One of our favorite ways to spend an autumn weekend afternoon is to fill the kitchen with the warm aromas of buttery pastry, juicy apples, and spicy cinnamon. Get your hands on a bushel of apples and bake up a pie, crisp, crumble, or tart.
1. Apple Crisp
One of the definitive desserts of fall, apple crisp is easy and economical. Empire, Gala, or Braeburn apples are especially good in this recipe.
3/4 cup all-purpose flour, (spooned and leveled)
1/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold, cut into small cubes
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick-cooking)
3 pounds apples, such as Empire, Gala, or Braeburn, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together flour, brown sugar, salt, and 2 tablespoons granulated sugar. Cut butter into flour, using a pastry blender or two knives, until mixture is the texture of coarse meal. Add oats, and use your hands to toss and squeeze mixture until large, moist clumps form. Transfer to freezer to chill while you prepare apples.
2. In another large bowl, toss apples with lemon juice, cinnamon, and remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar. Transfer to a shallow 2-quart baking dish, and sprinkle with topping mixture. Place baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake until golden and bubbling, 55 to 65 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.
2. Apple Strudel
Crunch through crisp, buttery layers of phyllo dough to reveal the spiced apple-and-dried-apricot filling in this simplified strudel.
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
3 Granny Smith apples
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup dried fine breadcrumbs
6 sheets phyllo dough (roughly 13 by 16 inches), thawed if frozen
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
Lightly sweetened whipped cream, for serving
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl; set aside 3 tablespoons mixture. Peel and core apples; cut into quarters, then cut crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces. Toss with lemon juice; stir into sugar mixture with apricots and breadcrumbs.
2. Brush 1 sheet phyllo with butter, and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon reserved sugar mixture. Top with remaining 5 sheets phyllo, layering with butter and sugar mixture. Scatter filling on phyllo, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Starting with a long end, roll up to enclose filling; place strudel, seam side down, on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush top with remaining butter; sprinkle with remaining sugar. Bake until golden brown and cooked through, 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack 10 minutes. Cut into slices; serve warm with whipped cream.
3. Cinnamon Dumplings with Apple-Cider Syrup
This dessert is as sweetly comforting as pulling on a sweater on the first chilly fall day. It features cinnamon dumplings that are generously drizzled with warm, golden apple-cider syrup. They're easy to make: Just drop dough into a simmering sugar-cider mixture. These are best served warm with a cool dollop of creme fraiche.
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
2 cups sugar
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 tablespoons whole milk
4 cups apple cider
Creme fraiche, for serving
1. Sift flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside. Stir together sugar and 3/4 cup water in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook, without stirring, until sugar begins to melt and turn light amber, about 14 minutes. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar has melted and mixture turns medium amber, about 2 minutes more.
2. Meanwhile, work butter into the flour mixture using your fingers or a pastry blender until flour is incorporated but mixture is still crumbly. Whisk together egg, egg yolk, and milk in a medium bowl. Form a well in the center of flour mixture; pour in egg mixture. Stir gently with a fork until combined.
3. Remove sugar mixture from heat; slowly whisk in cider. Return to heat; bring to a simmer. Using your hands or a small spoon, divide the dough evenly into 12 pieces, and roll into balls about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Carefully drop 6 balls of dough into the simmering cider syrup. Cook, turning once or twice to coat fully, until dumplings have tripled in size and are deep golden brown, about 20 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer dumplings to a platter, and cover. Repeat with remaining balls of dough. Divide dumplings among 6 bowls, and drizzle with the remaining cider syrup. Serve with creme fraiche.
4. Beet, Cheddar, and Apple Tarts
Thinly sliced beets add beautiful color, and shredded cheddar a little savory twist to these small tarts, just the right size for appetizers.
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed and cut into six 4 1/2-inch rounds
3/4 cup shredded white cheddar (3 ounces)
1 small apple, cored and very thinly sliced
1 small beet, scrubbed, peeled, and very thinly sliced
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place pastry rounds on a parchment-lined baking sheet and prick all over with a fork. Divide half the cheese among pastry rounds. Top each with 2 to 3 apple slices. Tuck 2 to 3 beet slices among apple slices and top with remaining cheese. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with thyme. Bake until pastry is golden brown and slightly puffed, 13 to 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
5. Apple-Pie Cake
You can make this delicious, dramatic dessert with just six common ingredients: flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, butter, Granny Smith apples, and a little lemon juice. The brown-sugar crumb mixture serves as the crust as well as the topping.
2 cups flour
1 cup packed light-brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
5 pounds (about 12) tart apples, such as Granny Smith
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1. In a large bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Using an electric mixer or a pastry cutter, cut in butter until the mixture forms pea-size pieces. Press 2/3 of the mixture onto bottom and 1 inch up the side of a 9-inch springform pan.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Peel apples, cut into thin slices, and place in a bowl. Pour off any accumulated liquid. Toss apple slices with remaining teaspoon cinnamon and lemon juice, and put them in the prepared pan, pressing down gently as you pack them in (they will mound above the edge of the pan). Sprinkle remaining crumb mixture on top.
3. Put the pan on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet, and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until golden brown on top. Run a knife around the edge of the pan, and let the cake cool in the pan to set. Serve at room temperature.
6. Individual Cinnamon-Apple Tarts
Chewy, yeasty pizza dough serves as the crust for these single-serving apple tarts.
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
1 pound store-bought pizza dough, thawed if frozen
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), room temperature, cut into pieces
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons light-brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 plus 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and very thinly sliced
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
Ice cream (optional), for serving
1. On a floured work surface, roll dough to a 6-by-14-inch rectangle. Dot upper two-thirds of dough with butter and fold dough in thirds, like a letter, starting with the unbuttered portion. Roll dough to a 6-by-14-inch rectangle; refrigerate on a baking sheet until firm, 1 hour (or up to 1 day). Cut dough crosswise into 4 equal rectangles. Place dough on sheet lined with parchment.
2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, gently toss together lemon juice, flour, brown sugar, salt, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, and apples. Leaving a 1/2-inch border, arrange apples over dough, overlapping slightly.
3. In a small bowl, combine egg yolk with 1 teaspoon water. In another small bowl, combine granulated sugar and 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon. Brush edges of dough with egg wash and sprinkle them with cinnamon-sugar mixture. Bake until crust is golden brown and apples are soft, 30 to 35 minutes. Serve warm, topped with ice cream if desired.
7. Apple Brown Betty
Similar to an apple crumble, a brown betty boasts cinnamon-spiced apples baked under crisp buttered breadcrumbs. Serve this easy dessert alongside vanilla ice cream sprinkled with cinnamon.
4 to 5 slices white sandwich bread (about 4 ounces total), torn into large pieces
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
2 1/2 pounds Gala apples (about 6), peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/3 cup packed light- or dark-brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus more for serving (optional)
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Vanilla ice cream, for serving (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a food processor, pulse bread until coarse crumbs form (you should have about 2 cups). Spread breadcrumbs on a rimmed baking sheet; bake until golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool completely. Transfer to a bowl, add butter, and toss until coated.
2. Meanwhile, place apples in a large bowl, and toss with lemon juice. Stir in sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and half the breadcrumbs. Transfer mixture to an 8-inch square (or other shallow 2-quart) baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining breadcrumbs. Cover dish tightly with aluminum foil.
3. Bake until fruit mixture is bubbling, about 40 minutes. Then remove foil, and continue baking until breadcrumbs have browned and apples are easily pierced with a paring knife, 10 to 15 minutes more. Let cool at least 15 minutes before serving. Top, if desired, with vanilla ice cream sprinkled with cinnamon.
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