This is your rabbit-from-a-hat when you have no time to make a "proper" pie -- or if you are scared silly of making pie crust in the first place. But this is no second best; it’s a star in its own right and far better than most apple pies! I leave the skins on the apples, as my mother did, because they add flavor and body to the filling.
Choose apples from the farmers market or get the produce guy in your market to let you sample before buying. If you include some red apples, the filling will have a gorgeous rosy hue. In a hurry? Skip the dried apricots and orange zest and juice (as my daughter used to do in college). The crisp is terrific warm or at room temperature, but it is especially flavorful cold -- even after two or three or four days in the fridge. I know this because I make multiple recipes the day before Thanksgiving every year, also as my mother always did, so we can eat apple crisp after as many meals as possible (and before bed for as many days as possible).
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350° F (176° C).
To make the topping: Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Set aside.
To make the filling: Combine the orange zest, juice, and chopped apricots in a small bowl. Let the apricots soften while you prepare the apples.
Mix the sugar and cinnamon in a large bowl. Quarter and core the apples. Cut each quarter into 3 to 4 chunks. Toss the apples with the sugar and cinnamon. Stir in the apricots and juice.
Scrape the mixture into a 2-quart baking dish about 2 inches deep and spread it evenly. Distribute the crumbly topping evenly over the apples. Bake for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours until the crisp is well browned on top and the juices are bubbling and thickened when you tilt the dish. (If your apples were a bit dry, you may not see any juices towards the end of the baking time; if so, the well-browned topping is your cue to doneness.) Serve warm or cold.
My career was sparked by a single bite of a chocolate truffle, made by my Paris landlady in 1972. I returned home to open this country’s first chocolate bakery and dessert shop, Cocolat, and I am often “blamed” for introducing chocolate truffles to America. Today I am the James Beard Foundation and IACP award-winning author of ten cookbooks, teach a chocolate dessert class on Craftsy.com, and work with some of the world’s best chocolate companies. In 2018, I won the IACP Award for Best Food-Focused Column (this one!).