I find that I use a lot more spice in my baking during the fall and winter months. This is partly because spices are so warming, and partly because you don’t quite get that same variety of fresh fruits that you do during the summer and spices are a good alternative when it comes to mixing up the flavors in a recipe. I like to drink chai tea on cold nights and often use the spicy flavors found in masala chai for inspiration when it comes to spice combinations. My Chai Snickerdoodles and Chai Spice Scones with Candied Ginger are just a few examples.
This Chai Spice Apple Crisp is a spiced up version of one of my fall favorites. Apple crisp is a dish that my grandfather used to bake for me every once in a while, and I still think of him when I make it – even if some of my newer variations don’t quite taste like the one he used to make! The topping is made with part all purpose flour and part oatmeal, which gives it a nice texture, and is flavored with a combination of brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cardamom and black pepper. They all come together for a flavor that is sweet and spicy at the same time.
I don’t do much with the apples in this recipe apart from tossing them with a little sugar before baking. Apples actually go very well with this spice combination, and I like to leave them with as much natural flavor as possible. I always work with a nice crisp pie apple, but you can really opt for any kind of apple that you like. If your apples are very sweet, you might not want to toss them in a bit of extra sugar, but if they have even a hint of tartness to it (and definitely if they’re very tart), I highly recommend it.
The crisp tastes delicious with vanilla ice cream when it is still warm from the oven, but leftovers are good even when they are reheated for breakfast – and I always set aside a little to have the next day.
Chai Spice Apple Crisp
2 1/2-3 lbs apples (4-5 large apples)
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup oatmeal, rolled oats or quick cooking
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/3 cup butter, melted and cooled
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Peel and core the apples, the cut them into relatively thin slices (12-16 per apple, depending on the size of the apple). Transfer the slices to a medium bowl and toss with 1/4 cup sugar.
In a large bowl, stir together flour, oatmeal and brown sugar until well combined and no lumps of brown sugar remain (break them up with a spatula, if necessary). Add in cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cardamom and black pepper and stir to incorporate.
Pour in melted butter, vanilla extract and almond extract and stir, with a spoon or spatula, until all the ingredients are well-blended and the mixture forms big, moist crumbles.
Transfer apple slices to a 9-inch square baking pan and arrange in a flat layer. Top evenly with crumble mixture.
Bake for 40 minutes, or until the apples are tender when poked with the tip of s sharp knife.
Allow to cool for at least 20 minutes before serving.