This is hands down my very favorite time of year with the golden light streaming through the trees, the crisp air in the morning and most importantly the abundance of fruit everywhere!! The apple trees are bowing with ripe sweet fruit, the blackberries are making a comeback and the pears are golden and inviting.
By Dana Zia
The Golightly Gourmet
I love eating these fruits raw with the juice dribbling down my chin and being amazed out how Mother Nature has made these wondrous packages. But I have a confession to make, I most love to bake them up into crumbles, cobblers or crisps and serve them with ice cream or whip cream. I even like having them for breakfast. I can’t help myself. It must be my farmer genes shining through, strong and clear.
I do not have the patience for pie crusts and tend to overwork my dough so it is a little like “baked asphalt”, as my husband called it one day. That gene eluded me even though my maternal grandmother owned a pie shop and baked no less than a hundred pies a week. No, I’m all about the easy-peasy cobbler type desserts.
These kind of fruit desserts have been called many a thing such as cobbler, tart, torte, pandowdy, grunt, slump, buckles, puzzles, crisp, croustade, bird’s nest pudding or crow’s nest pudding. They are all simple variations of cobblers, and they are all based on seasonal fruits and berries, in other words, whatever fresh ingredients are readily at hand. They are simple to make and rely more on taste than fancy pastry preparation. In fact, early renditions of peach cobbler were cooked peach skins, pits and all. The pits were thought to impart additional flavor, but their inclusion also gives you a sense of how cobbler was a container for disposing of plentiful fruit in season without making too much of a fuss.
It seems that these fruit desserts have been around as long as pies and are as all American. When the settlers came over to the promised land, life was all about improvisation. They had brought along with them their favorite ancestral recipes such as English steamed pudding but found that they didn’t have time and resources to make them like they did back in Europe. (An English steamed pudding takes 2 hours to cook!) Their favorite recipes quickly evolved (Or de-evolved) into simple fruit desserts that got called all kinds of interesting names.
Early colonist were so fond of these juicy dishes that they often served them as the main course, for breakfast, or even as a first course. It was not until the late 19th century that they became primarily desserts but obviously I didn’t get that memo.
This recipe that I am sharing with you on this fine fall day is one of my tried and true crisp recipes. In true pioneer spirit I like to use the basic recipe for whatever fruit is on hand and I don’t bother with peeling it. I have added to it an option for gluten-free with the use of oat flour instead of wheat flour. If you haven’t cooked with it before you will be pleasantly pleased. Make sure and buy “gluten-free” oat flour (Bob’s Red Mill makes a great one) since conventional oats are processed in the same machines as wheat products. Enjoy the joys of this abundant season and go grab some fruit from the last farmer’s market and cook up a crisp.
The perfect crisp
This recipe is enough for 4 servings for breakfast and 6 servings for dessert.
1/4 cup of unbleached flour or oat flour
2/3 cup of rolled oats
1/4 melted butter or vegetable oil like avocado
1/2 cup of packed brown sugar or coconut sugar
1 tsp of cinnamon
1 tsp of ground ginger
A dash of ground cardamom or nutmeg
Pinch of salt
Mix all the ingredients together in medium bowl with a fork or your fingers till everything is happily married. Lick your fingers or fork before your wash them.
6-8 cups of fruit of your choice, sliced or cubed (3-4 pounds of whole fruit)
1 TBLS of lemon juice
1 TBLS of ground fresh ginger
OR a sprinkle or two of cinnamon, nutmeg or cardamom
2 TBLS of flour or oat flour
2 TBLS of sugar, granulated, brown or coconut
Take out an 8×8 baking dish and butter it up and set aside then turn on the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl squeeze the lemon juice then put your cut up the fruit of your choice into the lemon juice and toss as you cut them up to keep them from browning. (If you are using berries, no need to do this part.) Sprinkle the spice, flour and sugar on the fruit and carefully fold in. Gently pour into the prepared dish and level the fruit with a spoon.
Next, sprinkle the topping over the prepared fruit and gently press it into all the cracks and crevasses of the fruit. Tuck into the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes till the fruit juice is bubbling and the topping is beginning to slightly brown. Take out of the oven and keep your spoon out of it for 10-15 mins as it cools to allow the fruit juice to congeal. Serve warm with vanilla yogurt, whip cream or ice cream.