On the eve of America’s greatest food holiday, Thanksgiving, I am tasked with making a fruit dessert for the family spread. As I’m not a pumpkin pie person (texture problem), nor one to deny people their right to butter (life is too short), I chose to make a crisp. Pears and cranberries will be deployed. Both are fruit stars of the season and locally grown to boot.
Also called a crumble, a cobbler, or “Apple Brown Betty” by my mother’s generation (who made it with bread), a crisp should be just that. Crispy on top, melting and yielding inside. It can be as sweet as you like, or even salty if that’s your thing. Think salted caramels. Or our local ice cream shop’s genius flavor, “Salted Crack Caramel,” made with saltines. Use the fruit at hand. Apples, rhubarb, quince, figs, cranberries, figs. Berries in summer.
As soon as the weather gets cool enough to warrant wearing wool, I mix up a batch of the crisp topping, decant to Ziploc plastic baggies and freeze for instant use when dessert must be summoned. Homemade fast food. Sometimes, you just want to eat crisp! Peel and cut up whatever fall fruit you have around, toss with a little sugar and spice, sprinkle over your frozen topping and bake. Presto, a warm dessert that comforts instantly.
Or breakfast. Cold crisp with a spoonful of yogurt makes a perfect morning food, especially if you add oats to the topping for extra nutrition and rib-sticking. Home cook wonder woman Deb Perelman has a brand new cookbook out with the ideal recipe.
Happy and delicious Thanksgiving to you, dear reader. Ever grateful, Nan
Pear Cranberry Pecan Crisp
2/3 cup pecans, toasted for 6 minutes in 375˚F oven
1 1/3 cups flour
6 tablespoons brown sugar
1 ½ tablespoons sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
12 tablespoons (1½ sticks/6 ounces) cold, unsalted butter, cut into ¼” pieces
For the filling:
4 lbs pears (Bosc or Bartlett), peeled, cored and cut into 1” chunks
1½ cups fresh cranberries
¾ cup sugar
6 tablespoons flour
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish.
Mix the dry topping ingredients together in a bowl. Work the butter into the flour mixture with your fingers until the mixture comes together and has a crumbly, but not sandy texture. Or use a food processor and pulse a few times until you get the crumbly texture. Chill until ready to use. Topping can be made ahead and refrigerated for about a week, or frozen up to 2 months.
Mix pears, cranberries, sugar, flour and cinnamon in large bowl. Transfer to dish. Crumble topping over fruit. Bake until fruit is tender and topping is lightly browned, about 1¼ hours. Cool for 10 minutes before serving. Serve with vanilla ice cream or softly whipped cream.