The Infamous Hangzhou Hotel Apple Crisp

Things are afoot. Now that spring has suddenly sprung here in Shanghai, many of the winter worries that had been taxing my brain are starting to resolve themselves. I won’t go into them in great detail here- that’s what my other blog is for- but I wanted to note them because they represent a huge load off my mind.

Living where we do makes some things a lot more complicated. Take my under-employment, for example. One of the reasons why I started this blog was because I suddenly had a lot more free time when my original job kind of…um, changed last June. Luckily, my company kept me legally employed under my original contract. I still work, but less than before and with more flexible hours. You may not realize how amazing and rare this is.

To live here, you need to be legal here; to be legal here, you need a full time job that is able to sponsor you (or a Chinese spouse); to have a full time job frequently means working your ass off for a middling salary at a place that leaves you feeling miserable… just so you can legally be where you live. Taking a break is complicated; going part time or freelancing are nearly impossible; changing careers entirely is not even an option, as you need to prove you have at least 2 years’ experience to be sponsored. I was given the gift of one year’s worth of flexibility. That year is just about up.

As well, to live here generally means renting- unless you’re married to a local, which makes buying more feasible if you can actually afford the insane housing prices. The rental market here is not in favour of the renter, nor is it in favour of foreigners. Our lease expires at the end of May and our landlord of two years (who is lovely–a rarity here) was planning to sell the flat over the summer.

Thus, as you can see, I was facing a mad scramble not only to find a new job to be able to stay here legally beyond summer, but also had to start looking for an affordable flat in a decent neighbourhood that hopefully wasn’t a dozen steps down aesthetically from our current one. Rental prices here have been increasing 20% each year, and our current flat was already at the top of our budget. I was very stressed.

Last week, two amazing things happened: our landlord changed his mind and said we could have the flat another year, and I was unexpectedly headhunted for a rather promising job for the new school year.  Also, the sun finally came out.

Spring has sprung, the skyscrapers is riz

I could finally exhale.

This apple crisp represents the first thing I’ve made (aside from dinner) since things shifted. Hopefully, it is appropriately optimistic. It’s certainly delicious. I’ve made a few apple crisps over the past year with our toaster oven and this has been, by far, the best of the lot.

The apples were all pilfered from the hotel in Hangzhou where I go when I do get shipped off for work. They have the best apples I’ve ever eaten in China.

By the time I made this particular apple crisp, I had accumulated 5 hotel apples. The recipe calls for 10. I just halved it.

The notorious Hangzhou apples, accompanied by the world's largest ash tray and some fine propaganda


The Recipe (for a 9″ by 13″ pan)


The Base
  • 10 cups all-purpose apples, peeled, cored and sliced
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon groundcinnamon
  • 1/2 cup water


The Topping
  • 1 cup quick-cooking oats
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted


This recipe is for a 9″ by 13″ pan, apparently. I’ve got a brand new circular baking dish of indeterminate diameter (I really do need to buy a ruler or measuring tape at some point). I’d guess it’s about 10″ across but I could be totally wrong. Anyway, my 5 apples made 5 cups of sliced apple and everything fit perfectly into that pan.

Here are their directions, which are pleasantly concise.  I only made a few changes: I halved the recipe, except for the cinnamon and butter (because I love cinnamon and butter). I added a spoonful of vanilla, for fun. I used ginger-infused brown sugar in the topping because we were all out of regular brown sugar. Also, I added a squeeze of lemon to the apples as I peeled and sliced them, to keep them from turning brown.


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degree C).
  2. Place the sliced apples in a 9×13 inch pan. Mix the white sugar, 1 tablespoon flour and ground cinnamon together, and sprinkle over apples. Pour water evenly over all.
  3. Combine the oats, 1 cup flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda and melted butter together. Crumble evenly over the apple mixture.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for about 45 minutes.


And here is what I did.

A fine collection of hotel apples
Like water for chocolate, here is some lemon for apples (because I don't like browned apples)
The 5 apples fit perfectly in the pan

At this point, you mix together the white sugar, cinnamon and the little bit of flour. Pour it over the apples and mix it all around so they are nice and coated. Pour the water over it.

Now for the topping. 

I, um, accidentally forgot to halve the amount of butter I used in the topping, so this is the full 1/2 cup of melted butter. I cannot advise you to do otherwise: it was very good. Go with the butter.

I really need to put more melted butter in everything I make
Tons of lovely butter poured over oats and flour and ginger sugar
This is what the crumble topping looks like when you use twice as much butter than called for
This is what the mega-butter crumble topping looks like before baking
And this is the lovely, buttery thing after 45 minutes of baking. It smells gorgeous.
Eating apple crisp in bed with mood lighting is highly recommended


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  1. David says:

    That looks yummy! I would love to try out the recipe myself.

    On another note, I wish I have apples that are as good as the ones you used.
    David recently costumes onlineMy Profile

  2. Cacao says:

    Apple crisp is one of my favorite treats to make. I have a variety of fruit and berry trees and bushes and it’s a wonderful way to use them up. The sweet, crunchy goodness!

    I have a son who does ESL. He just left Shanghai last month and is now in Japan. What an adventure you must be having over there!
    Cacao recently posted..25 Famous People You Didn’t Know Were Also FarmersMy Profile

  3. Katja says:

    Oh my god. So apple crisp is basically apple crumble without all the faffy floury-buttery-rubbing-y bit of the process? I’m converted.
    Katja recently posted..The Pasquetta barbecueMy Profile

    1. MaryAnne says:

      Um, yup. And it’s GORGEOUS.

  4. TracyAnn0312 says:

    That taste delicious. Can I ask you what are the alternatives that I can use aside from apple because I am allergic to the fruit? Thanks for sharing wonderful recipe you have in your blog. I suddenly feel hungry after I looked at the photos you have.

    1. MaryAnne says:

      You can probably use pears or peaches in this one, if you can’t do apples. I’m sure the peach crisp would be gorgeous!

      1. TracyAnn0312 says:

        Hi Mary Anne! Thanks for sharing the alternative that I can use aside from apple. And you are right that peach crisp would be very gorgeous. Can’t wait to try, thanks for sharing it.

  5. WOW!!! It look so tempting, I want to try it right away. Just why did you have to suggest ask to add the double the amount of butter too?
    (How can I resist that?? I hope my personal trainer isnt reading this- he could strangle me with his bare hands for even thinking of trying out sinful desserts like these).
    Jokes apart, apples are highly versatile. You can use them in salads, in desserts, munch on them , have apple juice, make apple smoothies. The possibilities are endless.
    Could you please carry a feature on low fat desserts??
    Ambika Choudhary Mahajan recently posted..How to Get Rid of Teeth Stains at Home?My Profile

    1. MaryAnne says:

      Hi. Re: the butter… that was a mistake I made when I halved the recipe and forgot to halve the butter. It worked just fine so I wouldn’t discourage it if people wanted. As for low fat desserts, I rarely eat dessert and the odd time I do, I prefer it to be not a reduced-anything version… If I do make a low fat dessert it will be purely by chance.

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