Monday, October 26, 2009

Apple Crumble Crisp

Can't you just smell the baked apples and cinnamon and taste that delicious, crunchy crumble?

UPDATE 1/28/10: Check out Mark's Daily Apple for his Definitive Guide to Dairy.  I briefly mention dairy at the end of this post, but I agree with Mark on individual preference through trial and error and only consume raw 100% grass-fed dairy if you do go down the dairy path.  

Sugar-slave to Sugar-free

I have been on a sugar-free kick for the past month since my self-intervention.  I had grown lax and with my baking trial and error I was eating more sweetened baked goods than I should.  It came to the point of "needing" chocolate every single night and rushing through dinner sometimes just to get to dessert.  I would buy a new bar at the store nearly every trip just in case I ever ran out.  When the day came that I bought two and started to eat them faster--more than just a couple rows a night, I began to notice a problem.  I also realized that I was on a sugar high that left my heart playing "la kookaracha."  I was having trouble sleeping and felt entirely too obsessed with sugar.  Too much of anything is never a good thing.  

So out with the chocolate.  I threw away the remainder of my snacking chocolate and started a new quest.  Trying to steer clear of even "natural" artificial sweeteners like honey and agave, I am experimenting with sweet fruits and veggies instead.  The results have been surprising and have changed my perception of sweetness from one that needs superfluous amounts of sugar to be deemed sweet, to one that can appreciate the inherent sweetness even in romaine leaves, which I now eat as a snack!  I think we would all be better off reclaiming our perceptions of the subtle natural sweetness of fruit and vegetables instead of relying upon sugar-concentrated sweeteners, even those as seemingly benign as honey and agave.  

What does this mean for my recipes?  I am using the sweetest natural products I can devise to substitute for sweeteners, and the results have surprised all of my taste testers (my husband and fellow CrossFitters).  But taste-test yourself and if you feel the pre-cooked product is not sweet enough, feel free to add a sweetener of your choice.  

Method to My Madness

Apple Crisp is a mountain of adversity to the paleo cook.  Traditionally, it consists of apples, butter, sugar, and flour.  When three of the four main ingredients need paleo substituting, this is a challenge.  For me, I first tackled the apples.  Instead of tart Granny Smiths, let's use a sweet variety to cut out some additional sweetener.  Makes sense.  Then, we need a fat substitute for butter to give it richness (why no butter? see the NOTE below the recipe).  I tried coconut oil, but the outcome was very coconut-y.  Instead, why not use a delicious nut oil, say walnut oil?  Sugar can be found in fruit, and since apples are our main ingredient, let's use apple juice, which is hellasweet on its own (I can't even drink undiluted juices anymore, they are just too sweet!).  Lastly, we have flour.  I tried almond flour, but the graininess of the crumble didn't do it for me.  Coconut flour is textured more like regular flour, so it is a great substitute, but it could use a little more texture, so I used pecan flour (made from roasting pecans and food processing them into flour--see recipe).  Pecans are a naturally sweet nut, so they can dual-task as a sweetener.  Finally, we need a crunchiness that brown sugar clusters usually deliver in the traditional recipes.  What are crunchy and hold up to baking?  Nuts!  Walnuts seemed a great choice to compliment the walnut oil (pecans tend to get a little soft anyway).  

So here is my take on apple crisp, finally, and my recommendations for tweaks to fit your taste!  Don't be afraid to experiment and explore cooking and baking.  Yes, baking is a science, but paleo baking is a virtually undiscovered country just waiting for us to explore!  And, usually, even our failures are damn tasty.  Take this recipe: it took me six scrumptious versions and left me with a delicious breakfast accompaniment to eggs and sausage for many mornings, as well as unfortunately two peeler injuries and a burn.  My husband jokes that I should wear a helmet when I am in the kitchen :)

Apple Crumble Crisp
This is quintessential autumn for me and the best result of apple picking!
Cooking Time: 1/2 hour or less to prepare, 45min baking time
Zone Blockage: let's just say this is a carb and fat dessert dish and leave it at that!  It probably isn't outrageous, though, just look at the ingredients!

1/2 c apple juice (make sure it is 100% juice!)
2 c roasted, chopped walnuts
1/2 c coconut flour
1 c pecan flour (roast raw pecans just like walnuts spread out on a baking sheet while you preheat the oven (watch carefully!  check often for golden browning!), then cool and food process into flour, but be careful not to over-process or you get pecan nut butter!)
1/4 t salt
4 t Ceylon cinnamon (use 2 teaspoons on the cut apples and 2 in the crumble)
about 1/2 nutmeg nut, grated fresh with a microplane
1 T vanilla
1/4 c walnut oil

Sweet apples, like Jonagold or Fuji, peeled, cored, and sliced about 1/4 in thick then cut in half, enough to fill a 9.5 x 13.5 pyrex baking dish most of the way up the sides 

Preheat the oven to 350.  Roast your nuts if you don't already have them from other cooking escapades.  Prepare the apples by peeling, coring, and slicing them.  Toss them into your baking dish and sprinkle on 2t of cinnamon.  Toss the apples slices in cinnamon to coat evenly.  At this point, you need to prepare your nuts by chopping the roasted walnuts (if you haven't already) and food processing your roasted pecans into nut flour (if you haven't already).  

Next, start on the crumble.  Add the 2t cinnamon, nutmeg, pecan flour, walnuts, and salt to a large bowl.  Mix well.  Then, add the wet ingredients: apple juice, vanilla, and walnut oil.  Mix well.  Now, we are going to get fancy and sift on the coconut flour.  If you don't have  sifter, try your best to sprinkle it on without allowing coconut flour balls to form.  Coconut flour is really resilient to mixing evenly--which you probably found out if you made my banana walnut muffins!  Mix well as you sift/sprinkle on the coconut flour to incorporate it evenly--despite its intentions.  At this point, you should have a crumbly, sticky "batter."  

Grab your baking dish filled with cinnamon apples and plop crumble batter over the top, getting even coverage.  Cover in tin foil and whack it in the oven until you see liquid at the bottom bubbling and the apples are a bit soft when pierced with a fork--about 30 minutes, but check at 20-25 minutes to be careful.  One of my batches was mush at 40min in, so check carefully and remember they are going to cook uncovered for a bit, so you don't want really soft apples yet.   Once bubbling, uncover and place back in the oven to allow the crumble to brown (read: NOT burn).  I looked for hardening and a more golden brown since it was all brown to begin with from the cinnamon and nuts.  It should take 10-15 minutes.  Check for browning and fork-tender apples.  

Once done, eat it while hot or reheat (microwave for 30 seconds to a minute depending upon glutinous quantity) to enjoy that warm, apple-y goodness!  And go ahead, indulge and brag to all your friends that this apple crisp is sans butter, sugar, and flour and sweetened only with apples and their juice!

NOTE: Why no butter?  Why no dairy?  Butter is a dairy product, which is a concentrated source of what cows eat plus all the other nourishment meant to help their babies grow.  Since most cows are eating grains like corn, dairy products from these cows are just concentrated grains and antibiotics, which are necessary to keep these cows alive since they are fed toxic grains (and we already know why we avoid grain).  If you can actually find 100% grass fed (NOT grain finished!), raw (the problems with pasteurization is a whole 'nother post) dairy products, then by all means enjoy them if you can tolerate them digestively and as long as you want to get big and strong like a cow.  Cow milk is meant for calves and goat milk is meant for kids, but NOT yours--theirs! (Baby goats are called kids).  Dairy products have growth hormones because they are baby food meant to nourish and help those babies grow big and strong.  Unless you want to grow big and strong and desire those concentrated grains to muck up your digestive system, you might want to avoid factory-farmed dairy products in your day to day meals.  Best bet?  Try going without dairy for at least a couple of weeks and then reintroduce it slowly.  Are you suddenly lactose intolerant?  Can you take some forms and not others?  Give it a try!  Your body is the best evidence for your nutritional journey.  


  1. It's great that you are living without any kind of sweetener, most people thin 'natural' means good, but often 'natural' is used wrongly and too much!
    I also live without sweeteners of any kind, and that doesn't mean giving up sweet food, just having it differently.
    Love your apple crisp recipe btw! Keep up the good work!

  2. Thanks, Rainy! I appreciate the feedback, and it is nice to know I am not alone in trying to find alternative, alternative sweeteners!

  3. I love the internet! I type in 'paleo apple crisp' and I get this morsel of delish! :9 Thanks!