Frangipane-Topped Apple “Crisp”

I like a fruit crisp as much as anyone, but it’s been a long time since I’ve eaten a really good fruit crisp.  It’s not as simple as its rustic, casual appearance might imply.  The fruit to crisp topping ratio has to be just right, and the fruit has to be tender, but not mushy, and the crisp has to be crisp and not soggy.  A really good fruit crisp is a celebration of seasonal flavor, with texture to match.  When I set out to showcase these lovely organic Honey Crisp apples, I thought about an apple crisp.  Then I remembered this recipe:  apples mixed with dried fruit and rum and baked under a topping of frangipane.  The frangipane (a combination of butter, sugar, ground almonds, crushed amaretti cookies, and beaten egg) serves to replace the standard “crisp” topping, and with the most delicious result.  As the almond-rich batter bakes it puffs and browns, transforming into a light but toothsome topping reminiscent of almond croissants.  The apples are sweetened with sugar, spiked with rum, and dried cherries and golden raisins add a little texture to the mix.  I like to think of it as a refined version of an apple crisp.  And, as with most fruit crisps, this one benefits from a scoop of ice cream; in my case rum-raisin, but vanilla would be very good too.

Frangipane-Topped Apple “Crisp”
(serves 4 to 6)
1/3 cup mixed dried sour cherries and golden raisins
4 tablespoons dark rum
4 large apples, peeled, quartered, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch slices (about 2 1/4 pounds)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 to 2/3 cup granulated sugar (adjust this to the tartness of the apples you use)
1 tablespoon apple cider
1/2 cup crushed amaretti cookies
1/2 cup ground almonds
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar, plus more for dusting
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 large egg, beaten
1/3 cup sliced almonds
Ice cream, for serving
Preheat the oven to 375°F.  Put the dried fruit in a small bowl and add 2 tablespoons of the rum.  Set aside.  Put the apples and 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large, wide saute pan set over medium-low heat.  Stew for 2 minutes, then gently stir in the granulated sugar (use the larger amount if your apples are very tart) and cider and continue cooking until the apples are tender-crisp, about 3 to 5 more minutes.  Transfer the apples to a large, shallow bowl or rimmed baking sheet to cool them as quickly as possible.  Add the raisins, cherries, and the remaining 2 tablespoons of rum to the hot apples, stir, and set aside to cool.  In a small bowl, stir together the remaining 3 tablespoons of the soft butter, the crushed cookies, ground almonds, 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar, cornstarch, and egg.  You will have a rather thick batter.  Butter a 9-inch, deep-dish pie plate or similar ceramic baking dish that can be brought to the table.  If the apples have exuded a lot of liquid, scoop them and the dried fruit into the prepared baking dish with a slotted spoon.  Drizzle a generous 1/4 cup of the apple liquid over the fruit and smooth the surface, lightly packing them.  Dollop the almond batter over the apples in large spoonfuls, then carefully spread it to cover the apples.  Don’t worry if it seems thin, it will puff up as it bakes.  Scatter the sliced almonds on top, and bake until golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let cool until just warm.  Dust the top of the dessert with confectioner’s sugar just before serving.  Top each portion with a scoop of rum-raisin or vanilla ice cream.
(slightly adapted from Alfred Portale’s “Apple Frangipane with Dried Cherries, Raisins, and Rum”, in “Simple Pleasures”)  



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