Big Little Recipes

For the Crispiest Apple Crisp, Look to a Sheet Pan

November 19, 2019

A Big Little Recipe has the smallest-possible ingredient list and big everything else: flavor, creativity, wow factor. Psst—we don't count water, salt, black pepper, and certain fats (specifically, 1/2 cup or less of olive oil, vegetable oil, and butter), since we're guessing you have those covered. Today, we’re baking a classic apple crisp in an unexpected way.


Keep those scoops coming. Photo by TY MECHAM. PROP STYLIST: AMANDA WIDIS. FOOD STYLIST: ANNA BILLINGSKOG.

Here’s a fun fact for your next trivia night: The noun—not the adjective—crisp comes from the same family as pie, cobbler, pandowdy, and slump. They are all baked fruit with a buttery, flaky, crumbly bonus, either below or above or both. In crisp’s case, that bonus is crumb topping (aka, streusel, not to be confused with streudel).

Even with its two components, this dessert is inherently minimalist, which makes it a shoe-in for this column. For all intents and purposes, streusel is made up of flour, butter, and sugar. Oats are a maybe if you ask some, but a must if you ask me (and today, you’re stuck with me). Add up those four with your fruit-of-choice—thickened with more flour, sweetened with more sugar—and you tap out at five ingredients.

Not bad, right?

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Today, we aren’t cutting any of those (though skipping the fruit in a fruit crisp could be something to mull on for next year). Nor are we manipulating any of the ingredients (like, say, this Big Little plum crisp with toasted oats).

More butter, please. Photo by TY MECHAM. PROP STYLIST: AMANDA WIDIS. FOOD STYLIST: ANNA BILLINGSKOG.

Today, we’re simply switching up the baking dish.

Most fruit crisps come together in some sort of casserole. 2-quart is a popular size (see: this pear crisp with dried sour cherries). A 9-inch cake pan will even do the trick.

In either case, you end up with the same structure: mostly fruit, with a crackly shell of streusel on top. Which makes sense when you remember that it’s called a crumb topping—but feels unfair when you want said topping in every bite, and there’s only enough to go around for the tippity-top layer of fruit.

A sheet pan fixes all of this.

I don’t need to tell you that this kitchen staple is good for a lot more than roasting vegetables. You already know that it’s a champ at eggs, bacon, and hash browns, a whiz at a winner chicken dinner, a wonderkid when it comes to extra-crispy mac and cheese.

But maybe you haven’t used it much for dessert beyond cookies. And you should.

Because when you make a classic fruit crisp—same ingredient list, same fruit, same oaty streusel—but bake it in a different pan, it becomes a different thing entirely. The apples (or pears or plums) end up more concentrated, since every hunk is touching the hot pan. And the streusel gets more space to stretch out and become crispy.

It also doesn’t hurt that you can use the sheet pan as a “mixing bowl” for the fruit, and the wider surface area encourages quicker baking than comparable recipes, and this format serves a crowd without blinking an eye.

The only question is: What are you going to scoop or dollop on top?

What’s your favorite apple dessert right now? Share in the comments!
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Emma is a writer and recipe developer at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles "on the fly," baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., reviewing restaurants, and writing articles about everything from how to use leftover mashed potatoes to the history of pies in North Carolina. Now she lives in Maplewood, New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's cooking column, Big Little Recipes, all about big flavor and little ingredient lists. And see what she's up to on Instagram and Twitter at @emmalaperruque.

2 Comments

Questrant November 19, 2019
I did this last week when I couldn't find my baking dish! Used almost exactly the same recipe, though I replaced about a quarter of the flour (total), and added an extra half cup of oats and a half cup of pecans that I blended into a chunky oat/nut "flour" and added to both the fruit and the crisp. Delicious!! So glad to see this concept posted!
 
AntoniaJames November 19, 2019
Heck, yeah! ;o)