The apples and cranberries release tons of juices when cooking. When those juices mix with the sugars and flour, they thicken up to make a creamy, custard-like filling that can only be made better with the crispy, crunchy topping of brown sugar and cinnamon. Oh and don’t forget the ice cream on top!
Before you get to baking, here are a few tips that will help you along the way:
- Make sure to slice the apples, not dice them. I think it makes for a better balance of the apple to cranberry ratio when you serve it.
- You can use either frozen or fresh cranberries. Do not use dried cranberries. You won’t get any juices from those and thus no thick, custard-like filling. It will be dry and boring. Yuck!
- Let the crumb mixture chill in the fridge for at least 10 minutes so it can harden up. I like to do this step before I core and peel the apples so it has plenty of time to chill. If the crumb mixture doesn’t get a chance to chill, it will melt into one big crust when it’s baked.
- I recommend granny smith apples for this crumble since they hold their texture very well. Other apples with too much water will get mushy and won’t taste so great. So do your research if you want to use another kind of apple to make sure they will hold up well when cooked.
For the filling:
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon orange zest
- 3 lbs granny smith apples cored, peeled, and sliced
- 2 cups whole cranberries fresh or frozen
- vanilla ice cream (optional, for serving)
For crumble topping:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9×13 baking dish (or equivalent capacity) with butter or cooking spray.
Mix sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt together in a medium bowl with a spoon or spatula. Add melted butter and combine. Add flour, 1/3 cup at a time until all combined. The mixture will resemble a paste. Don’t worry, we will make it look like crumbs after it chills. Place in refrigerator to chill until you need it.
For the filling and assembly:
Add flour, sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg and orange zest to a large bowl. Stir or whisk so the mixture is combined. Add apples and cranberries. Toss with a large spoon so that they are evenly coated in the mixture. Place into greased baking dish.
Grab chilled crumb mixture from the refrigerator. Scoop a handful of the mixture from the bowl. Using both hands, crumble mixture evenly over the apple-cranberry mixture. Crumbs should be the size of peas but don’t worry if they are some bigger and smaller than that. The topping actually looks better when the size of the crumbs are uneven. Repeat with the rest of the mixture.
Let mixture cool for 10 minutes. Scoop into dessert bowls or small plates and top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream (if desired). Store leftovers in refrigerator for up to 4 days.