A couple of years ago, I read a few lines in the introduction of Zoe Nathan’s cookbook, Huckleberry, that have forever changed the way I bake. She contends that most baking recipes don't call for enough salt, so as a rule of thumb, double the amount! It’ll make your recipe taste "a million times better,” she explains, since salt is needed to make baked goods taste like something other than sugar. I took her advice to heart—learning when and how much salt to add to different recipes—and the flavor of my baked goods has, well, gotten "a million times better." Now I almost exclusively use salted butter in my baking (preferring its flavor over unsalted butter plus added salt), and I love looking for other ways to boost the flavor and complexity of baked goods.
Take this Skillet Miso-Apple Crisp, a rework of a standby version I've been making for years. Rather than simply adding salt to the filling and topping, I turned to miso, one of my all-time favorite condiments. Miso imparts not only saltiness but an unmistakable umami flavor that adds so much oomph and interest to sweet and savory dishes alike. I also used salted butter to amp up the overall flavor of the filling and crumble topping. And speaking of crumble toppings, I took a cue from Russ Parsons' Apricot-Raspberry Crisp from Kristen Miglore's Genius Desserts. By forming the crumbs into craggy, irregularly shaped rounds, you get a topping that perches on top of the fruit rather than sinking to the bottom, or turning to mush. The topping bronzes in the oven and stays truly crisp, even hours after it's baked! A very good thing indeed.
All of these simple tips and tricks result in a new-fashioned apple crisp that tastes like the classic, but better. Maybe even a million times better! It's not too salty, it's not too sweet—it's somewhere in the middle which allows the flavor of the apples to really shine through. I can think of no better minimum-effort, maximum-reward dessert out there. So do yourself a favor and make this one for your next dinner party. Serve it warm straight from the skillet with big scoops of ice cream or whipped cream. Trust me, it'll be devoured in minutes. —EmilyC
- Prep time 20 minutes
- Cook time 40 minutes
- Serves 8 to 10
- For Topping:
(140 grams) butter (I always use salted butter, but unsalted is fine too)
(21 grams) white miso
1 1/4 cups
(150 grams) all-purpose flour
(108 grams) old-fashioned oats
pecans (120 grams), finely chopped (other nuts can be substituted)
(148 grams) light or dark brown sugar
- For Filling:
(28 grams) butter (see note above)
(21 grams) white miso
3 to 3 1/4 pounds
apples (such as Honeycrisp or Jonathan), cut into ½-inch wedges
- Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
- To make the crumble topping: In a 12-inch ovenproof skillet, melt the butter and miso together, smashing and mixing the miso with the butter until it's smooth and well integrated. In a mixing bowl, stir together flour, oats, pecans, and brown sugar, then stir in the melted miso butter (scraping the pan clean with a rubber spatula). Mix until all of the crumbs are evenly moistened. Place the bowl in the fridge or freezer while prepping the apples.
- To make the filling: In the same skillet, melt butter and miso over medium-low heat, stirring with a heatproof spatula. Add the apples, tossing a few times to evenly coat in the miso butter. Add the maple syrup, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, just until the apples soften slightly and the juices in the bottom of the skillet turn a light caramel color. Add cinnamon, and toss until evenly distributed. Take the skillet off the heat.
- To assemble: Distribute the apples in an even layer in the skillet (or, transfer to a 9 x 13-inch pan). Pinch off small pieces of the crumb mixture and form them into rough rounds, some the size of a marble, some a little larger. If the mixture doesn't hold together, smear and mound it in your hands before forming the rounds. Scatter the crumble topping over the apples.
- Bake until the crumb topping is crisp and golden brown and the apples are bubbling around the edges, about 35 to 40 minutes. If the crumble topping is browning too fast, cover with a sheet of foil. Serve warm or at room temperature.