I heard a great quote the other day from Prairie Home Companion’s Garrison Keillor: “The best pumpkin pie you’ve ever had isn’t that much different than the worst pumpkin pie you’ve ever had.” In a few days, you probably won’t want to see it again for quite some time. Thus, this week I give you another wonderful, autumn-errific dessert to follow up your cozy holiday feasts: Hazelnut Apple Crisp with Calvados.
Calvados, if you’ve never enjoyed it, is a distilled apple cider brandy from Normandy (the French region renowned for its apples) that is aged in French Oak barrels. It is a strong eau de vie that is good as an aperitif, but is even better when paired with pork dishes and apple crisps like this one.
The brandy-meets-caramel-meets-apple cider flavor of Calvados enhances the tart granny smith apples and the sweeter honeycrisp apples in the base of this not-too-sweet dessert, so it’s really worth seeking it out. For the crumbly topping, I use rolled triticale flakes (a wheat/rye hybrid) because they add a nice texture and more substantial flavor than rolled oats. Toasted hazelnuts add a buttery crunch, but if you’re allergic, it’s fine to leave them out. If you happen to be vegan, use ice cold Earth Balance buttery sticks instead of butter and proceed with the recipe as directed.
I learned how to make this and other crisps at the apron strings of Helen Manning, nee´Pickett, my beautiful Irish-American grandmother. Apples, pork and potatoes came as naturally to her as breathing. She patiently showed me how to blend the flour and butter with just my finger tips so the butter wouldn’t melt, taught me how to skin toasted hazelnuts by rubbing them together in a kitchen towel, and educated me on the art of peeling apples with a paring knife so the peel comes off in one long, coiled piece. Throw the peel over your shoulder, she instructed, and whatever letter the peel formed on the floor behind you will be the first initial of your husband-to-be. I don’t recall if my peels ever displayed an “M” for Mister or a “T” for Tofu, but I do remember how much fun she made mundane chores like peeling apples. Every time I smell a crisp a’bakin‘, I know she’s in my kitchen, at least in spirit.Hazelnut Apple Crisp with Calvados
Serves 4 to 6
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
2 Honeycrisp apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
2 tablespoons Calvados
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar, divided
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup triticale flakes
1/4 cup chopped toasted hazelnuts
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (I like Vietnamese Cinnamon)
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger (dried)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced and chilled for 30 minutes
Vanilla ice cream or soy ice cream
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a 10 x 6-inch or 8 x 8-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Toss the apples, Calvados, 1 tablespoon of sugar, and nutmeg together and pour into baking dish.
Combine the remaining sugar, flour, triticale flakes, hazelnuts, cinnamon, and ginger in a large bowl. Rub the butter into the sugar mixture until small clumps form when the mixture is squeezed and the butter in is pieces no larger than a pea. Chill in freezer for 10 minutes. Sprinkle sugar-butter mixture over the apples and bake until the top is golden brown and apples are bubbly around the edges of the baking dish, 35 minutes. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or soy ice cream.