High Country Baking: Celebrate St. Patrick with an Irish whiskey apple crisp
Here’s a recipe for a classic apple crisp, re-worked in honor of Ireland’s celebrated patron saint. Luscious baked fruit, subtly flavored by Irish whiskey and crowned with a crisp topping and addictive whiskey sauce. I’m betting it would make St. Patrick smile; it certainly pleased everyone I shared it with.
When I make this recipe at sea level, I usually use tart, crisp Granny Smith apples; they’re the apple of choice for many crisps and cobblers. However, at high elevations, I’ve found they don’t soften enough when baked, so I replace them with a moister, sweeter apple (like Golden Delicious); I recommend you do the same.
Out of apple pie spice? Use 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, and 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger in its place. If you don’t have any Irish whiskey, substitute bourbon or dark rum instead (just don’t tell St. Patrick). If your apples lack sweetness or you prefer a really sweet filling, add 1 to 2 more tablespoons of brown sugar to the filling mixture.
Make in four 1-cup ramekins or a 5-cup capacity baking dish.
1. Make the filling: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the center position. Combine all the filling ingredients except the apples in a large mixing bowl and stir until fully combined and smooth. Peel, core and cut the apples into half-inch cubes; you want 4 1/2 cups. Add them to the bowl and stir until all are thickly coated and none of the liquid remains at the bottom of the bowl. Set aside for 15 minutes so the apples absorb the flavorings.
2. Make the topping: Whisk the flour, oats, salt, brown sugar, cinnamon and baking powder in a bowl until blended. Add the melted butter and stir until all the dry ingredients are evenly moistened. Refrigerate until ready to use. Set the pecans aside; you’ll use them later.
3. Grease the ramekins or baking pan with butter, including, the rims. After the apples have rested 15 minutes, stir or toss them again; they will have given off some juices, so there will be more liquid. Divide them evenly among the four ramekins or spread them evenly in the baking pan. If any liquid remains in the bowl, drizzle it over the apples. Sprinkle the quarter-cup of chopped pecans over the apples, about 1 tablespoon for each of the ramekins. Set aside the remaining pecans. Pinch the topping between your fingers, making irregular clumps, and spread them over the apples and pecans, covering them completely.
4. Set the ramekins or pan on a foil-lined cookie sheet and bake until the topping is golden brown, the filling is bubbling, and the apples are soft (test with a fork), about 45 to 55 minutes for the ramekins, 55 to 70 minutes for the baking pan. During the last 10 minutes of baking, sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons of chopped pecans over the topping, dividing it evenly between the ramekins. The nuts will be toasted when the crisps are done. Cool the crisps for at least 20 to 25 minutes. If served immediately, the filling will be soft and very moist. If you cool the crisps completely and re-heat them before serving (in a microwave or 325 degree oven), the filling will be firmer. Serve warm, with vanilla ice cream, and a generous drizzle of room-temperature or warm sauce.
5. Make the sauce: (can be made up to a day ahead) Add the butter and cream to a small saucepan and warm, stirring, until the butter melts. Add the sugars and salt and simmer, stirring, until the sugars are fully dissolved (rub a little between your fingers, it should be totally smooth; no graininess). Remove from the heat, cool slightly, add 1 tablespoon Irish whiskey, taste, and add more to your liking. Use immediately or cool, cover, and refrigerate, then reheat and stir vigorously before serving.
Vera Dawson is a baking instructor and the author of three high-altitude baking books (available at The Bookworm in Edwards). Her recipes have been tested in her Summit County kitchen and altered until they work at our altitude. Contact her at email@example.com.