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Recipe Reviewing + Tweaking: Apple Crisp from Tartine.


Cat-sitting for my neighbors garners all kinds of yummy treats.  This time I was presented with half a peck of apples [yes, that's how apples are measured] and some yummy blueberry hand pies. These gargantuan apples [most were the size of a softball!] came from Ellijay, Georgia, the home of the Georgia Apple Festival.  I believe they're of the Fuji variety and they were naturally very sweet. 

Since I hate when fruit goes to waste, I knew I wanted to bake these off immediately.  It was the perfect rainy day in Atlanta for something warm and decadent. I had been meaning to try out another recipe from Tartine.  Most of the recipes in this cookbook are rather advanced, but the Apple Crisp I stumbled upon seemed fool-proof.  I'm extremely picky about my baked goods [brownies must be gooey, pies need that perfect crust, etc.] so when I follow a recipe from a cookbook, I like to follow it verbatim the first go around, and then make note of things I would change.  

I'll start by saying this recipe did turn out delicious.  I even found myself sneaking bites of the almost caramelized topping late last night - Nigella style [if you've ever watched Nigella Lawson's cooking shows, she always sneaks to the fridge 'late at night' and grabs a bite of whatever she created that day.  I absolutely love her and her unabashed obsession with food].

I knew the crisp would be tasty- I mean we're talking about Tartine here, one of the best bakeries in the US. But I find a lot of what I've made from this cookbook almost TOO decadent.  I try to cook healthier, always being conscious of what I put into my meals, and I'm the same way with baking.  When I saw the recipe called for ONE cup of butter, I knew I was in trouble...


Apple Crisp
Tartine
[areas in parentheses + orange are my recommended changes]

3 pounds assorted apples [the apples I used were perfectly firm, but quite sweet, so next time I'd recommend using a more tart variety]
1/4 cup sugar [if using a Fuji like I did, I would decrease the amount of sugar to just 3TBsp, whereas a tart apple might be able to take the larger quantity of sugar]
3 tablespoons lemon juice [MUST be fresh- but this worked wonders on the apples. Yum!]
grated lemon zest from one lemon [ditto to above]
1/8 teaspoon salt [as a cook, salt and acids make a dish- and I think the same goes for baking- use a fine grain salt here]

1 cup unsalted butter, cold [this was entirely too much butter, though I do know that's what gives it that crisp texture.  I actually was short on butter, so I only used around 3/4cup, and found it still too rich.  I recommend trying this with 1/2 cup [1 stick] or even 1/3 if you're trying to be extra healthy.  I like to add a bit of milk to the batter if it needs some extra smoothing out]
1 cup sugar [I found it too sweet personally, though that might be a combination of the apples and the topping.  I would half the sugar at the very least]
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon [this was certainly a lot of cinnamon, which I love.  But it could probably be decreased to two teaspoons, and would still carry that bold spice]
1/8 teaspoon salt [I would increase this to 1/4 teaspoon, because I love the combination of sweet and salty!]

Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9×13-inch baking dish.
Peel (some or all, as you prefer) [I prefer peeling all- I'm not a fan of the firm skin of the apple when baked], core and slice [thinly- they almost melt in your mouth this way!] the apples and place them in a large mixing bowl. In a small bowl, stir together the sugar, lemon juice and zest, and salt. Add to the apples and mix well with your hands. [I actually prefer to mix these ingredients in a large bowl first, then add the sliced apples to that, mixing occasionally. The immediate contact with the lemon juice prevents the apples from browning while you work and you save on cleaning one extra bowl!] Transfer the apples to the baking dish. 
To make the topping, place the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl. Using a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment on medium speed, or a wooden spoon, beat together until smooth. Add the flour, cinnamon and salt and mix just until it comes together in a smooth dough.
To top the crisp, scoop up palm-sized balls of the dough, flatten each scoop as if you are making a 1/4-inch thick tortilla, and lay it on top of the apples. Cover the entire surface of the apples with the dough rounds. Gaps in the topping are okay; they will allow steam to escape during baking.
Bake the crisp until the apples are tender and the topping is golden brown, about 1 1/2 hours [because I sliced the apples thin, this really only needed 45 minutes to 1 hour]. If the top is getting too dark before the crisp is done, cover it with aluminum foil. Let cool on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. The crisp will keep well in the refrigerator for up to 1 week [this is a lie- the crisp will disappear within a day or two at most...]

I absolutely recommend trying the recipe exactly how it's written in the cookbook, but the way to becoming a good cook or baker is taking recipes and putting your own spin on them.  Whether you decide to omit certain ingredients, tweak the quantities, or alter the technique, you're evolving as a cook [and recipe writer!].