I first learned to bust out a quick fruit crisp last fall. My sister and I had completed our annual Pie Lab and found ourselves dismayed-but-not-surprised by a surplus of peeled, sliced apples that would not, could not, fit into our pies. My first apple crisp was a triumph and a revelation. Not because I’m some genius alchemist wizard baker, but because fruit crisps are one of those gifts from the universe that takes humble pantry staples, possibly flawed and/or overripe fruit and allows them to be shoddily combined to transmute into something nostalgic and warm, practical and transcendent, that garners oohs and aahs and fills bellies and hearts.
The fruit crisp suddenly became my signature impromptu dessert. Netflix binge? HOLD UP LEMME MAKE THIS APPLE CRISP. Baby fell asleep weirdly quickly? OH LOOK PEAR CRANBERRY CRISP. Rainstorm keeping us from weeding our overgrown jungle of a front garden? WHOOPS GUESS WE NEED TO STAY ON THE COUCH AND EAT BERRY CRISP.
(Incidentally, it’s this chapter of my life that has also kindled a new and surprising appreciation – maybe even love? – for vanilla ice cream. Coming from a card-carrying chocolate fiend, that’s high praise.)
In the spring, I picked up Yossy Arefi’s Sweeter Off the Vine, a magical, alluring, yet crazy-practical book on fruit desserts. Its genius is that it’s broken out by season, making it easy to play along at home, but also easy translate a fall dessert into a spring one, just by switching out the fruit. Another touch that I love is that it’s got some basic skills & foundational recipes in the back, including one for crisp topping, complete with instructions for freezing the mixture to use another time. (GIRL SPEAK TO MY HEART!)
Cue this summer: Jack’s obsessed with strawberries, then blueberries, and then peaches. Glorying in how mobile we’re able to be this summer (at this time last year, Jack was a newborn and all any of us wanted to do was sleep), we take back-to-back road trips and basically incite a summer fruit avalanche. From Niagara Falls to Lake Michigan, we pick up peaches, plums, zucchini, corn, melons, tomatoes, sweet cherries, tart cherries, and what I’m pretty sure is a metric ton of blueberries.
We attend a family reunion in upstate New York, and I tell my aunt that I’m bringing blueberry crisp. The morning of the gathering, my prep could not be easier: I had frozen a few pints of blueberries and tucked them into the cooler with our other road trip food, along with the frozen crisp topping I slapped together a few nights before we left. I had also measured out a bit of dry flour and sugar, zipped that into a plastic bag, then tucked THAT in with my casserole dish. Over some “camp coffee” my dad had improvised (our Airbnb house was outfitted with a coffee maker but mysteriously, no coffee pot), I dump the blueberries into the dish, mix in the flour & sugar with my hands, then top it with the crisp mixture. I go up to shower, get Jack dressed, come back down, and our crisp is ready.
The blueberry crisp was the only dessert that was completely gone by the end of the party.
I make another blueberry crisp when we get home, using the ill-handled blueberries we meant to snack on in the car combined with a bucketful that we picked the day after the reunion.
I make a plum-peach crisp a week later in Michigan, using more indelicately-treated stone fruit we failed to finish from the last trip.
I make a peach crisp a week after that, back at home, in an attempt to put a dent in a seemingly bottomless bag of Michigan peaches we picked up from a roadside stand.
What I’m trying to say is: crisps are the cure for your summer fruit addiction. You have permission to buy whatever gorgeous, sun-dappled produce your heart desires. You can stop at every roadside stand, every farmers’ market, every U-pick farm. You can eat whatever you want, juice running down your arm, over a sink or in a field or on your deck, and whatever’s left, you just make a big-ass crisp with it.
(What I’m also trying to say is: I’m kind of having an extended crisp-moment right now. If it’s fruit, I’m topping it with oats, butter, sugar, and flour, baking it, and eating it for every possible meal until it’s gone. If it’s vegetables, I’m topping it with breadcrumbs, butter, parmesan, and herbs, baking it, and – you guessed it – eating it for every possible meal until it’s gone. That’ll be another post for very soon.)
For the crisp topping (from Sweeter Off the Vine):
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
- 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened slightly but still cold, cut into pieces
For the filling:
- 4-6 cups any fruit, sliced or cut into chunks
- 1/2 to 1 cup sugar, depending on the sweetness of the fruit
- 2 tablespoons flour
Special equipment: any baking dish – size is up to you, depending on how much fruit you’ve got.
Preheat oven to 400F.
You can make the crisp topping ahead of time (YAS) and even freeze it before use. Combine all of the dry crisp ingredients in a large bowl, then add the butter. I like to coat each piece of butter with the dry ingredients first so they don’t all stick together. Then work the butter in with your hands, flattening it, squishing it, etc, until you’ve got a rough but relatively uniform texture. It’s OK to have larger chunks and smaller ones – I call it done when there are no more rogue swaths of flour.
In a baking dish, combine fruit, sugar, and flour – I just mix this with my hands or a large spoon. Add crisp topping to the top, then bake for 30-45 minutes, or until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is golden.