Apples with crumbly, buttery oat topping makes a delicious do-ahead...

Apples with crumbly, buttery oat topping makes a delicious do-ahead Thanksgiving dessert (November 2023) Credit: Marge Perry

Sure, you could wait until the day before Thanksgiving to make everything — who needs sleep, anyway? Or you could shut down life and work for a couple of days and focus everything on the big feast. (Who needs work, anyway?)

Or: Get a little done each day between now and the big day. So go ahead and plan a trip to the market and pick up 8 (or 16) apples and some oats. That’s it, assuming you’ve got butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg already on-hand.

Make the topping one day and the filling on another, if you like. I prefer to make a big (double or triple) batch of topping to keep in the freezer and have on hand for super-quick desserts when needed. This recipe makes a very generous amount of topping — because a lot of topping makes a crisp a whole lot better.

If you are bringing this to someone’s house for the holiday, be a thoughtful guest and make it in a disposable 9-inch pie plate that doesn’t require washing and returning. If you want it to look a little fancier, place the whole thing inside a nice pie dish, which you can take home at the end of the night, leaving your hosts with any leftovers.

To freeze the apple crisp, wrap it in two layers of plastic wrap, which helps prevent the air from getting to the food and preserves it better. I like to also add a layer of foil over the plastic as added protection

Make-ahead Apple Crisp


8 apples, peeled and cut in chunks (about 8 cups)

½ cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon nutmeg


1 cup flour

3/4 cup brown sugar

½ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon salt

8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold butter, cut in bits

1 cup old-fashioned oats

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Coat a 9-inch pie plate with cooking spray.

2. Toss the apples with the sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg.

3. Make the topping: combine the flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt in a bowl. Cut in the butter using your fingertips, two knives or a pastry cutter. Spend a little time to ensure the ingredients are evenly distributed and that you haven’t left big chunks of butter. It should look like damp sand. Stir in the oats.

4. Sprinkle the mixture over the filling and bake until you see the apple bubbling up the sides, about 25-30 minutes. (If the topping starts to brown too much, loosely drape the crisp with foil).

5. Allow to cool at least 15 minutes before serving, or bring to room temperature before wrapping and freezing.

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