Amy Traverso’s 5 Secrets for Perfect Apple Crisp

Wondering how to make the best apple crisp? This favorite fall dessert gets even better with these expert apple crisp tips.

By Amy Traverso

Oct 01 2021


Apple crisp with sweet biscuit topping

Photo Credit : Amy Traverso
If I had to limit myself to one dessert for the rest of my days, it would be apple crisp. I’ve made and eaten this simple dish (essentially a sweet fruit casserole, when you think about it) my whole life, and I’m confident I’ve mastered the form. Try my tips for perfect apple crisp and you’ll be enjoying the coziest, most delicious bowl of comfort all year round, since the following apple crisp recipes can be made with whatever seasonal fruit is on hand. But really, is anything better than apple?
Grandma Mary's Apple Crisp with Sweet Biscuit Topping
This recipe for Grandma Mary’s Apple Crisp has a sweet biscuit topping that tastes like a cross between a biscuit and a sugar cookie.
Photo Credit : Amy Traverso

Amy Traverso’s 5 Secrets for Perfect Apple Crisp

Tip 1: Use a mix of apple varieties for the best flavor

Apples are an incredibly diverse bunch — just think of the difference between a Granny Smith and a Gala. Apple flavors run the gamut between tart and vegetal to honey-sweet and spiced, and like the hues of a rainbow, they enhance and complement one another. So when you’re making your next crisp, try using at least two different kinds, preferably three or even four. On a related note …

Tip 2: Don’t forget apple texture

McIntosh apples are absolutely delicious, but when exposed to heat they break down in mere minutes. While this makes them perfect for applesauce, it’s not ideal for apple crisp. Firmer apples — such as Pink Lady, Northern Spy, Baldwin, Jazz, Honeycrisp, Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, and Rome — are the better picks. I do, however, like to throw a couple of tender McIntosh, Empire, or Macoun apples into my crisps, both for their flavor and because they create a nice sauce in which the firmer slices are suspended. It’s the perfect combination of textures!

Tip 4: There’s more to apple crisp than oats

The classic oat-topped apple crisp is a wonderful thing. Scented with cinnamon, enriched with butter — what’s not to love? But there are other kinds of apple crisp to explore too. My grandma’s apple crisp was adapted from a recipe in the November 1945 issue of Country Gentleman, and its topping has a texture that’s like a cross between a biscuit and a sugar cookie. It’s unexpected, and it’s heavenly. (It’s also easy to make with gluten-free flour substitutes).

Tip 4: Shaggy toppings are best

Whatever type of crisp you make, always stop mixing the topping when it’s just beginning to hold together but still shaggy, with some dry bits remaining. Those extra bits of flour and oats will absorb and thicken the apples’ juices as they cook, giving you a filling that’s silky, not watery.

Tip 5: Bake until really it’s browned and bubbling

By the time an apple crisp is halfway through cooking, your kitchen will start smelling so good that it will take all your willpower to avoid pulling it out of the oven, spoon in hand. Resist that temptation! Apple crisp needs 50 to 60 minutes to fully cook (at 375°). Once you taste those tender apples and lightly caramelized sugars, you’ll thank yourself for your patience. Got any advice on how to make the best apple crisp? Share your tips in the comments below!

Get Amy’s Favorite Apple Crisp Recipe:

Grandma Mary’s Apple Crisp with Sweet Biscuit Topping

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