Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and after 3 straight years of late November and early December law school exams putting a celebratory restraint on this national holiday of excessive cooking, drinking, and feasting, I’m making the most of it this year.
This weekend, I attended my second Friendsgiving dinner for the month and celebrated even more jubilantly thanks to receiving the very relieving news that I passed the California bar exam (little yay; BIG SIGH). And now, mere days before actual Turkey Day, I broke my usual week-of-Thanksgiving rule of not eating any remotely American food before the big day.
I have no defense. I’ve been sick, sitting in pajamas and slurping on soup and sipping up tea all day for six days straight. I needed a change. I needed some crunch. I needed to use up the rest of the 1-pound bag of pretzel sticks I’ve been munching on since last Wednesday. And, because I’ve been almost entirely without energy, I needed a super easy, slap-it-together, stick-it-in-the-oven-and-let-it-do-its-thing answer.
So after 5 minutes of prep and 12 minutes of lounging on the couch while it baked, my spoon dove through the crunchy, crumbly, cinnamony brown sugar and pretzel topping into a ramekin full of warm, gooey apples, and I forgot all about that silly little pre-Thanksgiving rule of mine. It’s an arbitrary rule anyway, especially where apple crumble is concerned, as I would willingly fall victim to almost anything in the baked apple category every day of every week.
Let me assure you that the filling of this crumble ain’t no shrinking violet, as it has a strong, delightfully tart, slightly sweet apple flavor that is enhanced by a squirt of lime juice and a warming sprinkle ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. It stands up wonderfully to the salty-sweet topping, which is a gem on its own. Pretzels add a crunchy contrast to the mushy apples, while their saltiness brings out the sweetness of the buttery brown sugar that has caramelized while baking. In fact, in a world where I’ve used graham crackers and chocolate cookies quite often in pie crusts and crumble toppings, I can’t imagine why I never thought to use pretzels until now. So give thanks that I’ve been sick these past few days because I am not sure what else would have induced me to buy a 1-pound bag of pretzel sticks to munch on all by myself except the delicate taste buds of illness. Note to self: stop underestimating the genius of using pretzels in baked goods, as they are clearly delicious in both crumble toppings and cookies; just imagine what other baked delights they can bring some extra “oomph” to!!
Anyhow, my waistband, those having more intimate Thanksgiving meals this year, and those who bake this in the future on an average work night can also give thanks because, as it’s not quite Thanksgiving yet, I wrote this recipe for two individual-sized ramekins and was kind enough to save one for Jay, although you can certainly grab 6 to 8 Granny Smiths and quintuple the rest of the recipe if you’d like to bake it in a standard 9-inch pan for the real Turkey Day this Thursday. But if you do make it full-sized, be sure to bake it a tad longer, about 25 minutes, until the apples are bubbling.
Apple Crumble with Cinnamon, Brown Sugar and Pretzel Topping
Makes 2 individual-sized ramekins (or multiply by 5 or 6 for a 9×9-inch pan to serve a crowd)
To make this vegan, use 1 Tbsp. light and fruity olive oil in lieu of the butter.
1/4 c. pretzel sticks, coarsely chopped
3 Tbsp. flour, divided
1 Tbsp. brown sugar, packed
1 to 2 Tbsp. butter, room temperature
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/4 c. green apples (about 1 large apple), halved, then sliced, then slices halved lengthwise so they fit in ramekins
2 Tbsp. white sugar
2 tsp. lime juice (1/2 lime for me)
dash of nutmeg
dash of ground ginger
dash of ground cloves
Preheat oven to 400F. Lightly butter the inside of the ramekins.
Prepare topping by mixing chopped pretzel sticks (I pounded whole sticks in a plastic bag with the bottom of a metal water bottle), 2 Tbsp. flour, brown sugar, butter, and cinnamon in small bowl until combined.
In separate bowl, toss apple slices with white sugar, lime juice, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and remaining 1 Tbsp. flour until slices are well coated.
Arrange apple slices in the two ramekins, trying to keep the slices flat and evenly layered. Pour any remaining mixture from the bowl over the top of each ramekin. Carefully, spoon the pretzel topping over the apple slices in each ramekin, evenly covering them. Pack the topping down as needed. Bake ramekins on a baking sheet for 12 to 15 minutes, until topping is very lightly browned and you can hear the apple filling bubbling. Remove from oven, and let cool 5 minutes. Dig in with a spoon.