A crisp dessert to fall for


The two women who help me test recipes for this column arrived at my house with the same request. They were both expecting out-of-town company for overnight visits and wanted a suggestion for a special, yet uncomplicated fall dessert for supper.

I knew just what to propose. Several days before, intoxicated by the cool autumn weather, I had started working on an apple-toffee crisp, which I'm going to include in one of my autumn cooking classes. I had already made the dish twice but needed to tweak the amounts and seasonings once more, so my kitchen assistants and I baked another that day.

The third time was magic. We adjusted the spices, figured out how thick to slice the apple wedges and decided on the correct baking time. When the crisp came out of the oven, the topping - a combination of chopped walnuts and toffee bits mixed with flour, sugar and bits of butter - was golden and crunchy. And the Granny Smith apple slices beneath were fork-tender and bursting with flavor.

I love to serve fruit crisps when entertaining because they are uncomplicated to prepare and seem to please guests. For this one, apples are peeled, cored and sliced, then tossed with seasonings and arranged in a baking pan. The topping, which takes less than 10 minutes to assemble, is sprinkled over the fruit, then the dish is baked. It needs about 50 minutes in the oven. When done, it can be served right away or cooled to room temperature and reheated at serving time.

Both testers reported that they served the warm apple crisp with scoops of vanilla ice cream and that everyone at their tables took seconds. One even called to report that she had a small portion left over and had eaten it herself for breakfast the next day. "Delicious, even cold," she proclaimed.

Apple-Toffee Crisp With Vanilla Ice Cream

Serves 6

2 3/4 to 3 pounds (6 large) Granny Smith apples

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt


1 cup chopped walnuts

2/3 cup toffee bits (see note)

2/3 cup flour

1/2 cup light-brown sugar

8 tablespoons ( 1/2 cup) unsalted butter, chilled and diced

confectioners' sugar for garnish

1 pint vanilla ice cream, optional

mint springs for garnish, optional

Have ready a 9-by-13-inch oven-to-table baking dish. For the filling, peel and core apples. Then cut them in half lengthwise and cut each half into 4 wedges. (You should get about 8 cups.) Place slices in baking dish and toss with butter and lemon juice. In a small bowl, stir sugar, cinnamon and salt together and sprinkle over apples. Toss to coat well.

For the topping, place walnuts, toffee bits, flour and brown sugar in a medium bowl and mix well. Add butter and, using your fingertips, rub mixture together until it resembles pea-sized clumps. Scatter topping evenly over apples.

Bake on center rack of preheated 350-degree oven until apples are tender and juicy and topping is golden brown, 50 to 55 minutes. Remove and cool 5 to 10 minutes. (The crisp can be prepared 4 hours ahead; cool and leave at room temperature, uncovered. Reheat in preheated 350-degree oven until warm, about 15 minutes.)

To serve, dust crisp with confectioners' sugar. Garnish each portion with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a sprig of mint, if desired.

Note: Heath Bits o Brickle toffee bits, which are usually found in the baking section of the grocery, work well in this recipe.

Per serving: 754 calories, 9 grams protein, 45 grams fat, 20 grams saturated fat, 86 grams carbohydrate, 4 grams fiber, 74 milligrams cholesterol, 214 milligrams sodium

Analysis by registered dietitian Jodie Shield

Autumn menu

Cheese sampler with autumn fruits and nuts, crusty bread, salad with persimmons and pecans with vinaigrette dressing, chowder or hearty soup, caramelized apple-toffee crisp, vanilla ice cream, coffee and/or hot apple cider

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