Many years ago, more than 30, there was a little boy who loved apples. On sunny autumn days, he and his mom would each put on a warm, cozy sweatshirt. They would get in the car and take a short drive to their favorite apple orchard.
The sweet fragrance of fresh apples would meet their noses as soon as they walked into the barn. The big red apple barn at the orchard always felt cool inside. On each visit, the little boy and his mom would taste each of the varieties of apples. They already knew which was their favorite apple. But the little boy would watch as his mom carefully cut a slice from each of the apples so they could have a taste. Some were sweet, some were tart, some were soft and some were firm.
The blonde little blue-eyed boy and his mom always chose the same kind of apple. Red and juicy. Crunchy and tart. Firm, not soft. As they wound their way to the place in the barn where they would pay for their small basket of apples, the little boy would stop at the freezer case. He loved the frozen apple cider sticks and he knew his mom did, too. He would stand on the tips of his toes, stretch his arm and try to reach down to pick up two of the frozen sticks of cider. But, he couldn’t reach them. So, his mom would scoop him up in her arms and hold him just close enough so that his little hands could grasp the chilly bars of frozen cider.
They carried their apples and their cider sticks to a hill near the barn. And there, they would sit in the grass under the warm autumn sun and slurp their cider sticks. They loved to see leaves falling from the trees. They would watch some ducks on a pond. They listened to the birds and watched squirrels gather acorns. They would talk about how much they liked to visit the apple orchard.
When they got back to their home, the little boy and his mom liked to make apple crisp together. After his mom peeled some apples, the little boy liked to use a table knife to cut the apples into slices and pile them into a big bowl. He liked to squirt lemon juice on the apples and sprinkle cinnamon over the top. He loved using his hands to mix up some flour and sugar and butter. And then he sprinkled the butter mixture on the apples that his mom had piled into a baking dish.
The little boy could hardly wait for the apple crisp to come out of the oven. It was one of his favorite things to eat. And, it made the house smell so good while it was baking.
The little boy and his mom and dad loved to eat the apple crisp with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. The little boy felt so proud because he had made the apple crisp all by himself. Well, almost by himself.
And, so, because the little boy became famous for the delicious apple crisp he made, the dessert was named after him. And that is the story of Danny and his apple crisp.
Danny is a big boy, now. A man, in fact. Now everyone calls him Dan. And now he has a little blue-eyed boy and two little girls. And sometimes they go to the same apple orchard that Danny went to as a little boy.
Danny’s mom makes the apple crisp by herself now. She calls her son who became a man Dan, too. But it is still called Danny’s Apple Crisp.
And, it is still the best apple crisp ever.
When I made Danny’s Apple Crisp this week, I couldn’t help remembering about those days long ago when he was still small enough for me to pick up in my arms. And I still try to get back to that same apple orchard each year, though now it is a much longer drive.
A day or two before I made the apple crisp and a big apple bundt cake with caramel glaze, I read an interesting piece about apples on another blog. On her food blog, Dana McCauley shares a simple test for determining which apples are better for baking and which work better for sauces. She puts a slice of apple in a saucepan, covers it with water, brings the water to a boil and cooks it until tender. If the apple still holds its shape when tender, it’s a good one to use for baking. If it starts to disintegrate, it’s a good one to turn into apple sauce. I did the test with a Pink Lady, a McIntosh and a Gala. Pink Lady and Gala turned fork-tender and still looked beautiful. The McIntosh, mush. The skin was floating in the water and the flesh was in little bits all over the pan. Dana also has a handy chart categorizing some common varieties of apples according to their best uses. Check it out at her food blog along with a week’s worth of sweet and savory apple recipes.
I used Gala apples from a box I purchased recently from a local church fundraiser. You can see how they held their shape while baking under a blanket of crunchy, sweet topping.
This is a great recipe to prepare with a child. No funky ingredients, just a simple and good apple crisp. I guarantee you will create wonderful memories. And a delicious treat.
Danny’s Apple Crisp
- 9 apples (8 heaping cups)
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup water
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup soft butter
Peel, core and slice apples. Add sugar, water, lemon juice and cinnamon. Toss. Pile into buttered 9-inch square baking dish.
Mix brown sugar, flour and butter. Sprinkle over apples. Bake 1 hour in preheated 350-degree oven.