I cycle through various baking obsessions from time to time. I’m in the beginning of one with cast iron skillets. I had a gift card to Sur la Table that I’d received last Christmas begging to be spent. I already knew I needed espresso powder for the Mocha Cream Cheese Brownies but there was still room on my gift card so I wandered the aisles to see what would catch my fancy.
What caught my eye, as always, was the “made in the USA” label. I’m a big believer in buying “local,” including buying US-made goods as much as possible. It isn’t always easy or readily available and is often more expensive but I’d rather buy less to make up the price difference if I can buy USA-made. Fortunately, cast iron pans are often made in the US and they’re reasonably priced. I bought this one at Sur la Table for $11.95 and found the same one on amazon for $8.49 and at Target for $7.99. I already had an 8” cast iron skillet, also made in the USA, but I wanted the smaller one for dessert size.
I haven’t done a lot of skillet cooking or baking but that’s not to say I couldn’t start. And start I did with making up this Skillet Apple Crumble. I had a lone Granny Smith hanging out in my refrigerator and I got the bright idea of making myself an apple cobbler. At first I had in mind making it more like a skillet apple pie with a real pie crust on top. But as I put this together, I changed my mind and reverted back to the crumble idea.
I made up this recipe, also something I don’t often do as I’m more of a follower of recipes than a creator of them. But, really, it’s hard to go wrong with an apple cobbler or crumble; it’s a very forgiving dessert. The cast iron skillet was perfect for this one because I softened/semi-caramelized the apples in the skillet directly with a little butter, sprinkled on some nutmeg and cinnamon (from Penzey’s, naturally) and a little sprinkle of brown sugar. Let it cook to semi-soft state, add a few dollops of salted caramel, then cover with the crumb mixture.
The crumb mixture I also made up from cobbling – haha – together bits from past recipes. Some flour, a little brown sugar, granulated sugar, generous dashes of nutmeg and cinnamon, melted butter and a little milk to hold it together in biggish crumbs. Cover the apples entirely with the crumb mixture then put the whole thing into the oven to bake.
It might go without saying but I’ll say it anyway for any other cast iron skillet novices: Make sure you’re using a potholder to touch the skillet handle with, even when it’s on the stove and before you put it in the oven (and after as well, of course). The heat from the stovetop fires up the whole skillet, including the handle so it’ll burn your unprotected hand. I might have some firsthand knowledge of that ... just sayin’.
This turned out really well as my first skillet dessert creation. The Granny Smith apple was tart and I hadn’t used enough sugar in the apples themselves to tone down the tartness but the crumb topping and the salted caramel dollops made it a perfect complementary combination. The topping also crisped up so it provided a terrific contrast to the softness of the apples. Of course, there’s no point having warm apple crumble without a scoop of vanilla ice cream (to everyone except my brother-in-law who thinks combining flavors and textures is a travesty) so that also went well to provide a cool contrast to the warm cobbler.
In the picture, you’ll see I put the ice cream off center. That’s because I knew I was only going to eat, at most, one half of the cobbler. While a 6” skillet is a nice size, it’s mostly a nice size for two and is more than one serving for someone who still wants to fit into her existing clothes. The only downside to the skillet is it isn’t microwavable so when I went back for the second half of the cobbler the next day, I ate it at room temperature. Turns out it wasn’t bad that way either, although I did forego the ice cream that time around. First world problems abound. Look for further cast iron skillet obsessing to come.
Skillet apple crumble for two
1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled and sliced
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons brown sugar or 2 tablespoons salted caramel
For the topping:
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons milk
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Using a 6" cast iron skillet, melt butter over low heat and add apple slices. Sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg then brown sugar if using, stirring gently until sugar has melted. If using salted caramel, cook apples until slightly softened then dollop caramel over apples.
3. Topping: Combine melted butter, flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Mixture will be crumbly with loose flour. Dribble in milk, a little at a time, until mixture gathers together in crumbly pieces and there's only minimal loose flour.
4. Sprinkle topping mixture over apple, covering apples completely. Bake for 20 minutes or until apples are soft and topping is golden brown.
5. Remove from heat and cool for several minutes. Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.