Crumb topping is magical. Someone had to say it. I grew up with a Czech grandmother who always welcomed us with sweet yeast dough pastries that had sweet poppy seed and prune fillings. She made a sweet yeast cake that had fresh plums on top. Covered in crumb topping. I think everything had crumb topping. Maybe that’s just how I remember it.
The words “I love you” didn’t pass through her lips often, but each meal, each pastry, was all that we needed to know that we were loved. She had a white metal table in her kitchen, by the back door, that she used to let the dough rest. It greeted us every visit. Her glass paneled kitchen cabinets were windows into her never spoken about past, with mismatched plates and bowls. It was wonderful. She was an excellent cook, but her baking was accomplished without every measuring anything. “Just feel the dough.”, I would hear her say to my mother, in her thick Czech accent.
Well, I’m out of the sweet dough business since the kids have flown the coop. But I still love crumb topping. I put it on apple pie, instead of a top crust, and on apple crisp. It’s never as good as Grandma’s, but I keep trying.
Let’s make some apple crisp. That’s always in season in my house. It tastes like apple pie, but without the work!
5 cups (about 6) Granny Smith or other baking apples, peeled and sliced
¾ cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. salt
1 stick of cold butter, cut into small pieces.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 1.5 quart baking dish (or thereabouts) and spread the peeled and sliced apples in it. I like to cut each apple into about 10-12 slices. Granny Smiths are a hard apple and will cook faster if you slice them thinner. Sprinkle 1/3 cup of water over the apples. Pretty easy so far! Now for the crumb topping. Please note there is no oatmeal in this recipe. If I want oatmeal, I will make some for breakfast. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Cut in the pieces of cold butter with your fingers, a pastry blender or you could use a food processor. You want it to resemble coarse crumbs with pea-sized chunks of butter. I said butter…sigh. Spread this mixture evenly over the apples. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the topping is browned. I like to stick a sharp knife in a few apples to make sure they are softened. This is best served with vanilla ice cream! Serves six.
This recipe is adapted from THE FANNY FARMER COOKBOOK. I’ve been using this cookbook since I got married. Tried, true and torn with love.