Lynda Balslev: A crisp for all seasons |

Lynda Balslev: A crisp for all seasons

It’s fall, and in my book, that means it’s time for apple crisp. When it comes to a good recipe, I follow the popular adage: If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. This recipe is my go-to recipe throughout the year. The method and amounts remain consistent, and I’ll change up the types of fruit, spices and nuts according to the season.

A crisp should contain seasonal fruits at their peak in flavor, enhanced with a dusting of sugar and spice. The topping should be crumbly and not cloyingly sweet, allowing the natural sweetness of the fruit to shine through. As for the garnish, I prefer the lightness of whipped cream, gently sweetened so it won’t overwhelm the dessert — and preferably fortified with a nip of spirits to complement the fruit filling.

This recipe makes a generous amount of topping — enough to blanket a 10-cup or 11-by-7-inch baking dish. When assembling the filling, it’s important to have a deep layer of fruit, so feel free to increase the amount of fruit or adjust the shape of the baking dish as needed. Pile the topping on thick, so it will add a delightful cookie crunch to the filling.

If you have extra topping, it can be refrigerated for up to one week or frozen for up to one month. There’s nothing wrong with having a little leftover for a last-minute dessert; chances are you’ll be making crisps throughout the season!

A crisp should contain seasonal fruits at their peak in flavor, enhanced with a dusting of sugar and spice.

Apple Raisin Crisp With Calvados Cream

Active Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour and 15 minutes

Yield: Serves 6


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup pecans

3/4 cup unsalted butter, chilled, cut in pieces


6 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, cut in 3/4-inch chunks

1 cup raisins

1 tablespoon fresh orange juice

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

Whipped Cream:

1 cup heavy cream

1 to 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 tablespoon Calvados brandy (optional)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Make the topping: Combine the flour, sugars, cinnamon, cardamom and salt in a food processor and pulse once or twice to blend. Add the pecans and pulse a few times to break them into chunky pieces. Add the butter and pulse until the topping resembles coarse meal. Refrigerate the topping until use — you want the butter to stay cold for best results.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Combine the apples, raisins and orange juice in a large bowl. Add the remaining filling ingredients and toss to combine. Transfer the fruit to a 10-cup baking dish. Spread the topping evenly over the filling, letting it dribble down between the fruit and edges.

Transfer to the oven and bake until the apples are tender and the topping is golden brown and crisp, about 50 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool slightly to allow the flavors to develop.

Make the cream: Beat the cream in the bowl of an electric mixer until traces of the whisk are visible in the cream. Add the sugar, Calvados (if using) and vanilla and continue to beat until soft peaks form.

Serve the crisp slightly warm or at room temperature with the whipped cream.

Lynda Balslev is a cookbook author, food and travel writer, and recipe developer based in the San Francisco Bay area.

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