When local apples (usually from Carlson Orchards in Harvard, Mass.) start arriving on the Island, it’s time to make apple crisp. Everybody needs a go-to recipe for this classic American dessert, and this is mine, though there is room for variation within it.

I like to use a combination of tart-sweet apples with a firm texture. Honeycrisp, Jonagold, Braeburn and Pink Lady are favorites. It’s okay to put some tender apples (like McIntosh, Cortland or Empire) in the mix that are going to soften up quite a bit, but don’t use too many. Use more than one kind of apple for the most interest.

I like to use slices of apple rather than chunks. After peeling an apple, I stand it up on the cutting board and cut each of its four sides off, leaving just the core to discard. I turn each of those four pieces cut-side down on the cutting board, slice each in half in one direction and then slice each piece crosswise into slices about 3/8 inch thick.

To thicken the apple juices in the filling, I toss the apples with a bit of flour, usually about 3 tablespoons but sometimes a little less. You can see what you think on your first go. I’m also sticking with cinnamon here but of course you could vary or increase the spices. You could add more sugar to the filling if you like, too, but too much and you’ll lose the nuances of the apple flavors.

I think you’ll like the topping just the way it is – buttery and crunchy.

Don’t forget to have vanilla ice cream on hand to serve with the crisp!

Serves 6

For the topping

  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, more for baking dish
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup old fashioned oats
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon


For the filling

  • 7 cups thickly sliced peeled apples (from about 4 large apples, or 2 pounds)
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ¾ to 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Vanilla ice cream


1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Rub a shallow 2-quart baking dish with a little butter.

2. Combine all the topping ingredients in a mixing bowl. Use your fingers to mix together until the mixture is well-combined and forms clumps. Refrigerate or freeze until ready to use. 

3. In a large bowl, combine the filling ingredients and mix thoroughly. Arrange the filling mixture in the baking dish and pat down so that the apples are distributed well. Cover the top with the crisp mixture, spreading it out evenly. 

4. Bake the crisp until the topping is firm and golden and the apples feel somewhat tender when poked with a knife, about 50 minutes. Let cool for 10 to 15 minutes and serve warm with vanilla ice cream.