Thursday, October 8, 2015

Apple Caramel Crumble

I've mentioned my travels to China many times over the years in previous blog posts, but for those of you who are new here, after I graduated college, I moved to China where I lived for three years teaching English as a Second Language to college students at an IT university.  Those three years were an extension of my college years - a better one, to be honest - and something I'll never forget.  A part of my heart stayed behind when I came back to the States, and I think that part will always belong there, with my students, my friends, and my first apartment with its tiny kitchen and no hot water.

I wasn't much of a cook in my 20s, and I mostly lived on beef and vegetable soup or canned tuna for dinner, along with my almost-daily lunch of spicy chicken and peanuts over rice from the local restaurant down the street from my school.  But my friends and I did try to create a home away from home, especially at Christmas when we weren't able to be with our families, and made some pretty wonderful meals together.

Although I couldn't do much baking in that little kitchen, I did make fantastic peanut butter cookies and apple crisp at least a few times a month.  It was always gone in minutes, the scent of baking apples and spices wafted through the building, and inevitably people would stop by, lingering for a spoonful of the treat that reminded them of home.

Usually I keep my fruit crisps fairly simple - fruit tossed with a few spices, a little lemon, and perhaps some flour to thicken their juices and topped with a buttery crumble.  But for this apple dessert, I wanted the apples to be beautifully caramelized in a rich sauce, so I started with a generous amount of butter and dark brown sugar, in which I cooked the apples first, before baking the crisp.  The caramel thickened wonderfully while baking, and the crumble topping crisped up to a golden brown.

I suppose you could drizzle it with a little salted caramel sauce when you serve it with ice cream, but I don't think it needs it.  This crumble tastes of everything that is so perfect about being home on a cozy fall day.

Apple Caramel Crumble

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 4 apples, peeled, cored and sliced
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
Preheat the oven to 375 and spray a square baking dish with non-stick spray.

In a stockpot, melt the butter over low heat, then add the sugar and corn syrup; stir to dissolve the sugar.  Add the apples, lemon juice and spices.  Simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes until the apples are softened.  Stir in the bourbon, then scrape the mixture into the baking dish.

For the topping, use a pastry cutter to cut the butter into the flour, sugar, oats and salt.  Sprinkle over the apples.

Bake for about 35-40 minutes, until the topping is golden brown.  Cool for 30 minutes, then serve warm with ice cream.

Yields about 6 servings

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen


  1. I did not know about your time in China..I found you later..what an experience..
    My daughter wanted to go 100 years ago..I may have talked her out of it..don't think I should have...
    Now that I am older and wiser;)
    I have made apple pies with pre cooked apples and they were great..I bet this is delicious!

    1. My parents, too, had their reservations - I was there during the SARS epidemic, which was quite an experience - but I wouldn't trade it for anything. My mom, too, cooks her apple filling before baking pies - they are wonderful that way!

  2. What an experience it must have been living in China. Do you have plans to visit one day and immerse yourself into your old haunts?

    I can imagine that the intoxicating scent of apples baking beckoned everyone within the vicinity of your little abode. Such a beautiful crisp to bring back those memories.

    1. I think about going back, someday, but then I wonder if everything would feel different now that 12 years have gone by, and none of my friends and students are there anymore... But I would love to show my husband around the city where I lived, and have him understand what I loved so much about it.


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