Food

Crisps - Dessert of the Season

Canadian Living
Food

Crisps - Dessert of the Season

  [caption id="attachment_628" align="alignleft" width="450" caption="Almost any early fall fruit or fruit combo makes a fine crisp - ideal for entertaining."]Almost any early fall fruit or fruit combo makes a fine crisp - ideal for entertaining.[/caption]     Every once in a while I get a desire for a certain dish.With cool nights and the first golden leaves falling to the sidewalk, my hungry thoughts turn to deep-dish crusty-topped fruit crisps. Kind of fruit is optional - I could never choose one I think is the best - it's a choice based on what's in season at the market -  in my fridge or on the counter. It was with crisps on my mind when I was planning a shower to honour the daughter, Jennifer and new granddaughter, Lily, of my friend Sandy Hall. (She is the home economist who was so much part of my early cookbooks and recipe testing.) There were to be a dozen around the table for dinner last week and a crisp for dessert just fell naturally into place. This dessert meets all the criteria of an entertaining dish - you can make it ahead. Simple - a crisp is simplicity itself - no complicated steps or sauces to worry about when you're making the appetizers and mains.  But what's most important is the taste. Even though humble, a crisp never fails to charm guests. People scrape their bowls, then look up, signalling that seconds wouldn't be out of the question. Good vanilla ice cream is de rigueur. The crisp recipe I use as a guideline comes from The Complete Canadian Living Baking Book, published last year by Transcontinental Books and now in its second printing. I treat the recipe as a template, with substitutions an ongoing option for the filling. What's divine about this recipe is the topping. This is not a crumble with rolled oats, sugar, butter and flour forming soft layer over the fruit. A real crisp has plenty of the soft butter, sugar and flour mixture to create a crunchy roof over the fruit.  Pear and Cranberry Crisp With lovely looking Bartlett pears at the market, this crisp is right in season. Since pears are always harvested green and hard, it's wise to buy them ahead of time and let them ripen in a single layer at room temperature. Pears will need 4 to 5 days to change from green to gold and soften enough to give to a light pressure at the base. Bartlett pears particularly will become maddenly fragrant. Be sure you can stand the temptation. A wise baker buys an extra pear, to satisfy that desire for a fresh pear out of hand, or in case the usual calculation - 1 large pear = 1 cup (250 mL) peeled, cored and sliced pears, falls a bit short.  6 cups (1.5 L) sliced peeled and cored pears 2 cups (500 mL) fresh or frozen cranberries, halved 1/4 cup (50 mL) liquid honey 1 tbsp (15 mL) fresh lemon juice 2 tbsp (30 mL) all-purpose flour Crisp Topping: 1 cup (250 mL) all-purpose flour 3/4 cup (175 mL) packed brown sugar 1/2 cup (125 mL) butter, softened 1/3 cup (75 mL) slivered almonds, optional . Grease an 8-inch (2 L) squared glass baking dish or other shallow heatproof baking dish with the same capacity; set aside. . In a large bowl, toss together the pears, cranberries, honey and lemon juice. Sprinkle the surface with flour; toss to coat the fruit evenly. . Scrape the pear mixture evenly into the prepared baking dish; set aside. . Crisp Topping: In a separate bowl, blend the flour and brown sugar. Using a fork, mash in the butter until the topping is crumbly. Stir in the almonds, if using. Sprinkle evenly over the pear mixture. . Bake on a rimmed baking sheet in the centre of a 350°F (180°C) oven until topping is golden brown, pears translucent and the filling bubbling up around the edges, about 1 hour. . Set on a rack to cool enough to serve, about 45 minutes. (Make-ahead: Let cool completely. Set aside for up to 8 hours. Reheat gently before serving.)  . Makes 6 servings.  Apple Crisp A Canadian classic. The early crop apples available at the market tend to be ones that break down and become saucy in a crisp. By all means, if you like this kind of crisp, go for these harbingers of the Canadian apple harvest. Cortlands, then Golden Delicious and finally Northern Spy are my picks for crisps - but almost any fresh apple will make a just-a-little-more kind of dessert. If you do use a sweeter apple like the Golden Delicious or Gala, up the lemon juice a little to compensate for their lack of pucker power.   Make according to the method above using the following filling ingredients: 8 cups (2 L) sliced, peeled and cored apples, 1/4 cup (50 mL) granulated sugar, 2 tbsp (30 mL) all-purpose flour, 1 tbsp (15 mL) fresh lemon juice and 1/2 tsp (2 mL) cinnamon or 1/4 tsp (1 mL) nutmeg. The topping remains the same, although you might like chopped walnut halves instead of the slivered almonds. Baby Shower Fruit Crisp [caption id="attachment_627" align="alignleft" width="450" caption="Because juicy fruit crisps tend to run over the top of a baking dish, a wise baker sets the baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet to catch the drips."]Because juicy fruit crisps tend to run over the top of a baking dish, a wise baker sets the baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet to catch the drips.[/caption] For this dessert, I checked the fruit I had in the fruit basket  -lovely late season peaches, purple prune plums and ripe pears, plus, from the fridge, a combo of wild and cultivated blueberries.  They measured:  7 cups (1.75 L) sliced peaches, 5 cups (1.25 L) sliced plums and 2 cups (500 mL) each blueberries and chopped peeled pears. (All fruit is pitted or cored). I tossed the fruit with 1/2 cup (125 ml) granulated sugar mixed with 1/4 cup (50 mL) all-purpose flour, and 2 tbsp (30 mL) fresh lemon juice and scraped the mixture into a 14-inch (35 cm) oval baking or gratin dish. For the topping I thought doubling the ingredients was a good idea, but even with my love of crunchy, I had to reduce the quantities to about 1-1/2 the original. So I measured out 1-1/2 cups (375 mL) all-purpose flour, 1-1/4 cups (300 mL) packed brown sugar and 3/4 cup (175 mL) soft butter.  The crisp required about 1-1/2 hours baking time at 350°F (180°C), and for the first hour, I covered the top of the dish loosely with aluminum foil to prevent the crisp from over browning. It served the dozen guests easily. Those who didn't have seconds requested take-home plastic containers of crisp for breakfast the next morning.  It's great with yogurt and you can almost imagine that it's healthy.    [caption id="attachment_626" align="alignleft" width="450" caption="For a nectarine and plum crisp, combine 4 cup (1 L) each pitted and sliced nectarines and plums with 1/3 cup (75 mL) packed brown sugar and 2 tbsp (30 mL) all-purpose flour. No need for lemon juice or spices. Use the same topping as for the Pear and Cranberry Crisp."]For a nectarine and plum crisp, combine 4 cup (1 L) each sliced nectarines and plums with 1/3 cup (75 mL) packed brown sugar and 2 tbsp (30 mL) all-purpose flour. No need for lemon juice or spices. Use the same topping as for the Pear and Cranberry Crisp.[/caption]    
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Crisps - Dessert of the Season

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