Yes, that’s right. The Family Circle Dessert and Fruit Cookbook. This is a family treasure. The copyright date is 1954. That means it must have belonged to my grandmother, but I smuggled it out of my mom’s house a few weeks ago. I can’t explain why I love this cookbook so much. Is it the handy references in the front and back covers (a #303 can = 1lb = 2c)? The occasional truly odd combination of flavors (Coffee Marshmallow Mint Delight) ? The guide to different apple types and what they are best used for – baking, eating, canning (canning, folks!)?
It’s like, if you were a woman back then, this was essential knowledge. To be a proper wife and hostess you needed to know how to make soft custard, steamed pudding, and baked Alaska. There was no popping ’round the store to get a quart of ice cream; you had to make it yourself. Jello and powdered puddings were still a novelty. Reading these recipes makes dessert seem like such a luxury. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves of that, and savor it a little more instead of cramming it down our throats.
Hah! I crack myself up sometimes.
So this apple crisp is seriously a very simple dessert to make, and yet when I told my brother I was making it, he squealed. Have you ever heard a 6’2″ 275lb guy squeal because of apple crisp?! And my dad, never given to praising me too liberally, cannot stop talking about it. Did you know there’s apple crisp, Kristen? and it’s good? he keeps asking me. YES pops, I know. I’m awesome.
I know a lot of recipes for apple crisp frou-frou it up with oats and brown sugar and nuts. I think that’s ridiculous. Part of the magic of apple crisp is how butter, flour, and sugar come together to make a crunchy topping, and when you add all that other stuff it’s like cheating.
See? That’s seven ingredients and I am guessing you have all of them except maybe the apples, though if you are making this I bet you bought apples too!
If you have one of those fancy apple peeler-corer-slicer things from a certain housewares party, hey lucky you! I don’t have one, so I did this old-school…
Yes, I used my sous-chef, my little brother! No, seriously, he came to me asking if he could peel apples. What a legend! I suggest you try the same with your siblings. Offer up the apple peelings as a reward (we used to love them as kids). Use one of those corer-slicers where you push down on them to do the rest. I suck at using those things, they always get wobbly and I end up with core in the slices. Anyway, slice those slices up even more – just in half.
The orange juice sounds weird, I know. I think it’s the acidity that’s important. I don’t have orange juice at my house, and I wasn’t about to buy a carton when nobody will drink the rest, so I used lemon juice instead this time. However, I used a lot less… maybe 1/4 cup. I also snuck in a little cardamom with the cinnamon. I know, I know, I profaned an ancient and sacred family recipe. I promise I won’t do it again, Mom!
I love when recipes tell you to cut in the butter. It’s really my favorite thing. If you have a food processor, just put your dry ingredients in, pulse, then drop in the butter and pulse again. Hey, was that fun? Not really, I bet. I know how to make it fun…
First, scrub your hands. Next, cut the butter up into smaller cubes and drop them in the dry ingredients (whisk the dry ingredients together first). Now, stick your hands in there and mash it all up. Break up the big pieces of butter. Isn’t this so fun?! Keep going until the mixture is crumbly like the directions state. Wash your hands well. I use an old toothbrush to scrub the butter from under my nails.
Spread over the apples, bake 45-60 minutes, yadda yadda.
Everyone knows how to serve apple crisp: warm with ice cream or cream. As you’re eating it, marvel at the wonder of science and thank your deity that we don’t live in the 1950s anymore.