All About Apple Desserts

With fall comes apples, and better yet, apple pie. But that's not all.

Chris Kimball, editor in chief of Cook's Illustrated magazine and host of public television's "America's Test Kitchen", shared on "The Early Show" some improved and updated desserts using fall's greatest fruit: the apple.

Over 25 years of testing apple recipes Kimball's found that cooking with a mixture of two types of apples works best. He recommends using Granny Smith and either a McIntosh or a Golden Delicious.

The Granny Smith apples, he explained, keep their shape nicely during cooking, and the other two, McIntosh and Golden Delicious, add great flavor.


Apple Crisp

Serves 6

To make a larger crisp that serves 10, double all the ingredients, use a 13 x 9-inch baking pan, and bake for 55 minutes at 375°F, without increasing the oven temperature. If making an apple crisp, we recommend equal quantities of Granny Smith and McIntosh apples. Peel, core, and cut apples and pears into one-inch chunks. Peel, pit, and cut nectarines, peaches, and plums into half-inch wedges. If using plums, add one tablespoon quick-cooking tapioca to the fruit mixture. Half a teaspoon of grated fresh ginger makes a nice flavor addition to all the fruits.

Topping Mixture
6 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon table salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled
3/4 cup pecans or whole almonds, chopped coarse (or chopped fine if
mixing topping by hand)

2 1/2 - 3 pounds apples, nectarines, peaches, pears or plums (6 cups
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest from 1 lemon

1. For the Topping: Place flour, brown sugar, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in food processor work bowl fitted with steel blade. Add chilled butter and pulse until mixture moves from dry sand-like appearance with large lumps of butter to a coarse cornmeal texture, about three 4-second bursts. Add nuts and pulse until mixture resembles crumbly sand, about five 1-second bursts. Do not over process or mixture will take on a smooth, cookie-dough-like texture.

To mix by hand, allow butter pieces to sit at room temperature for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, mix flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in medium bowl. Add butter; toss to coat. Pinch butter chunks and dry mixture between fingertips until mixture looks like crumbly wet sand. Add nuts and toss to distribute evenly. Do not over mix.
Refrigerate mixture while preparing fruit, at least 15 minutes.

2. Toss cut fruit, sugar, lemon juice, and zest (along with 1 tablespoon quick-cooking tapioca if using plums as fruit) in medium bowl.

3. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 375°F. Scrape fruit mixture with rubber spatula into 8-inch square (2 quart) baking pan or 9-inch round deep dish pie plate. Distribute chilled topping evenly over fruit; bake for 40 minutes. Increase oven temperature to 400°F; bake until fruit is bubbling and topping is deep golden brown, about 5 minutes longer. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Skillet Apple Pie

Serves 6 to 8

If your skillet is not heatproof, precook the apples and stir in the cider mixture as instructed, then transfer the apples to a 13- by 9-inch baking dish. Roll out the dough to a 13- by 9-inch rectangle and bake it as instructed. If you do not have apple cider, reduced apple juice may be used as a substitute-simmer 1 cup apple juice in a small saucepan over medium heat until reduced to 1/2 cup (about 10 minutes). Serve the pie warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. Use a combination of sweet, crisp apples such as Golden Delicious and firm, tart apples such as Cortland or Empire.

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (5 ounces), plus more for dusting work surface
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening, chilled
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
3-4 tablespoons ice water

1/2 cup apple cider (see note)
1/3 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice from 1 lemon
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 1/2 pounds sweet apples and tart apples (about 5 medium), peeled,
cored, halved, and cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges (see note)

1 egg white, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons sugar

1. FOR THE CRUST: Pulse flour, sugar, and salt in food processor until combined. Add shortening and process until mixture has texture of coarse sand, about ten 1-second pulses. Scatter butter pieces over flour mixture and process until mixture is pale yellow and resembles coarse crumbs, with butter bits no larger than small peas, about ten 1-second pulses. Transfer mixture to medium bowl.

2. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons ice water over mixture. With blade of rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix. Press down on dough with broad side of spatula until dough sticks together, adding up to 1 tablespoon more ice water if dough does not come together. Turn dough out onto sheet of plastic wrap and flatten into 4-inch disk. Wrap dough and refrigerate 30 minutes, or up to 2 days, before rolling out. (If dough is refrigerated longer than 1 hour, let stand at room temperature until malleable.)

3. FOR THE FILLING: Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position (between 7 and 9 inches from heating element) and heat oven to 500°F. Whisk cider, syrup, lemon juice, cornstarch, and cinnamon (if using) together in medium bowl until smooth. Heat butter in 12-inch heatproof skillet over medium-high heat. When foaming subsides, add apples and cook, stirring 2 or 3 times until apples begin to caramelize, about 5 minutes. (Do not fully cook apples.) Remove pan from heat, add cider mixture, and gently stir until apples are well coated. Set aside to cool slightly.

4. TO ASSEMBLE AND BAKE: Roll out dough on lightly floured work surface, or between 2 large sheets of plastic wrap, to 11-inch circle. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll over apple filling. Brush dough with egg white and sprinkle with sugar. With sharp knife, gently cut dough into 6 pieces by making 1 vertical cut followed by 2 evenly spaced horizontal cuts (perpendicular to first cut). Bake until apples are tender and crust is a deep golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Let cool 15 minutes; serve.

Skillet Apple Brown Betty

Serves 6 to 8

If your apples are especially tart, omit the lemon juice. If, on the other hand, your apples are exceptionally sweet, use the full amount. A scoop of vanilla ice cream is the perfect accompaniment to this dish. Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container; topped
with vanilla yogurt, they make an excellent breakfast.

*Brown Betty - Dating back to colonial America, betties are baked puddings made of layers of sugared and spiced fruit and buttered breadcrumbs. Though many fruits can be used, the most popular is Apple Brown Betty, made with sliced apples and brown sugar.

Bread Crumbs
4 large slices white sandwich bread (about 4 ounces), each slice torn into quarters
2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces Apples
1/4 cup light brown sugar (1 3/4 ounces)
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch table salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 pounds Granny Smith apples (about 3 medium), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 4 cups)
1 1/2 pounds Golden Delicious apples (about 3 medium), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 4 cups)
1 1/4 cups apple cider
1 - 3 teaspoons lemon juice from 1 lemon (see note)

1. For the bread crumbs: Pulse the bread, sugar, and butter in a food processor until coarsely ground, about four 1-second pulses. Transfer the crumbs to a 12-inch skillet; toast over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the crumbs are deep golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate; wipe out the skillet.

2. For the apples: Combine the sugar, spices, and salt in a small bowl. Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of the butter in the now-empty skillet over high heat; when the foaming subsides, stir in 4 cups of the apples and half of the sugar mixture. Distribute the apples in an even layer and cook, stirring two or three times, until medium brown, about 5 minutes; transfer to a medium bowl. Repeat with the remaining butter, apples, and sugar mixture, returning the first batch of apples to the skillet when second batch is done.

3. Add the apple cider and scrape the bottom and sides of the skillet with a wooden spoon to loosen the browned bits; cook until the apples are tender but not mushy and the liquid has reduced and is just beginning to thicken, 2 to 4 minutes.

4. Remove the skillet from the heat; stir in the lemon juice, if using, and 1/3 cup of the toasted bread crumbs. Using a wooden spoon, lightly flatten the apples into an even layer in the skillet and evenly sprinkle with the remaining toasted bread crumbs. Spoon the warm Betty into individual bowls and serve with vanilla ice cream, if desired.

Applesauce Snack Cake

Makes one 8-inch square cake

This recipe can be easily doubled and baked in a 13 by 9-inch baking dish. If doubling the recipe, give the cider and dried apple mixture about 20 minutes to reduce and bake the cake for about 45 minutes. The cake is very moist, so it is best to err on the side of overdone when testing its doneness. The test kitchen prefers the rich flavor of cider, but apple juice can be substituted. Cooled leftovers can be wrapped in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 2 days.

3/4 cup dried apples (2 ounces), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup apple cider
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (7 1/2 ounces)
1 teaspoon baking soda
2/3 cup sugar (4 3/4 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup unsweetened applesauce , room temperature
1 large egg , room temperature, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon table salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), melted and cooled slightly
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 325 degrees. Cut 16-inch length parchment paper or aluminum foil and fold lengthwise to 7-inch width. Spray 8-inch square baking dish with nonstick cooking spray and fit parchment into dish, pushing it into corners and up sides; allow excess to overhang edges of dish.

2. Bring dried apples and cider to simmer in small saucepan over medium heat; cook until liquid evaporates and mixture appears dry, about 15 minutes. Cool to room temperature.

3. Whisk flour and baking soda in medium bowl to combine; set aside. In second medium bowl, whisk sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Measure 2 tablespoons sugar-spice mixture into small bowl and set aside for topping.

4. In food processor, process cooled dried-apple mixture and applesauce until smooth, 20 to 30 seconds, scraping sides of bowl as needed; set aside. Whisk egg and salt in large bowl to combine. Add sugar-spice mixture and whisk continuously until well combined and light colored, about 20 seconds. Add butter in three additions, whisking after each. Add applesauce mixture and vanilla and whisk to combine. Add flour mixture to wet ingredients; using rubber spatula, fold gently until just combined and evenly moistened.

5. Turn batter into prepared pan, smoothing top with rubber spatula. Sprinkle reserved 2 tablespoons sugar-spice mixture evenly over batter. Bake until wooden skewer inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool on wire rack to room temperature, about 2 hours. Run knife along cake edges without parchment to release. Remove cake from pan by lifting parchment overhang and transfer to cutting board. Cut cake and serve.

For an Apple Upside Down Cake, go to Page 2.