Some apple crumbles bury the fruit in sugar and streusel so that by the time you add a scoop of ice cream, you’ve lost the fruit’s tangy freshness. It’s the equivalent of heating really good olive oil so that it loses its grassy bite or cooking thick, well-marbled steak until the center goes gray.
An apple crumble should let the fruit’s bright, tart character shine. For a version that preserves the throw-together ease and buttery, delicately crunchy topping, and packs in as much fruit as possible, we worked from the bottom up.
We chose Golden Delicious apples for their year-round and near-universal availability, balanced sweet-tart flavor, and structural integrity when baked. And we used plenty of them — 4 pounds, to be exact — and tossed the cut-up pieces with some lemon juice to enhance their bright flavor. Adding just 2 tablespoons of brown sugar to the filling kept the apples from tasting too sweet, and parbaking the filling in a covered pan before applying the topping allowed them to collapse into a thick, substantial layer.
As for the streusel, we added nuts to loosen its consistency so it didn’t bake up dense, and a couple of teaspoons of water hydrated the flour so that the mixture clumped nicely. Applying the topping midway through baking minimized its exposure to the juicy fruit, preventing it from becoming soggy.
From the sweet-tart, bright-tasting filling to the nutty, buttery, not-too-sweet streusel, this crumble gives apples their due.
Serves 6 to 8
4 pounds Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
2 tablespoons packed plus 1/2 cup packed (3 1/2 ounces) dark brown sugar, divided
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon table salt, divided
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup (5 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sliced almonds, chopped fine
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons water
1. Adjust the oven racks to the upper-middle and lowest positions and heat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss apples, 2 tablespoons sugar, the lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt and the cinnamon together in large bowl. Transfer to an 8-inch square baking pan with at least 2-inch sides and press into an even layer. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Transfer the sheet to the oven and bake on the lower rack for 35 minutes.
2. While apples bake, whisk flour, almonds, remaining 1/2 cup sugar, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl until combined. Add melted butter, vanilla and water and stir with a spatula until clumps form and no dry flour remains.
3. Remove the sheet from the oven and smooth the top of the apples with a spatula. If the apples have not collapsed enough to leave at least 1/4 inch of space below the rim of pan, replace the foil, return the sheet to the oven, and continue to bake 5 to 15 minutes longer.
4. Scatter the topping evenly over the apples, breaking up any clumps larger than a marble. Transfer the sheet to the upper rack and bake until the topping is evenly browned and the filling is just bubbling at the edges, 25 to 35 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let it cool for at least 45 minutes before serving.
Recipe notes: We like Golden Delicious apples because of their ubiquity and consistent quality, but this recipe also works with Braeburn or Honeycrisp apples or a mix of all three. You should have 4 pounds of apples before peeling and coring.
Dark brown sugar gives the topping a deeper color, but light brown sugar will also work.
Do not use a glass baking dish here, since it retains heat after baking and may cause the apples to overcook. If you like, serve the crumble with ice cream or lightly whipped cream.
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