The holiday season is usually filled with calorie-laden sweets but you don't have to sacrifice flavor to make a lighter, nutritious dessert that your whole family will love. Traditional fruit crisps (or crumbles as they're called in the UK) are relatively simple to make and they're a great way to take advantage of fruit that's in season.
Fruit crisps are hard to resist- who doesn't love a dessert of warm baked fruit topped with a crumbly, streusel-like topping? The problem is that most fruit crisps are loaded with sugar and have a lot of saturated fat from butter- many recipes call for a half cup of butter in the crumbly topping! So I set out to perform a recipe resuscitation- create a lighter, healthier version of a traditional crisp that would be better for you and still be delicious enough to devour. Here are the reasons why my recipe for Apple Cranberry Crisp is better for you than most others:
1. White whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose flour. It's no secret that whole grain products such as whole wheat flour are better for you than refined grain products such as all-purpose flour, white bread and white pasta. In fact, the 2010 USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that at least half of all the grains you consume should be whole grains.1 Whole grains have high amounts of fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Refined grains, on the other hand, are milled, a process that strips away the most nutritious parts of the grain. The refining process results in a product with a lighter texture and longer shelf life but significantly less fiber and nutrients.
So what is white whole wheat flour? It's a whole grain product that has all of the nutritional benefits of traditional whole wheat but with a lighter color and milder taste. Most whole wheat products in this country are made from red wheat but white whole wheat flour is milled from milder white wheat. While many other countries like Australia have been principally growing white wheat for many decades, the US only started growing it in the 1970s and 1980s. White wheat is lighter in color and does not contain the strongly-flavored phenolic compounds that are in red wheat that give it a slightly bitter taste. White whole wheat flour also bakes lighter in texture than traditional whole wheat products. Basically, it has all of the same nutritional benefits as traditional whole wheat flour but looks and tastes more like all-purpose flour- a great way to incorporate healthy whole grains into your diet!
2. Higher fruit to topping ratio. Apples are great for you so pile them in! Apples and cranberries are both fat and cholesterol-free and provide fiber, Vitamin C and other antioxidants. Apples are also a good source of B-complex vitamins and contain several minerals like potassium,magnesium and calcium. To get an even greater nutritional benefit, leave the skin on.
3. A lot less sugar. This dessert is all about the fruit so let it shine. I find that many fruit crisp recipes use too much sugar in the filling. If you use fruit in its peak season, like apples at this time of year, you won't need to add too much additional sugar. And incorporating dried cranberries adds natural sweetness. Also, I use maple syrup in my recipe instead of refined sugar. Although maple syrup is still a sugar, because it is unrefined it has more minerals and antioxidants than refined sugar.2 Plus, it adds a nice rich flavor.
4. A lot less butter. Some traditional crisp recipes call for enormous amounts of butter but you can still have a crumbly topping while slashing calories and saturated fat. In my recipe, I cut down the amount of butter to 2 tablespoons and mix in 2 tablespoons of canola oil. Canola oil is still a fat but I'm replacing the saturated fat found in butter with heart healthy polyunsaturated fats.
5. Heart healthy walnuts. Using chopped walnuts in the topping adds a rich nutty flavor as well as providing heart healthy fats, protein, fiber and other nutrients. To learn all about the nutritional benefits of nuts, see my post from 12/14/11.
So this holiday season, serve my nutritious Apple Cranberry Crisp at your dinner table. Not only will your guests love it, your house will smell wonderful while it bakes in the oven! If you can’t find white whole wheat flour (which can be found at specialty food stores such as Whole Foods), try substituting a mixture of all-purpose and whole wheat flour. Also, be careful when you’re buying dried cranberries as many brands have a lot of added sugar. Although they pack a nutritional punch, they are relatively high in calories so eat them in moderation.
Apple Cranberry Crisp
Makes 12 servings
3 lbs. (5-6) baking apples such as Fuji, Honey Crisp, Jonagold or Granny Smith, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch pieces (about 9 cups diced)
3/4 cup natural dried cranberries
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3 tablespoons white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
1/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/4 cup light brown sugar (lightly packed)
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of kosher salt
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons canola oil
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Spray a 9-inch round pie pan with nonstick cooking spray. Toss all of the filling ingredients together in a large bowl. Pour the contents of the bowl into the pie pan.
Place all of the topping ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until the butter is incorporated and the mixture is crumbly. Alternatively, this can be done in a large bowl with a pastry blender, fork or your fingers.
Spread the topping evenly over the filling all the way to the edges of the pan. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and place the pan on a baking sheet. Alternatively, you can divide the filling and topping into individual ramekins. Bake for 30 minutes covered, then uncover and bake another 30 minutes until the topping is golden brown and filling is bubbling. Remove from oven and cool 10-15 minutes before serving. Serve with reduced fat ice cream or whipped cream, if desired.
1 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/dgas2010-policydocument.htm
2 Phillips KM, Carlsen MH et al. Total Antioxidant Content of Alternatives to Refined Sugar. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2009; 109(1) 64-71.