Nomnoms! Apple Cranberry Crisp

You know what we haven’t had in half-past forever? A recipe. Amidst all the changes that have been going on in here, the poor Kitchen Codex has gone without any post love. Well that’s about to be remedied. Now that those of us in the Northern Hemisphere are in the thick of autumn, we have access to the ingredients for the cold weather version of this summer dinner substitute…er…I mean dessert.
Cranberries are one of those ingredients that easily grabs the eye, but tend to stymie many cooks. That discomfort is one of the reasons why the berries end up in the same three or four time-tested places year after year (namely in the form of juice or gelatinous sauce). Fear not though, for the cranberry is a fun fruit that’s also chock-full of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and polyphenols. The active compounds in this diminutive berry have been at the center of a number of studies linking said compounds to an enhanced ability to fight the formation of kidney stones[1] and a possible diminished risk of developing certain types of cancer[2].

Fresh cranberries are often sold loose by the pound/kilo or in pre-packed bags. In either case, you’re almost certain to find the berries in the produce section of your local market (usually between late September and late December). A good berry will have a vivid red hue, unblemished skin, and will be pretty firm to the touch. The firmness part is the biggest determinant of whether or not you’ve got a good berry on your hands. A very healthy, tasty berry will bounce if you drop it onto a hard surface. This is actually a method that cranberry farmers still use to test their crops!

Bouncing berries aside, this is a recipe that’s low on the difficulty but big on flavor. It tempers sweetness with tartness and packs plenty of crunch. Bonus: it will leave your kitchen smelling spicy and delicious for hours after the crisp has finished baking. It makes for a nice pick-me-up on dark and rainy fall days.
Difficulty: Easy
Availability of Ingredients: Seasonal
Gadgetry: None
Feeds: 4-8 nerds
Time Till Noms: About 30 minutes of preparation and an additional 25-35 minutes of baking time
Required Equipment: a cutting board, a large glass bowl, another small bowl, a sharp knife, a wooden spoon/spatula, a cheese grater, a medium-sized glass or ceramic baking dish
Optional Equipment: an apple slicer, a food processor, a fruit zester, a citrus press


For the Filling

5-6 large-to-medium sized apples
2/3 cup of chopped cranberries
The zest and juice of half of 1 lemon (potential substitution: the zest and juice of half of 1 orange)
1/4 teaspoon of each of the following spices: cinnamon, nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon of fine salt
Non-stick cooking spray

For the Topping

1 cup of brown sugar
1.5 cups of whole, rolled oats
A few shakes of cinnamon and nutmeg
¼ teaspoon of fine salt
4 Tablespoons of melted, unsalted butter

**Pre-heat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit (218.33 degrees Celsius)**

Step 1: Cut all of the apples into slices approximately ¼” (0.64cm) wide. An average apple should yield 20-24 slices. Put all of these into your large glass bowl, then add the zest and juice of your lemon (or orange).

Step 2: Using either your sharp knife or a food processor, chop the cranberries into coarse pieces, then add the pieces to the apple slices. Add the salt and spices to the mix, then stir the contents of the bowl until the berries and spices are as uniformly distributed as possible.
Step 3: Coat the bottom of your baking dish with a thin coat of non-stick cooking spray. Transfer the apple-and-berry mix to your baking dish, smoothing the mix with your wooden spoon so it lies evenly in the dish.
Step 4: Add the brown sugar, rolled oats, and spices to your smaller bowl and, using a fork or other utensil, toss the contents together so the resulting mix is as uniform in consistency as possible. Gently shake the mix over the apple cranberry base, covering the latter with the former as evenly as you can.

Step 5: Melt the butter* (you can do so either on your stovetop or in a microwave), then drizzle it over the crisp. Place the crisp in the oven and bake for 25-35 minutes (until the topping is a golden brown). Let the finished product cool for at least 10-15 minutes before serving. Woot! You have yourself some apple cranberry crisp!

*Alternatively, you can break up your butter into small pieces, then toss them together with the dry ingredients of the topping. Either method will produce a yummy, crunchy top layer.

Does it matter what kind of apples I use?
Not particularly. I’d recommend using apples with firm flesh (these may be labeled as ‘great for baking’ at your market) or at least making firm apples the majority component of your mix. Using more than one kind of apple can be a fun way to experiment and add depth to your flavor.

Do I have to use apples? Can I use pears instead?
You can definitely substitute pears so long as they’re hearty enough to hold up to baking. Most varieties of pear pair well with cranberries (sorry, couldn’t help myself). D’Anjou pears are a good starting point if you’re thinking of going this route. Also, mixing apples and pears can be an interesting take on this recipe.

Do you peel the apples/pears before slicing them?
I don’t peel any of the fruit in this recipe, but that’s a personal preference rather than a necessity. If you don’t like the taste or texture of the peels, feel free to remove them.

Do I have to use whole oats? Can I use minute or steel-cut oats instead?
Definitely, though you may have to add 5-10 minutes to your baking time or blend rolled/minute oats in if you're using steel-cut oats. After a bunch of trial-and-error, I've found that most types of oats will work and you could probably attempt this recipe with other types of whole grains.

Have fun with your kitchen experimentations! Also, don’t hesitate to give us a shout if you have any questions or if you’d like to share photos of your finished dishes.

[1] McHarg, T., Rodgers, A., and Charlton, K. (2003). “The Influence of Cranberry Juice on the Urinary Risk Factors for Calcium Oxalate Kidney Stone Formation.” BJU Int. 92(7): 765-8. DOI: 10/1046J.1464-410X.2003.04472
[2] MacLean, MA. Scott, BE., Deziel, BA., Nunnelley, MC., Liberty, AM., Gottschall-Pass, KT., Neto, CC., Hurta, RA. (2011). “North American Cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon) Stimulates Apoptotic Pathways in DU145 Human Prostate Cancer Cells in Vitro.” Nutr Cancer. Jan; 63(1) 109-20. 

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