Pears with a crisp

19th October, 2010 - Posted by admin - Comments Off

Pear Crisp

As I’m writing this, I have roughly eight feet worth of cookbooks sitting on the book case behind me. Each of those books makes some mention of crisps, cobblers, slumps, grumbles, crumbles and any other variation on “fruit with a crispy topping”. I’m here to tell you definitively that they are all the same thing.

Sure, there are regional differences, but boil it down and it’s all pretty much an identical dish with different fruit. And that’s why America is great. For the sake of clarity, I’ll be calling this recipe a crisp. If another name feels right and true to you, feel free to use it instead. You won’t hurt my feelings.

Several friends of mine have pear trees working overtime and I’ve had some of the fruit gifted to me rather forcefully. In the interest of using up as much produce in one go as possible, I started hunting up recipes in which pear is the main ingredient.

Crisps are brilliant at this sort of challenge because all they are is sweetened (or not) fruit with a crumbly topping. No binders, no crust, just fruit, butter and a little sugar. The recipe below includes a little vanilla, which plays up the sweetness of the fruit without overpowering it.

As long as the fruit is of good quality, half the work is done for you. The other half comes from putting together the crumb topping. The recipe below makes way more than you need and that’s a good thing. Uncooked crumb topping freezes very well. Make the full batch, use what you need to the crisp and store the rest in small air-tight containers in the freezer. When the urge for dessert strikes, pull one out and you’re halfway done.

When making the topping, a food processor is the fastest way to go. If that is not available then a pastry cutter or your hands can also do the job. A fork can also work, but I find my hands to be the more efficient choice between the two. The goal is to have the butter and dry ingredients worked together until everything looks like a pile of crumbs. If there are small children handy who want to help, this is an excellent job for them to do.

When it preparing the fruit, definitely peel them first. When baking, the flesh will break down and the skin will stay firm, resulting in an odd texture and lots of peel bits to chew through. Just peel them the first time, everyone will thank you for it.

The recipe also calls for two tablespoons of either pear brandy or eau de vie (water of life: a clear, light liquor). If neither of these are available, either use regular brandy or skip it. Pear brandy is wonderful stuff, but if your household won’t drink a bottle’s worth, save your money.

Pile everything into one baking dish or divide between five or six small ones. Bake and serve. Warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a little whipped cream is great. This pairs well with a pear cider, too.

Pear Crisp
Makes 1 crisp

For topping
2 sticks butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups oatmeal

For filling
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 – 2.5 lb firm-ripe Anjou or Bartlett pears (about 4), peeled and coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons pear brandy or eau-de-vie

Directions:
Make topping:
Pulse together flour, oatmeal and brown sugar in a food processor until blended. Add butter and pulse just until blended. Alternatvely, use a pastry cutter or work together with your hands.
Coarsely crumble in a shallow baking pan and chill at least 1 hour.

Make filling and bake crisp:
Preheat oven to 425F with rack in middle.
Melt butter over medium-low heat, add vanilla, swirl pan occasionally, until butter is browned and fragrant, about 4 minutes.
While butter browns, stir together sugars, flour, and a pinch of salt in a large bowl. Add pears and brandy and toss to combine.
Toss butter with pear mixture. Spoon filling into baking dishe and sprinkle with topping, mounding it slightly in centers. Put on a baking sheet and bake 30 minutes, then rotate baking sheet and bake until topping is golden brown and filling is bubbling, 10 to 15 minutes more. Cool to warm or room temperature on a rack.

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Posted on: October 19, 2010

Filed under: Dessert, Vegetarian

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