This is the cookbook for me.

I’m not much of a cook, and neither is graphic artist Mary Engelbreit, who is better known for her sugar-sweet illustrations. As she puts it: “If my family had to depend on me for food, they would starve to death in a really cute kitchen.”

It’s not that bad at my house, but my kids were delighted – and maybe a hair shocked – to come home to the wonderful cinnamon apple smells wafting from my Autumn Apple Crisp, a recipe I’d plucked from the pages of Engelbreit’s “Fan Fare Cookbook: 120 Dessert Favorites.”

It’s the fifth cookbook from Engelbreit, and her second dessert cookbook. Given her penchant for the pen, not the pie pan, she gratefully thanks the “family, friends and fans” who submitted each of the recipes.

Her charming, whimsical drawings are sprinkled throughout the book, and the recipes pair simple and easy-to-follow directions with a quote from the cook, usually telling the story of how the recipe came to be handed down, or what makes the dessert special to that person.

“I got this recipe from my pastor’s wife while living in Mexico doing mission work,” writes the author of a recipe for flan. “This recipe was given to me by a lovely young Navy wife who worked with me at the public library. She also played the oboe!” writes another cook.


After leafing through it to linger – ah! The illustration of the Traditional Sicilian Christmas Cookies on the festive Christmas plate, a steaming hot cocoa in matching cup beside it! – I settled on the crisp, to take advantage of our Maine apple harvest season.

Five medium Cortland apples in hand, picked from right up the road, I found even I could breeze through this classic dessert. The ingredients are all at hand, and the acts of peeling the apples, mixing the cinnamon and sugar, and enjoying the smell of the baking apples all seemed to infuse the atmosphere of my not-so-cute kitchen with the perfect welcome to fall, with the final piping-hot crisp a worthy culinary homage to Engelbreit’s meringue illustrations.

I have no idea how the crisp holds up in the refrigerator, since our family of five managed to finish it off in one sitting. I’d make this again – maybe add cranberries for bite? – and try out other desserts, if I could just keep the cookbook in the kitchen. My 7-year-old keeps sneaking it off to her bedroom, to flip through the pages and dream.



Carrie Bachand of Superior, Wisconsin, says this comfort-food dessert is so good her houseguests request it the next day for breakfast.


11/4 cups sugar

13/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

5 medium apples, peeled and sliced

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt


1/2 cup cold butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

Vanilla ice cream or cinnamon whipped topping, for serving

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease an 8-inch square or 9-inch square baking pan. Mix 1/4 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon in a large bowl. Add the apples and toss to combine. Spread in the prepared pan.

In a small bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, salt and remaining 1 cup sugar. Cut in the butter to form a crumbly mixture. Sprinkle over the apples and press down slightly.

Slowly pour 3/4 cup water over all. Sprinkle the remaining 3/4 teaspoon of cinnamon over the top. Bake, uncovered, for 40 to 45 minutes, until the apples are tender and the topping is golden.

Serve warm with ice cream or cinnamon whipped topping.

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