Skillet Apple Crumble
It's cozy baking season
Apple crumble is, how shall I put it, ugly delicious. Brown on brown. Tastes better than it looks. A photography challenge. I’ll be honest, it’s the main reason that I’ve never shared a recipe for apple crumble, despite it being one of our most frequently enjoyed fall/winter desserts.
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But I’m moving past that now, because you all need some delicious crumble in your lives. This is apple crumble made the way I like it — that is, with lots (LOTS) of tender but never mushy apples swathed in just enough spiced butterscotchy sauce, topped with a lid of hearty crumbs that add texture without being either too oaty or sweet. If that sounds like your ideal dish of coziness, this one’s for you.
A majority of the nearly 100 million apple crumble recipes on the internet follow a similar sequence: toss some raw apples in spices/thickener, sprinkle on some butter-sugar-flour mixture, bake. I take a slightly left of center approach, preferring to first cook the apples on the stove. Letting them simmer in butter + brown sugar + cream + spices ensures they’re perfectly tender and flavorful. Once the crumb mixture is sprinkled on, the whole dish bakes just long enough to fully bake the topping (half an hour or less, since the filling is already warm and cooked).
My baking vessel of choice is an ovenproof 12” cast iron skillet. It’s wide enough to precook the generous amount of apples I want in my crumble and also yields my ideal crumb-to-filling ratio. If you don’t have a similar skillet, you can cook the apples in a large pot, then transfer to a deep dish pie plate or 2-quart casserole for baking; place it on a foil-lined sheet pan in case the filling bubbles over.
While I follow this cooking method every time I make apple crumble, I’ll mix up the flavorings depending on my mood. When I want something a little smoky and spice-forward, I’ll use muscovado sugar, the full range of spices in both the crumble and the filling, and coffee or black tea to make my starch slurry. For something lighter, go for light brown sugar in the crumble, omit the stronger spices like allspice and cloves, and use cider or water for the starch slurry.
Whichever way you make this, serve with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream. Enjoy.
Skillet Apple Crumble
Makes one 12” crumble
For the crumble:
40g all purpose flour
40g whole grain flour
40g almond flour
30g rolled oats
2g (1/2 tsp) kosher salt
80g muscovado, dark, or light brown sugar
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp allspice
Pinch of ground cloves
A few gratings of nutmeg
100g unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature
For the apple filling:
1200g (prepared weight) tart-firm apples1, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2” dice (from about 1500g whole apples)
30g freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 1 large lemon)
120g light brown sugar
3g (3/4 tsp) kosher salt
60g unsalted butter
100g muscovado or dark brown sugar
100g heavy cream
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp allspice
Pinch of ground cloves
Freshly grated nutmeg
12g all-purpose flour
40g coffee, black tea, apple cider, or water (room temp or cold)
20g brandy, bourbon, or whiskey (optional)
Big splash of pure vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350F with a rack in the middle.
Make the crumble: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, oats, sugar, spices, and salt. Scatter the butter pieces over the top. Use your fingers to rub the butter in until all the dry ingredients are moistened and the mixture forms uneven clumps. Refrigerate until needed.
Make the filling: In a large bowl, toss together the diced apples, lemon juice, light brown sugar, and salt. Set aside.
In a 12” ovenproof skillet (I use this Lodge cast iron pan) over low heat, melt the butter. When the butter is 90% melted, add the muscovado or dark brown sugar and stir so all the sugar is moistened. Raise the heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until the sugar no longer looks like wet sand and the mixture is glossy and lava-like, 2-3 minutes.
Carefully pour in the cream (it may sputter a bit) and stir until the sauce is homogenous. Let simmer, stirring occasionally, for one minute.
Add the apples and all the juices to the skillet, followed by all the spices. Stir to coat all the apples evenly in the sauce. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring often, until the apples are just tender, 4-5 minutes.
When the apples are nearly ready, whisk together the cornstarch, flour, and liquid of choice in a small bowl to form a smooth slurry. Add the slurry to the apple mixture and stir to combine. Simmer, stirring constantly, until the sauce has thickened, 1-2 minutes.
Remove from heat and stir in the booze (if using) and vanilla. Sprinkle the crumble evenly over the surface.
Transfer skillet to the oven and bake until the crumbs are set and the filling is vigorously bubbling around the edges, 25-30 minutes.
Cool the crumble on a wire rack before serving with vanilla ice cream. I like to wait about 2 hours, when the crumble is just a little warm and the sauce has thickened. (If you dig into it earlier, it will be runnier but still delicious.) Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 5 days. It’s delicious cold from the fridge, or you can rewarm it in a 350F oven for 5-10 minutes.
My favorite baking apples include Mutsu, Northern Spy, Honeycrisp, and Gala; choose apples that hold their shape after cooking.