Ex-Engineer Presents Comfort in an Apple Crisp

by Stephen Kopfinger
Lancaster Intelligencer Journal
and LancasterOnline.com

Jamie Shane likes to call herself a “hospitality engineer,” and it’s a title that suits her well. After all, Shane, 54, was engaged in an industrial engineering career for many years. Her husband, Steve, worked in ceramic engineering. And their son, Dylan, 19, is studying mechanical engineering at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

These days, Jamie and Steve run the Apple Bin Inn B&B, at 2835 Willow Street Pike in Willow Street. While engineering might sound clinical, Jamie Shane’s recipe for Apple Cranberry Crisp is anything but.  It’s cozy and comforting, with the taste of apples, cranberries and brown sugar. “This was one of my grandmother’s recipes,” Shane, a native of Newell, in southwestern Pennsylvania, says.  “She used to make it for Thanksgiving.  It’s a great dish, because it serves eight to 10 people.”

Shane notes that she learned to become a good cook – and baker – 14 years ago when she was diagnosed with diabetes. She still applies engineering discipline to her kitchen work.  “Being an engineer, I cook like an engineer,” she says. “A recipe is just a formula which you follow.”  But that does not mean cuisine should be intimidating. One of Shane’s most beloved sources is a laid-back 1997 cookbook titled “Desperation Dinners,” by Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross. Shane’s own copy is lovingly well-used, annotated with scribbled notes and little stickers to mark favorite recipes. Shane calls it “my bible.” The book is aimed at real people who have work and family obligations, and Shane can identify.  “I’m not the kind to spend three hours on a meal!” she says.  And you won’t spend a lot of time on this dessert, which is a good thing to know as Turkey Day approaches.

For the apple mixture:
4 large apples (a mix of sweet and tart)
1/3 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup fresh cranberries, or:
1/2 cup dried cranberries

For the topping:
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup quick cook oats
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Peel and thinly slice the apples. Mix the orange juice, cornstarch and sugar in a small bowl.
Pour over apples and toss well. Spoon a layer of apples in a 9 x 13-inch pan, sprinkle with half of the cranberries. Repeat.
In another bowl, combine the topping ingredients and mix until crumbly. Spoon on top of the apple mixture.
Bake until bubbly and golden brown, about 45 – 60 minutes.
Can be served hot or room temperature. Spoon carefully into bowls, keeping the crumbly topping on top. Top with whipped cream or side of vanilla ice cream.
Makes 8-10 servings.  Enjoy!