Most foods really are still seasonal, in spite of globalized grocery store supply chains. You just don’t want lime granita in December or pumpkin pie in July. One notable dessert exception is a crisp or crumble. With lots of fruit, a sane proportion of rich, buttery, crunchy topping, and fresh whipped cream, it’s good all year round. And Captain Peter avers it makes a rollicking good breakfast!
And as a bonus, particularly for the galley, it’s simpler and more forgiving to prepare than a pie. I’ll admit that on this cusp-of-spring day, I did my own season-spanning and used winter fruits — pear and dried cherries — but gave it a tropical twist to keep hope alive. After preheating your oven to 375 degrees, prepare the topping by stirring together a heaping-half cup of flour, heaping quarter-cup of sugar, a pinch of salt, and [spices]. The traditional crisp calls for 1/2 teaspoon each of nutmeg and cinnamon — which I mistakenly thought I had aboard; necessity the mother of invention, I went with about 3/4 teaspoon of ground ginger.
Cut six tablespoons of cold butter into half-pat sized pieces. Now take off your rings, wash your hands, and get in the bowl and rub the butter into the dry ingredients, pinching and twisting and mashing it between your thumb and fingers until it is all integrated and the mixture has sort of pea-sized clumps, but as few as possible pieces of pure butter. You or the dog lick your hands clean.
The traditional crisp calls for 3/4 cup chopped walnuts…I followed my ginger deviation down the road less traveled and added 1/2 cup sliced almonds and 3/4 cup sweetened grated coconut. Set the topping somewhere cool while you make the filling.
Zest 1/2 of an orange into a small saucepan with 2 tablespoons of butter, then juice 1/2 the orange into the pan, reserving the other half. Add 3 tablespoons sugar, a pinch of salt and 1/2 teaspoon [vanilla] (you guessed it…blazing my own course, I used almond extract instead) and stir over medium heat until it just begins to boil.
Add 3/4 cup dried cherries to the boiling syrup and continue to simmer and stir over medium heat for a few minutes until the cherries start to plump and the syrup gets a caramel brown and thickens a bit…
Off heat (stovetop was the work surface I had…the burner is not on!) core and chop four pears into a lightly buttered baking dish. If you are picky or using Bosc pears, you might peel them, but I don’t bother…a crisp is a rustic dish and the peels are where most of the flavor is. As you are working, you can squeeze the remaining 1/2 orange over the pears to keep them from going brown. Pour the hot cherry syrup over the pears as soon as it comes off the heat, to stop it cooking. Give the fruit a good stir to combine.
Spread the topping over the fruit to cover thoroughly and bake for about 45 minutes, until the fruit is bubbly around the edges and the topping is golden brown.
My oven was a little hot so things toasted a bit, but toasted coconut…who’s going to complain?
Whip a half-pint of cream and top each portion with a healthy dollop — this is so completely worth it, even if you have to break a sweat with a hand beater!
Let the dog clean the hand-beater while you dig into a warm, fruity, creamy, crumbly bowl of heaven.