad) never served hot. Aunt Esther preferred to serve this beauty at room temperature.
Not only does apple crisp bring back memories of Aunt Esther, but it also takes me back to some of my earliest adventures in the kitchen. When I was growing up, my dad and I would set aside an afternoon at least once every fall to work on this together. I would peel the apples, he would slice them. I would mix the topping, he would sprinkle it on top. Our whole family reaped the benefits.
This recipe is not Aunt Esther’s (I would feel like a thief giving that family heirloom away), but it’s pretty darn close. And last night, as I peeled and sliced the apples, mixed the topping, and filled my tiny kitchen with the aroma of cinnamon and nutmeg, I felt all of those old memories rolling back in. The result was predictably delicious.
- 8-10 baking apples, peeled and sliced into medium chunks(Aunt Esther used to say anything that, ironically, wasn’t called “Delicious,” but Fujis, Galas, Empires, Macintoshes all work great).
- 1 C sugar, divided
- 2 T lemon juice
- 2 T cinnamon, divided (or more to taste)
- 1 T nutmeg, divided (or more to taste)
- 1.5 C. flour
- 1 C. oatmeal (quick oats or old fashioned both work fine)
- 1/2 C. brown sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 C margarine
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- In a large bowl, toss apple slices, 1/2 C. sugar, lemon juice, and half of the cinnamon and nutmeg until well combined. Let sit for 5-10 minutes, or until juices start to release.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, combine flour, oatmeal, brown sugar, remaining granulated sugar, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg, and margarine. Mix on low until mixture is crumbly (pea-sized). (If you don’t have a stand mixer, it’s fine to just use your fingers or a fork!)
- Pour apples into a greased 9×13 pan. Sprinkle topping evenly over apples. Bake until apples are bubbling and topping is golden, about 30-40 minutes.