Oh my gosh, I hate eating apples. My mom (who should be apples' official brand mascot, she loves 'em so much) used to always put them in my lunch bag and I'd try to trade them for anything, anything else. A Ho-Ho if I was feeling like a hustler, some carrot sticks if people were catching onto my sweet talk. I hate the way it sounds inside your head when you're chewing apples. I hate that there are so many varieties that you're not always sure if, when you bite in, it's going to be crisp or mushy, tart or sweet. I hate when the skin gets caught in my teeth. I hate the way they start turning brown if you eat them too slowly.
But, of course, there is a notable exception to the rule. When apples are in season, peeled, chopped and cooked in heaps of butter and sugar, they instantly shoot up on my "good foods" list. Like, into the top 10, easy.
A great apple crisp/pie/cobbler/crumble is so quintessentially autumnal and quintessentially New York too, if you ask me. There are tons of orchards in the state, which makes it simple to find local fresh apples at the grocery store... or you can go apple picking like so many of us do! I'm sure my mom would love to discuss all of this, if apples in their natural form excite you, but for me, the apples overwhelming the tables at the farmer's markets have me tunnel-vision set on baking. The kind of baking that smells like slippers feel.
So, in an effort to make it feel a little more like fall, damnit, (it's been muggy and in the 70's for forever), I wrapped myself in a blanket this weekend, sat on my couch, put on The IT Crowd and peeled four-and-a-half pounds of apples. I then cooked them on the stove top for a few minutes in butter, cinnamon and brown sugar and baked it in a cast iron skillet with a crumble on top made of .... butter, cinnamon and brown sugar (and flour!). It's one of those recipes that you cannot screw up and yet, when you share with your friends, family or neighbors, they act like you have shown them the way out of the Cave. Brownies made from Ghiradelli's mix have the same effect.
Honestly, though, can streusel topping be my last meal? And not the healthed-up kind with nuts or oats in it. I'm talking about just butter, sugar and flour. Streusel makes all things better. Hate apples? Cover 'em with some streusel. Have an ingrown toenail? Eat some streusel. Can't find parking? How bout some streusel? Breaking Bad is over. Put some streusel on it.
Anyway, the moral of the story is that this is a simple, amazing dessert is worth making no matter how afraid of baking you might be. Also, you should probably trust your gut when I start convincing you of why you should trade your Ho-Ho for my Granny Smith.
The recipe for the streusel topping is borrowed from DavidLebovitz.com.
For the apple filling:
4-5 lbs apples (I used Gala)
1/4 c. light brown sugar
1 Tbsp water
1 cinnamon stick
4 Tbsp butter (if unsalted, also throw in a pinch of salt!)
Squeeze of lemon
For the streusel topping:
14 Tbsp butter, melted
2 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
2 1/2 c. all purpose flour
6 Tbsp light brown sugar
1 Tbsp granulated sugar, for sprinkling on top
1. Peel and core apples and cut into 1 inch cubes. Squeeze half a lemon over the apples.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
3. In a dutch oven or large saucepan, melt butter and stir in brown sugar over medium heat. Add in apples and a tablespoon of water. Let cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
4. Meanwhile, begin the topping. In a small sauce pan melt butter. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, sugar and cinnamon, if using. Pour melted butter over the flour mixture and stir gently with a spoon until a crumble forms. Don't over-mix.
5. Scoop your apples into a baking dish (I like to scoop rather than pour to avoid any hot splashing) and top with streusel topping. Sprinkle with granulated sugar. Place in oven and bake 25-30 minutes. Serve warm and with vanilla ice cream on top.