A beloved, old-fashioned boarding school recipe. The magic is in the cinnamon shortbread-like crisp topping juxtaposed with the soft, applesauce-like fruit.
We had apple crisp every Thursday in boarding school. 132 bowls of crisp later, I’m still not tired of it. Back then, plotting which seat at my assigned dining table would get me a coveted corner scoop of crisp (extra crumble!) was my life goal.
This is the crispiest, most cookie-like topping I’ve ever had in a crisp. Even overnight, the topping stays crunchy. The fruit is tart and tender, the perfect sidekick to the topping. We’re going for a 1:1 ratio here. Best piping hot or very chilled with French vanilla or vanilla bean ice cream.
Adapted from Deerfield Apple Crisp
The original recipe yields an incredibly tender filling, like chunky applesauce. I like to swap a couple of the red apples for a tart and firm green apple variety. The key is to use a mix of apples for better flavor and texture. I usually use 3 different kinds.
From my own recipe testing and confirmed by reader comments, I reduced the amount of sugar in the original recipe by 1/4 cup for just the right amount of sweetness.
- Whisk sugars, flour and cinnamon in a large bowl. Mix with hands to get rid of any brown sugar lumps.
- Cut butter into equal sized pieces. Add to flour/sugar mixture. Cut in until butter disappears and clumps of the mixture start to form. Don't be afraid to use your hands if you need to. You can also do this in the food processor by pulsing and scraping down several times.
- Refrigerate the crumble mixture.
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Peel, core and thickly slice the apples. Add lemon juice, sprinkle with cinnamon, and toss to evenly coat. Transfer to your baking dish. You want to create a high mound, as the apples will reduce significantly when cooked.
- Cover the apples with the crumble mixture, leaving large clumps here and there.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes, rotating halfway through, until the top is golden brown and the apples are juicy and bubbling. Turn the oven off, crack the door open, and let the crisp sit in the oven for 5-10 more minutes. This will set the apple filling without burning the top.
- Serve hot.
- To reheat, bake at 350°F for 10 minutes.
Omg soooo freakin good!!!
Hi, do you think it is alright to replace the apples with pears? I have been craving for the apple crisps lately, but I have only pears at home… Btw your apple crisp looks so gorgeous and scrumptious! <3
Yes! You can use pears, just get very firm (unripe) ones because pears cook down very fast. Let me know how it turns out!
Lovely! Pears work well with apples together and it tastes awesome. Thank you so much for the recipe! My whole family kept asking for more!
My daughter just sent the DA crisp recipe to me. She and my son both went to DA and this along with the chicken pot pie were their favorites. Now I am feeling the pressure to make this taste exactly like the dining hall tradition they always brag about. Wish me luck!
I hope it came out Debbie! Let me know 😛
Ahhh such fond memories of this dessert from my DA days. The crisp is the best I’ve ever had (better than my mom’s but don’t tell her). I tried to make this on Saturday but didn’t have the same results. I live in California so don’t have macs or coburns so I used galas and green delicious – my results after 35 mins of cooking were the following – pie still was a huge mound, hadn’t sunk down, apples still pretty crunchy and the crisp wasn’t the big chunky, sweet and crunchy bites I remember, it was more powdery…any suggestions? My thoughts are I needed to cook longer and maybe not chop the crumble up so much ie leave bigger butter morsels? Or are here diff apples I should have used! Please help:)
Hi Lindsay! So glad you tried this but Green Delicious and Gala apples need to cook for much longer than Macs and Cortlands before they break down into saucy and tender bites. They’re much more firm and hold their shape a little too well for a crisp. Here’s a pretty good guide on different apple varieties in pie baking: http://sweets.seriouseats.com/2011/10/the-food-lab-what-are-the-best-apples-for-apple-pies-how-to-make-pie.html.
For the crisp topping, you can actually chop the butter up into pretty small bits and mix it well with the flour and sugar. Definitely get in there with your hands and clump it up before sprinkling it on the apples. It’s more like making shortbread than pie dough. You want the crisp to be a little bit crunchy rather than flaky, so you don’t need to be as gentle with the dough or afraid of gluten formation.
Hope this helps!
Lu!! I loved this! Made it for my family tonight with a hodgepodge of apples and the juice of an extra lemon. Turned out better than DA crisp, I think!
My 14 yr old daughter made this today for a family birthday dinner, it was the best apple crisp I have had in a long time. I would agree to cutting some of the sugar but it was delicious just the same.
So glad to hear that! I was 14 too when I first had this crisp. It wasn’t too sugary for me at the time but these days I always dial it back 🙂 Thanks so much for letting me know your family enjoyed the recipe!
I don’t have a lemon, i was wondering if I could do without? Or is it an essential ingredient?
Nope, the lemon adds a little tartness, but is not essential. I hope you’ll make this even if you don’t have a lemon!
Looks great! Can I make this in a crockpot?
Hi Christina, I’ve never made this in a crockpot so I’m not sure how that would turn out. The oven works well to achieve that crispy topping, but if you do make it in a crockpot, let me know how it turns out! Thanks for stopping by 🙂
I’ve been looking for a “best” apple crisp recipe on Pinterest and came across this one and your blog. Loved the memory too, trying this out on company tomorrow night. Simple recipes like this survive because they are so good, thanks for sharing! I’m not seeing a Pin button on your blog, do you mind if I share (Pinterest always links back to your blog)?
Aww, thanks so much Joy! I hope your guests like it 😛 The sharing buttons, including a Pin button, should be right below the recipe, but maybe they’re not loading? Who knows haha, but yes, in any case, I’d love it if you pinned this post 😀
Can I use gluten free flour?!
Yes! You can definitely use your favorite all purpose gluten free flour blend. I’ve used Arrowhead Mills Gluten Free All Purpose Baking Mix before, but there are many other great brands, or you can make your own! I would love to hear what you end up using and how it turns out 😛
I made this tonight! Delicious! Thank you for sharing.
Hi Judy! I’m so glad you liked it 😛 Thanks for letting me know too, I love getting comments from readers who actually made a recipe!
This is so wonderful! Thursday apple crisp sounds right up my alley.
I neeeeeed this in my life!
Thanks Graham! Hope you like my little New England tradition 😛
I love a good apple crisp. This looks scrumptious!
Thanks! It’s still my favorite after all these years 🙂
This crisp looks so delicious, and I love the story behind it! I would have been plotting alongside you for optimal dining seat placement for those corner pieces. I love edges of baked goods, though there’s no way possible I’d turn down ANY part of this crisp!
Haha we all vied for those bowls with extra crisp topping! Thanks for stopping by Alyssa 🙂
My husband went to Deerfield. I just asked him about the apple crisp and how come I never knew it was famous! Lol!
Does he remember it?? We had other amazing desserts too, like banana cream pie and baked Alaska, but crisp was a weekly Thursday sit-down lunch tradition. We could always count on it towards the end of the school week, which made it extra special 🙂
I was just thinking about making an apple crisp today! Maybe I’ll try your recipe. I love fall. 🙂
Oh let me know how you like it if you do!
Yuummm…that crispy topping looks divine! I’m sure I could get used to a tradition of Thursday apple crisp 🙂
I’m thinking about reviving the tradition on here!