I love recipes that can work at multiple times of day. Take poached eggs, for example. They are great with toast at breakfast, on spinach salad at lunch, and in tomato sauce at dinner. They cover all the bases. Side note: isn’t breakfast for dinner the best? But I digress. Today, I’m bringing you an apple crumble. Apples and pie spices, topped with a crunchy oat crust. It’s a classic, home-style dessert. But I have an odd serving suggestion: make it for breakfast.
Before you go thinking I’ve done a swan dive off the deep end, know that this was not my idea originally. You can blame Deb Perelman for all of this. Do you read her blog, Smitten Kitchen? You should–there’s a reason why it’s one of the most popular food blogs out there. She’s like Martha Stewart, Ina Garten, and Julia Child morphed into one hilarious, cooking-obsessed Manhattan mom. Deb makes things like Saltine Crack Ice Cream Sandwiches and Apricot Pistachio Squares, not to mention all the salads and impressive main dishes. She daydreams about food the way I do (or at least, I like to think we have that in common). This is all a very long way of saying that I was flipping through her cookbook a year or two ago and became obsessed with her recipe for Breakfast Apricot Crisp. I made it as-written a couple of times and have since gone a little crazy with adaptations. I’ve made it with plums, rhubarb, blueberries and raspberries, and pears and cranberries. It can take pretty much anything you throw at it and still be divine.
Today we’re going with apples. It’s very cold and windy here in New York City–the kind of weather that just demands comfort food. And nothing says comfort quite like a bowl of steamy cinnamon apples and crunchy crust. Let’s get started.
The apples are diced small so that they cook quickly. They’re tossed with a couple of tablespoons of brown sugar, some cinnamon and other pie spices, a bit of cornstarch, and a touch of apple cider vinegar. The crumble itself is made by cutting butter into a mixture of oats, white whole wheat flour, brown sugar, and chopped nuts. Place the apples in a prepared pie plate and top with the crumble mixture. Then, dot everything with butter before baking for 30 minutes at 400F. The apples will be soft, but not too soft, and the crumble will be reminiscent of granola, with plenty of nubbly bits between the oats and nuts. All it needs is a dollop of yogurt (I like Siggi’s), and it’s good to go.
Now, you might be thinking that this sounds great for a weekend brunch, but too decadent for everyday breakfasting. Let me point out a few things that might (just might!) sway you. This crumble is full of diced apples, whole grains, and nuts. There’s no pie crust full of butter and empty carbs. Instead, there are oats and white whole wheat flour, keeping this recipe whole grain. There are nuts which are, of course, high in protein and healthy fats. If you have an allergy or simply don’t want to use the nuts, they can be omitted without any negative effect on the final product. There’s butter here, but it’s not much for a recipe that feeds six–only five tablespoons. It could be cut to four if you don’t dot the top before baking, but I really love how well the crumble browns with that extra tablespoon. The least nutritious part of this crumble is probably the sugar, and there really isn’t much to be spoken of–less than 1/2 cup in the entire recipe. There is plenty of sweetness from the fruit, so a ton of sugar really isn’t necessary.
Now, I’m not a nutritionist or anything, but given the low added sugar, low fat, high volume of fresh fruit, and whole grains, I can’t see any glaring reason why this Apple Breakfast Crumble isn’t perfect for breakfast any day of the week. I am fond of keeping it in the fridge so I can dip into it whenever the mood strikes. Most people would probably warm it up, but I think it’s great cold. And on that note, instead of becoming Martha or Ina or Julia, I am slowly morphing into my mother.
Apple Breakfast Crumble
adapted from Breakfast Apricot Crisp by Deb Perelman
makes one 9-inch pie plate, about six servings
4 large baking apples*, peeled and 1/2-inch diced
2 tablespoons light or dark brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar*
1/2 cup old fashioned oats
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour*
1/3 cup light or dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
2 tablespoons chopped nuts*, optional
5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, divided
yogurt, for serving*
Preheat oven to 400F. Grease a 9-inch pie plate. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine diced apples, brown sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, allspice, ginger, nutmeg, salt, and apple cider vinegar. Toss with your hands until evenly mixed. Pour into the pie plate.
Make the crumble. In a separate mixing bowl, stir together oats, white whole wheat flour, brown sugar, and salt. Stir in chopped nuts. Using a pastry blender or two forks, cut four tablespoons of butter into the mixture until the largest pieces are the size of small pieces. Pour mixture over the apples and use your hands to press it into an even layer. Cut one tablespoon of butter into very small pieces and use them to dot the top of the crumble. Bake for 30 minutes, until the apples are tender and the crumble is golden. Let cool ten minutes before serving with yogurt.
Apple Breakfast Crumble will keep covered in the refrigerator for up to five days.
1. I recommend using a mix of tart and sweet apples. This crumble was made with two Granny Smith and two Fuji.
2. Fresh lemon juice may be substituted.
3. Regular whole wheat flour or all-purpose flour may be substituted.
4. I used walnuts here, but have also used pecans and almonds.