Apple crisp is a longstanding tradition at our house. I remember helping my mom turn the crank on the peeler, watching the bright red peels squiggle off onto a heap on the table. The sweet, pale yellow slices were then haphazardly piled into a nearby glass baking dish. After a quick dusting of cinnamon, we attempted to pack a generous mound of oat topping over a dish already overflowing with crisp apple slices. It wasn't long before warm, cozy aromas of apple and cinnamon wafted out of the oven and filled the house. With all those enticing aromas one could hardly wait for the first bite. I remember sneaking little clumps and clusters of the golden brown topping while waiting for the bubbling juices to cool. Oh wait, I still do that.
That aspect hasn't changed much, but the rest of this apple crisp is a far cry from tradition. Before baking, apple slices are bathed in a bottle of beer, soaking up flavor that lingers even after baking. I decided to go with a bottle of hefeweizen, a full bodied wheat beer often noted as sweet and fruity with hints of clove. To allow the beer flavor to shine through, I decided to forgo the cinnamon. Using a smaller sprinkling of topping also keeps the beer apples at center stage.
Soft, tender apple slices are swimming in beer syrup. The faint bitterness of the beer accentuates the sweetness of the apples. It's amazing the depth of flavor one can achieve with so few ingredients, you won't even miss the cinnamon. I loved how the beer flavor came through (unlike many beer-baked desserts) without overpowering the warm, sweet apples.
After an hour of soaking the apples had absorbed a fair amount of beer. I considered draining the remaining beer and turning it into a syrup to drizzle over the top, but decided to keep it ultra simple and pour the apples and beer straight into the baking dish. As a result, there was more liquid than your traditional apple crisp so I continued baking and baking, hoping to evaporate a bit more liquid. After an hour and a half (double my typical baking time) I was worried the apple would collapse into mush. Since I started with crisp apples that retain their shape, it worked out just fine.
I didn't mind the extra liquid in the pan, it was almost like beer flavored apple cider. But, there are a few things we could do in order to reduce the liquid and consequently shorten the baking time. The simplest option is to drain some of the beer before baking. If you're feeling adventurous, turn the excess into a beer syrup or beer caramel for drizzling over top. You could also leave the beer but add a thickener, I'd start by trying a little flour or tapioca. Or, just use a spoon.
Beer Apple Crisp
8 cups peeled, sliced cooking apples (I used Harlson)
1 (12 oz) bottle hefeweizen beer
1/2 cup quick oats
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
3 Tbsp flour
1 Tbsp butter
* In a 1-gallon resealable plastic bag combine apples and beer. Seal bag tightly before laying flat. Let apples soak 1 hour, flipping bag several times throughout.
*Meanwhile, in a small bowl combing quick oats, brown sugar and flour. Cut in butter; set aside.
*Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Open bag and remove 2 tsp of beer. Sprinkle over oat mixture and toss to combine.
* Transfer apples and beer to a 9-inch square baking dish. Evenly sprinkle oat topping over apples. Bake 1 hour and 30 minutes or until liquid is reduced, fruit is bubbling and topping is golden brown. (baking time can be reduced to 45-50 minutes if beer is drained as mentioned in post). Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
Food for Thought: "Do not stop thinking of life as an adventure. You have no security unless you can live bravely, excitingly, imaginatively; unless you can choose a challenge instead of competence." -Eleanor Roosevelt