An Apple Crisp from the Past

Apple and Prune Crisp 2 1794x1113“What’s old is new again!” That adage applies to theatre, design, and fashion, and certainly to food. Look at all those revivals making their way back to Broadway. (I adored Alan Cumming in the Roundabout’s latest production of Cabaret.) And, who could have foreseen that mid-century modern furniture would command such hefty prices today. (I naively discarded a late 40s chair that my parents had owned a few decades too early.) Oh, and those Audrey Hepburn-style dresses that abound in trendy shops everywhere were just as beloved when I was growing up. As a cook, I love to revive and tweak dishes from my past. That’s what I did several days ago when I pulled out a recipe for a delectable apple and prune crisp I first made more than 25 years ago.

Apple and Prune Crisp with Cheddar Cheese 4 1824x1368For this dessert diced apples and brandy-soaked prunes are baked under a crumbly cover of crushed walnuts, butter, sugar, and flour until the fruit mixture beneath is hot and juicy and the topping golden and crunchy. During the last few minutes of baking the crisp is sprinkled with cheddar cheese that melts and melds into the crust.

I made this dessert several times last week, first in its original form and then to reduce the sugar slightly. Both were delicious, but the latter with its more subtle sweet notes was my favorite and is featured here. I also garnished my latest version with some whipped cream scented with brandy used to soak the prunes—just a little more fine-tuning for my 21st century revival.


Recently, Helen Nichols who is editor in chief at Well-Being Secrets ( wrote me to ask if she could share this special apple crisp recipe with her readers and her Facebook followers.  She had recently completed an article for her site on the health benefits of apples and sent me the link so that I could share it with my readers. You’ll discover many ways that apples improve our health when you check out her story at
You know the saying, “An apple a day…….”


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Apple Crisp with Brandied Prunes

3/4 cup sugar, divided
1/2 cup brandy
1/2 cup water
1 cup pitted prunes, quartered
6 large apples, such as McIntosh or Granny Smith (about 3 pounds)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 tbsp red wine vinegar

3/ 4 cup flour
1/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
6 tbsp chilled butter, diced plus extra for the baking dish
1 1/4 cups coarsely chopped walnuts
1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

1 cup heavy or whipping cream
Fresh mint sprigs

1. Arrange a rack at the center position, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. F. Butter a 9- by 13-in baking dish.

2. Filling: Place 1/4 cup sugar, brandy and water in a medium saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat and add the quartered prunes. Let soak for 10 minutes. Then drain reserving 1 tablespoon of the liquid.

3. Peel, core, and cut apples into 1-inch cubes. Place them in a large bowl along with the prunes, remaining 1/2 cup sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and vinegar. Mix well. Spread the mixture evenly into the baking dish. (The crisp can be prepared up to 1 hour ahead to this point. Leave at room temperature.)

4. Topping: Combine the flour, light brown sugar, butter, and walnuts in a medium bowl.
Using your fingertips, rub the butter into the dry ingredients until mixture resembles pea-sized clumps. Then sprinkle evenly over the fruit.

5. Bake until the topping is golden and crisp, and fruit beneath tender when pierced with a sharp knife, 35 to 40 minutes. Retain oven temperature. Remove the dish from the oven and sprinkle cheese over the topping. Return to the oven to melt the cheese, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove and cool 5 minutes.

6. While the crisp is in the oven, beat the cream until soft peaks form. Add 1 tablespoon of the reserved brandy soaking liquid, and beat a few seconds more to incorporate.

7. Serve the warm crisp with generous dollops of brandied cream. If desired, garnish each serving with a mint sprig. Serves 6 to 8.

Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2014

9 thoughts on “An Apple Crisp from the Past

  1. Yum, that sounds like the perfect dessert tonight. It is trick or treat here in Columbus and the weather is cold and dreary! Thanks Betty, can’t wait to give it a try…..and Happy Halloween to you and your family!

  2. It’s easy to put together–just takes a few extra minutes to peel and dice the apples. I created this recipe long ago in Columbus–it was given to me by Tom Johnson, who taught at La Belle Pomme. I made a few changes, but it was his creative idea to pair the apples and bradied prunes! Hope you’ll enjoy it.

  3. Definitely making this one. I don’t like real sweet desserts and am not a big cake fan, preferring fruit tarts. This looks heavenly and I think I can even convince myself that with the prunes AND apples it’s “healthy” 🙂
    I don’t know how you come up with these clever recipes. The soup and casserole cookbooks are so creative. Now I see the same creativity in desserts! I’m doomed!

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