Here in Northern California, we have many crisp summer nights. As perfect as the weather is almost every single day, sometimes it gets pretty chilly at night. In my house, crisp summer nights are one marker that it’s summer. The other one is when I start making fresh fruit crisps all the time.
Fruit crisps covered in a crunchy oatmeal brown sugar topping are really hard to resist for a mediocre pastry-maker like me. You enjoy the yummy flavor of fresh fruit pie filling covered in slightly melted vanilla ice cream with none of the stress of making pie dough. I know for some, making pie dough is relaxing (see a recent post by a fellow blogger Irene Saiger who writes Bamitbach) but for me, making dough is stressful because I’m not good at it (yet).
Crisp topping, on the other hand, is easy to assemble, can be made in large batches and kept on hand for your next over-zealous purchase of yummy summer fruit. Crisps are also ideal for the last minute summer gathering that needs a presentable dessert that won’t keep you slaving in the kitchen.
My go-to recipe for crisp topping is from Deborah Madison’s cookbook Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. Ok – for those that know me personally – and just fell off their chair because I have a vegetarian cookbook, get up off the floor and sit back down and finish reading this great post. Her cookbook is a must for anyone’s collection. I’ve barely scratched the surface of it but have found the dessert recipes worthy of ownership all by themselves, let alone the awesome side dish, pasta, and pizza recipes.
The topping recipe works on any combination of fruit.
Here’s Deborah Madison’s recipe:
6 tblsp butter, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
2/3 cup flour
1/2 cup rolled oats or chopped nuts (could use both and you can use quick cooking oats or regular)
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
1 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
Using your fingers or the paddle attachment of a mixer, work the butter with the rest of the ingredients so that each piece is coated and you have a coarse, crumbly mixture. Use it to cover a shallow gratin dish of sliced fruit.
In my opinion, the nutmeg is optional and the cinnamon is a must. Also, you can easily double or triple this recipe and keep the extra in the fridge or freezer for your next crisp. You can also use the topping for muffins or quick breads as an added touch on top. I also don’t dirty up a mixer. Just put it all in a bowl, put on two kitchen disposable latex gloves and mix it all together until the butter combines with the other ingredients and you get little pebble-shaped pieces.
As for the fruit – there are so many choices. Yesterday, I combined some nectarines and blackberries and raspberries. To the fruit, you generally add sugar and flour and toss. If the fruit is sweet, you can reduce the sugar. Deborah Madison suggests adding 1/2 cup sugar and 3 tblsp. flour to 2 pounds of peaches and 2 cups of berries. You can experiment with this part. A little more fruit, a little less sugar, a little less flour. It won’t matter that much. Some recipes will call for a little lemon juice or some orange zest. You can get creative with the fruit part. Like the flavor of almond? Used some nuts in the crisp topping? Add some almond extract. Deborah suggests many variations of fruit with minor variations in the ingredients but the basic filling uses some sugar and a little bit of flour for thickening – you can add your own creative touches if you like. By the way, if you use nectarines or peaches, you should remove the skin. It really was easy – make an X at the bottom then submerge for 10 seconds in boiling water. Let it cool briefly and pull the skin off.
Once the fruit is prepared, put it in either a square or rectangular glass baking dish or a gratin dish – just depends on how much fruit you have and how thick you want to make it. Spread the crisp topping over it and bake for about 45 minutes at 375 degrees or 350 convection for 35 or 40 minutes.
In my house, everyone likes the crisps I make but they are a particular favorite of my daughter’s. She had three girlfriends over last night and at least two of them said it was the best thing they’ve ever tasted (I’ll know my blog is doing well when they say without hesitation – this is OMG! Yummy). They couldn’t get seconds fast enough and literally, they were using their spoons and fingers to get every last drop out of the baking dish. I’d say that qualifies for an OMG! Yummy.
As for the crisp summer nights – not so much today. It’s 95 degrees. But I’m going to post this anyhow – this heat wave will pass soon. In the meantime, heat makes your fruit ripen that much quicker. You’ll need to use that fresh fruit up quickly…