Using only maple syrup as the sweetener, this Healthy Apple Crisp recipe features perfectly-cooked apples underneath a maple pecan oat crisp. Serve it with a scoop of ice cream for the perfect fall dessert.
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There is a time and place for decadent desserts, but sometimes you just want something that's on the lighter side while still feeling indulgent. Enter this Healthier Apple Crisp, made using whole grains, maple syrup, and pecans.
This crisp is a celebration of apple season, featuring some seriously amazing complementary flavors. The apple layer is just that: all about apples. It's sweetened only with maple syrup, which gives it just a slight maple flavor. The crisp layer, also subtly sweetened with maple syrup, is enhanced with crunch from oats and pecans and added nutrients from whole wheat or spelt flour.
The whole dish is healthy enough that you won't feel guilty serving it for breakfast, but it's also still dessert-worthy, especially with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream.
So, let's get to making it, shall we? The article below is jam-packed full of useful information. You can jump around using the menu below, or skip to the end of the article for the full recipe.
What Makes This Healthy Apple Crisp Special
What I really love about this apple crisp is that it is such a nice balance between being wholesome and a full-on dessert. This apple crisp is on the barely sweet side, using the unrefined sweetness of maple syrup to enhance the natural sweetness of the apples. At the same time, it also uses Granny Smith apples, which introduce a slightly sour element.
The crisp topping is a bit different than most, thanks to the use of maple syrup and whole grains. It is both crisp and just slightly chewy because of the play between the liquid syrup and the flour.
Here is an overview of the ingredients used. The full recipe and amounts are located below this article.
- apples (this recipe calls for a combination of Granny Smith and Gala, but see the "All About the Apples" section for more suggestions)
- maple syrup (make sure you are using pure maple syrup here!)
- old-fashioned oats (these are also called rolled oats; do not substitute quick oats or steel-cut oats)
- pecans (these nuts can be omitted if necessary for allergies and replaced with additional oats, or they can substituted with any other nut)
- whole wheat flour or spelt flour (this can also be made with all-purpose flour)
- cornstarch (for thickening the apples)
- unsalted butter
- vanilla extract
- lemon juice
All About the Apples
For just about any apple dessert, you want to have an apple that can hold its shape and has a nuanced flavor with a slight tartness to break up the sweetness of the sugar. A combination of apples is helpful because it introduces a few different flavors and textures to the dessert. Gala and Granny Smith apples are both good choices for apple crisp because they don’t get mushy after a long bake in the oven, they have a sweet-and-tart flavor, and they are readily available at most grocery stores and farmers markets.
Other Good Baking Apples
- Golden Delicious
- Pink Lady
- Ginger Gold
About Cutting the Apples
When it comes to crisps, how to cut the apples is totally up to you. The apples can be peeled or unpeeled. They can be diced, sliced, or cut into wedges. The only absolute is that the apple must be cored, and the seeds removed. Beyond that, it's up to your personal preference. A crisp is supposed to be a more rustic dessert, so it's fine to have a more rustic cut on the apples.
The Maple Pecan Crisp Topping
This crisp topping is a bit different because it doesn't use refined sweeteners, but instead uses pure maple syrup. This adds a subtle maple note to the flavor, and also makes it feel just a bit more wholesome.
Step 1: The butter needs to be blended into the flour. You can do this with a pastry blender or you can simply use your fingers to rub the butter into the flour.
Step 2: Add in the oats and pecans, then fold in the maple syrup. Do not overmix to avoid excess gluten formation between the liquid syrup and the flour.
Step-by-Step Recipe Overview
This is a quick visual overview of the steps needed to make this recipe. If you are looking for the full recipe, keep scrolling!
Step 1: Prepare baking dish (and preheat the oven!)
Step 2: Prepare the apples.
Step 3: Toss together the apple filling ingredients.
Step 4: Layer in the apples and top with the prepared streusel, then bake!
How to Tell When It's Done Baking
If you ask me, a crisp is nothing more than a crustless pie with a streusel topping. Baking it requires the same skills of assessing whether a pie is done, minus the worry about the crust not being baked through.
Look for the streusel topping to be golden brown, but more importantly, for the filling to be bubbling.
This crisp is thickened by cornstarch, which needs to be heated to a temperature above 200ºF in order for it to fully "activate." Bubbling is a good indication that it is ready. Using an instant-read thermometer is also an accurate way to see if it's done.
If at any point the crisp topping is getting too brown before the filling is cooked through, cover the dish with aluminum foil.
Serving + Storing
When the apple crisp is pulled from the oven and very hot, the apple mixture will still be very liquidy. As it cools, it will thicken up.
Apple crisp is best eaten on the day it is made. If there are leftovers, you can keep them covered, at room temperature for up to 2 days. Reheat in the oven at 350ºF, if desired.
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