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Take Your Pick

October 4, 2010

By Lauren Johnson

While bike riding a few weeks ago, I made a very fortunate discovery of a little local pick-your-own apple orchard situated not more than a 20-minute bike ride from my house.  Parking my bike next to a big red tractor, I spoke with the orchard owner, who instructed me which apples were ready for picking and sent me off with a long aluminum telescopic apple picker. I walked from tree to tree, picking apple after juicy apple as I shared the field with a flock of beautiful roaming Rhode Island Reds that scratched and pecked about at the fallen fruit.

Ten pounds of apples later (which somehow all managed to fit comfortably in my backpack), I imagined the delicious fall treat I’d make with them as I biked (albeit a bit slower) back home.
And with the fruit from my labor came this delicious version of the classic apple crisp.

Spiced Apple Crisp with Maple-Cardamom Greek Frozen Yogurt

6-7 Medium to large apples (I used a mix of Macintosh, Granny Smith, and Red Delicious).

1 ½ cups organic all purpose flour

1 ½ cups organic rolled oats

¾ cup of organic dark brown sugar

½ stick salted butter

¼ cup pure maple syrup

4 Cardamom pods (or, approx. 2 teaspoons ground)

2 teaspoons of salt

1 cinnamon stick for grating (or 1 – 1 ½  teaspoons pre-grated cinnamon).

1 tsp vanilla extract

½ cup of toasted English walnuts (optional)

1 container of Greek yogurt (you can use low fat or fat free)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Peel, core, and slice the apples lengthwise so they’re about and 1/8th of an inch thick, and put in a round glass pie dish or a 10’’ x 10’’ glass baking pan.  Pour 3 tablespoons of water over the apples and set aside (the water will help steam the apples and cook faster).

Crush the English walnuts using the back of a large wooden spoon and toast them (you can put them in the pre-heated oven for 5-7 minutes until golden or toast them on the medium dark setting of a conventional toaster oven).

In a large bowl, combine the flour, oats, salt, and dark brown sugar and set aside.  Grate cinnamon (I used the finest side on a regular cheese grater) using downward strokes until you have about 1-1 ½  tsps.  To open the cardamom pods, place them on a cutting board and press on them firmly with the back of a spoon.  Remove the seeds and grind them in a small mortar and pestle, and add to the dry mixture.

In a small saucepan, heat the butter until completely melted.  Add the ¼ c. maple syrup and vanilla extract.  Pour this over the dry mixture and stir completely.  Mix in the toasted walnuts.

Spread the mixture over the apples and pack it down using the back of a wooden spoon (you can do this by hand, which I find easier to do to control the topping and avoid spilling any over the edges).  Make sure the topping is evenly dispersed and covering all the apples.

Put the crisp in the oven and bake for about an hour, or until the topping is golden brown, and/or you can insert a knife into the center to be sure the apples are soft and cooked thoroughly.

While the crisp is cooking, open one more cardamom pod and crush it in the mortar and pestle as before.  Add this to the container of Greek yogurt, along with about 2 tablespoons of maple syrup and a small pinch of salt.  Stir thoroughly, cover the container with foil (or replace its lid) and put in the freezer.  I found that Greek yogurt takes a much shorter time to freeze than regular yogurt.  This will depend on how cold your freezer is – for mine, it took about 40-60 minutes to achieve a good frozen consistency (softy frozen, and not rock hard).   Check on the yogurt after 30 minutes.  If it’s beginning to crystallize, give it a stir and put it back in the freezer for another 15-20 minutes.  Once it achieves a thicker freeze but is still soft and spoonable, your apple crisp is ready to be topped and enjoyed.

* Side note: I love grinding spices fresh – the flavors seem much bolder and true (similarly with coffee – grinding it fresh right before brewing seems infinitely more tasty to me).  I recommend it!

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