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This Brown Sugar Apple Crisp Would Make Any Grandma Proud

Virginia Willis has such an impressive culinary pedigree. As a specialist in Southern food, she has written multiple cookbooks, won more awards than I have time to mention, and has appeared on multiple Food Network shows. I’m embarrassed that I haven’t made one of her recipes before.

Willis’ super-simple apple crisp recipe only has two steps, and none of the ingredients look too out of the ordinary. There’s lemon juice, vanilla extract, and pecans, which all sound like great additions to crisp, as well as dark brown sugar. I’ll admit that the appetizing-sounding name “Brown Sugar Apple Crisp” was the reason that I wanted to make this recipe, but I wondered if the dark brown sugar really would make a difference in the final result. 

Get the recipe: Virginia Willis’ Brown Sugar Apple Crisp

How to Make Virginia Willis’ Brown Sugar Apple Crisp

Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Grease a large baking dish with butter. In a bowl, add the apples, lemon juice, and vanilla, and stir to combine. Add the sugar, flour, and nutmeg, and stir until coated. Transfer the apples to the baking dish.

In a separate bowl, add the flour, nuts, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt, and stir to combine. Add the butter and use a pastry cutter to incorporate until the mixture is crumbly. Spread the topping over the filling in an even layer. Bake until golden-brown, about 40 minutes. 

My Honest Review of Virginia Willis’ Brown Sugar Apple Crisp

Going into this test, I had high expectations, and Willis’ recipe really delivered. It’s rare for me to come across a recipe for which I have no tweaks or opinions on how to make it better, but this recipe does just that. After trying this crisp, I kept thinking about how lovely it was. The flavors were subtle, the sweetness was balanced, and it really felt like a crisp that wanted to celebrate the simplicity and flavor of good apples. I love how unfussy the recipe is, while delivering a great result. I will say that while I loved that the title mentioned brown sugar, I didn’t find that it made a huge difference in the recipe. My grandmother never baked apple crisp, but I imagine that if she had, it might be something like this. I truly can’t think of anything I would do differently. The only thing that kept me from giving this a 10 out of 10 rating was how perfect another recipe I tested for this showdown was. If I hadn’t had that one to compare to, this one would have been rated higher.

Alexis deBoschnek

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Alexis deBoschnek is a recipe developer and video host based in the Catskills in upstate New York. Her first book To the Last Bite (Simon & Schuster) will be published in April 2022. You can find more recipes by Alexis on her Instagram and website.

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