Sunday, October 18, 2009

Apples and Cranberries

It’s mid-October and I’m still excited about apples. Just holding a fresh, locally-grown McIntosh or Cortland up to my nose and inhaling deeply can send me into a little Caddy Shack gopher dance. Then another regional specialty showed up in the stores: fresh cranberries, also grown not far away. I’ll get to fresh cranberry sauces another day. Around here, right about now, we love these beautiful little red gems in apple crisp. They give both fruity compliment and puckery tart contrast to the sweet, cinnamony baked apples.

Since cranberries are super-tart (downright sour, even), I gave the apple-cranberry filling in this crisp quite a bit of sugar. I also put in a relatively hefty dose of cornstarch (1 ½ tablespoon), because I’d been experiencing fruit crisps (like this one) that were a little weepy and runny for my taste. This time the filling was plenty thick. Some of the thickened juices even bubbled up to mingle with the sugary topping to create a few gooey, chewy caramel-like bites. Yummmmmm!

I really like the sort of rustic heartiness of the whole wheat flour in the crisp topping, but all-purpose flour would work as well. I highly recommend using walnut oil here, too. I just adds a little more nutty flavor, and, of course, compliments the walnuts in the topping as well. You could use canola oil or melted butter instead.

I’d like to say that I’ve been delaying my apple crisp gratification because I was waiting for the fresh local cranberries, but the truth is that I was waiting until there was space in the freezer for the vanilla ice cream. I’ve come to expect that cold, creamy contrast with the slightly tart baked fruit and crunchy sweet and nutty topping. Finally, there was a spot for the freezing canister for my ice cream maker and a little extra time available to make a custard base. I could have my Apple and Cranberry Crisp.

Ladies and gentlemen, don’t do this. Don’t force your baked-apple pleasure to wait on fickle ice cream. You may, like me, rush the process just enough to make it flop. My vanilla ice cream tasted great, but didn’t freeze properly. It was fine as a crisp topping, but was definitely not ready for its close-up. (That’s why it appears in none of the photos in this post. Let this be a lesson to us all.) Let the apple crisp be the star of its own show. It really does deserve to be, especially with those cranberry sidekicks.

Apple and Cranberry Crisp
I used Cortland apples, which become quite soft when baked. I also used fresh cranberries, but frozen cranberries will work just as well. No need to thaw.

For the filling:
5 cups peeled and chopped apple
1 cup fresh or frozen whole cranberries
1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg

For the topping:
½ cup old fashioned rolled oats
½ cup whole wheat flour
½ cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup chopped walnuts
¼ cup walnut oil

1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Combine all of the filling ingredients in a large bowl. Stir together until the fruit is well-coated. Pour or spoon the filling into an 8”x 8” baking dish.

2. Combine the oats, flour, brown sugar, ½ teaspoon cinnamon and walnuts in a small bowl. Add the walnut oil and toss with a fork or work with your fingers until the entire mixture is moistened with the oil.

3. Top the filling in the baking dish with the topping.

4. Bake at 375 F 50 minutes or until the filling is thick and bubbly and the topping is browned. Check the crisp part way through baking and cover with aluminum foil if the top seems to be browning too much. You want a browned topping, but not a burned one.

Makes 6 servings. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream (or nothing, if you must.)


  1. This sounds good. I use ground cherries with the apples in my crisp, as we have a lot of them, and I think you could substitute for the cranberries, but use less sugar.
    Kay in Winona

  2. Wonderful recipe! I've had this before, and LOVE it! But then, I've always had a thing for Cranberries.