A crisp is a pie without the fuss of a crust.
This humble cousin of upper-crust pies and tarts melds tree-ripened fruit and a few pantry staples into a sweet-tart old-fashioned dessert that's hard to resist.
The British call it a crumble. Americans call it a crisp. We call it downright delicious.
All those hot fruit juices bubble up into the buttery, sugary topping as it bakes to create sophisticated flavors that are mouth-watering and good.
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Crisps are easy to assemble. Mix fruit, sugar, lemon juice and thickener, and pour into a deep baking dish.
Sprinkle on a crumbly topping to create a one-of-a-kind dessert. Change up the fruit, using whatever is on hand. Mix apricot and pineapple or pineapple juice to lighten up an otherwise heavy filling. A mix of fresh cherries and canned cherry pie filling produces excellent results. Firm pears are an unexpected surprise. Add a few tablespoons of apricot jam to deepen their flavor.
Use whatever thickener you have on hand. Flour will do in a pinch. Even better is arrowroot, cornstarch or potato starch. Quick-cook tapioca, though, is my standby. It produces a clear filling that lets the fruit flavors shout and the brightly colored fillings shine. Swap brown sugar for white sugar or use a mix of both in the topping or the filling. Sprinkle in a little cinnamon, nutmeg or cloves into the topping. A ¼ teaspoon of each are all you'll need. Add a dash of spice to the filling. Or don't. This rustic dessert takes kindly to improvisation and is kind to the hostess because it comes together effortlessly. And if at first bite it's a little too tart, make room for ice cream. A tart crisp and vanilla ice cream are heaven in a bite.
To change up the topping, try oatmeal or ground nuts; just butter, sugar and flour work great; and finely chopped nuts in a butter-flour-sugar topping are wonderful because they toast during baking and provide flavor and texture.
Pop it in the oven for a bit. When those delicious fruit juices bubble up over the filling, you know it's done.
Resist the urge to eat it hot out of the oven — the juices need to thicken and set.
3 cups blueberries
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
¾ cup all-purpose flour
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1½ cups rolled oats
6 tablespoons (¾ stick) salted butter, softened
Toss blueberries, granulated sugar, lemon juice and zest together in bowl. Pour into 9-inch square baking dish.
Combine flour, brown sugar and oats in bowl and mix. Add butter and mix by hand until butter is incorporated. Spread over fruit. Bake until top is golden, 40 to 45 minutes.
Change up topping by reducing sugar and oatmeal by half and flour to 1⁄3 cup. Add ¼ cup toasted wheat germ.
From The Hamptons: Food, Family and History by Ricky Lauren
Apricot, peach and blackberry crumble
11⁄3 pounds apricots, quartered and pitted
3 peaches, pitted and sliced
1 pound blackberries
Finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
Juice of 1 lemon
¾ cup sugar, divided
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup almond meal
¾ cup butter, softened
6 tablespoons sliced almonds, divided use
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put fruit and lemon juice and zest into ovenproof dish and stir in 3 tablespoons sugar.
To make the crumble topping, mix flour, remaining sugar and almond meal together, and rub in butter with fingers until mixture turns crumbly.
Put the crumble on top of the fruit, sprinkle with sliced almonds and bake for 40 minutes. The top of the crumble should be golden and the fruit tender (insert a small, sharp knife to test for this). If fruit is still a bit hard but your crumble is golden, cover the top with foil to keep it from getting too dark and bake a little longer.
From Plenty: Good Uncomplicated Food for the Sustainable Kitchen by Diana Henry
5 cups frozen blueberries, unthawed
2⁄3 cup granulated sugar
¼ cup plus 2⁄3 cup water
¼ cup cornstarch
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 medium ripe peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced
Topping (recipes follow)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In large saucepan, combine blueberries, sugar and ¼ cup water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Whisk together cornstarch and remaining 2⁄3 cup water in a small bowl until smooth. Stir cornstarch mixture into hot berries. Gently stir in lemon zest and peaches, being careful not to mash peaches.
Reduce heat to low and continue simmering fruit, gently stirring, until juices have thickened and mixture is clear. Remove from heat and scoop mixture into 2½ -quart baking dish.
Sprinkle with topping.
Bake until topping is nicely browned, 30 to 40 minutes. Makes 6 servings.
¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup old-fashioned rolled oats
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon nutmeg
¼ cup non-hydrogenated margarine (stick with butter, though, its flavor can't be beat).
Combine all ingredients and sprinkle on fruit.
From The Lodge Cast Iron Cookbook: A Treasury of Timeless, Delicious Recipes
Here is another topping idea:
2⁄3 cup granulated sugar
7 tablespoons butter, room temperature
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped walnuts, pecans or almonds
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
Combine all ingredients and crumble with fingertips. Spread mixture over prepared fruit in buttered baking dish and bake as directed. Makes about 2½ cups, enough for a 10-inch pie or 1½ to 2½ -quart baking dish.
From Easy as Pie by Susan G. Purdy