It is not easy living in the opposite hemisphere from most of the people I love. The weather is getting colder down here in Sydney and back home in Michigan my favorite season was autumn. This causes me to think of my family and my childhood and of the apple trees in my backyard. I always was happiest when the air had a slight bite to it and the leaves started turning colours. With my seasons turned upside down, I find myself in the middle of my favorite time of year with everything just a little bit off so I decided to make a recipe that reminded me very much of my mother, apple crisp. There is something about baked apples kissed with cinnamon on a cold and windy day that transports me back to another time and another place. I have to say that with my homemade caramel sauce, this version of apple crisp is even better than my rose-coloured memories.

Georgia O’Keeffe, Red Apple on a Blue Plate, 1922
Oil on canvas, 35.5 x 40.6 cm, Private Collection

Because I am homesick for my Michigan home I am featuring a still life by Georgia O’Keeffe, a fellow Midwesterner who was born in Wisconsin. O’Keeffe is primarily known for her union of abstraction and representation in her works of flowers, rocks, shells, and animal bones. Her flower still life paintings are usually of a single bloom that completely fills the canvas. The scale and composition of her paintings transform her subjects into interesting abstract images with strong lines and colour. Her painting above demonstrates her great technical skill in manipulating tonal variations and her tendency to use colour as emotion (1). There is an emphasis on shapes in her work and she admitted that in her mind she would carry around a shape until she could find the proper colour that would release the image to become a painting (2). Her art is a narrative of memories of things she has experienced or sensed from a pile of bones, found on a desert walk in New Mexico (her home later in her life). to a single apple, perhaps a reminder of an autumn day from her childhood in the Midwest.

Apple crisp is a dessert of baked apples with a crispy crust topping. It is known as apple crumble in the United Kingdom and is said to have originated in a New England hospital when a person wanted to make a pie with a different type of crust. The British version (apple crumble) originated during the rationing of WWII with the crumble portion made of butter, flour, and brown sugar. The earliest printed recipe is from 1924 found both in a cookbook and in a newspaper clipping from Appleton, Wisconsin (this was actually a surprise, I am rarely able to match the origin of the recipe to the state where the artist was born) (3).

{Apple Crisp with Caramel Sauce}

serves 6

1/2 c butter
5 apples, peeled, cored, and sliced into wedges
1 c sugar
2 tsp finely grated orange zest
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 c apricot preserves

1/4 c melted butter
1/3 c brown sugar
2/3 c oats
2/3 c plain flour
caramel sauce to drizzle (recipe below)

Heat the butter in a large pot and when melted add the apples, sugar, cinnamon, and orange zest. Cook the apples until they are soft, about five minutes. Remove the apples with a slotted spoon and transfer them to a baking dish. Continue to heat the remaining liquid bringing it to a boil with the apricot preserves. Once thickened drizzle over the apples in the dish.

Place all of the ingredients (except the caramel sauce) into a bowl and mix well until a crumbly consistency is achieved. Spread over the fruit and pat down.

Bake in a 180 degree C oven for about 25 minutes until the top is crisp and golden brown. Serve with ice cream, whipped cream, or custard.

{Carmel Sauce}

1/2 c thick cream
3 TB butter
3 TB corn syrup
1 1/2 c brown sugar

Combine ingredients in a small pot and bring to a boil. Stir for three minutes while boiling being careful not to let it burn. Serve warm drizzled over a cake or ice cream.