The days between Christmas Eve and New Years are low-key this year. Usually filled with visits, happy hours, perhaps some post-holiday shopping at your favorite local shops…this year, for us, it is filled with time at home, or walking outside if you can muster the cold! It is a perfect occasion to cozy up, and pop a pear, apple & cranberry crisp in the oven – a very “chill” dessert! As I write this, it is snowing – and I am really hoping we can get ourselves out for some sledding this year (Denis has never been!). Nothing like hurling yourself down a hill, dodging trees and jumps, stopping at the bottom (and that moment of “I survived!”), then running all the way back up the hill to do it all over again. Hot cocoa and a hot shower afterwards to soothe sore muscles is the perfect relief! Shout out to Laura at the First Mess for her perfect hot cocoa recipe – check it out here!
Anyways, I’ll be taking things slow this January on the pastry front. Lately, I just can’t muster the mental energy for a blown-out baking project. I’d like to improve my lamination skills this year, and practice making macaron as well. I’m still all about the details, flavors and quality of food that I produce – but it feels best right now to chill-out a bit. I’m re-visiting some old recipes of mine, back in the days that I really hit that plant-based food scene hard. Lots of whole grains, coconut oil, flax eggs, “natural” sweeteners. This is why I am classifying this recipe as “alternative” – not the delicate, highly refined (literally and figuratively!) recipe typical of pastry. These old recipes bring back good, and difficult memories. The plant-based days were also hard days for me – I was in graduate school, a tough relationship, and didn’t quite know where I wanted to go in my life and career.
…I am still a little in the gray on where to go on my career – but thank goodness I am done with graduate school, and found the love of my life! ….who happens to love apples, pears and cranberries. I made him this crisp for his birthday this year – and it was the perfect not-too-sweet and heavy treat that we needed. I love to have crisp with ice cream, but we opted for whipped coconut cream since that is what we had on hand – and honestly ice cream just didn’t sound good. Take your destiny into your own hands, and serve this as you like. Leftovers are great with yogurt, too.
A note on crisp to fruit filling ratios, nuts and sweetness: if you’d like a more hefty dose of crumble, you can make 1.5x to 2x the crisp topping. The sweetness of this crisp is not tooth-ache sweet (I generally hate overly sweet things) – so if you’re the type of person who likes sweet-sweet, you can add a few more tablespoons of sweetener to the fruit. I have recently discovered that I do not prefer nuts in my crisp topping – I typically do not enjoy them in this state and they tend to get too brown for my liking. However, feel free to add in a handful of crushed walnuts, chopped up almonds or hazelnuts, or sliced almonds if you’d like. It is quite hard to mess up a crisp – the key is to ensure that the whole dish is bubbling before you take it out of the oven to ensure the fruit is cooked, and starch for thickening is activated. If you find that the topping is browning too quickly – just tent with foil as you would a pie crust that is browning too quickly.
I hope the end of the year is peaceful, healthy and reflective for you all. Cheers!
Pear, Apple & Cranberry Crisp
- 4-6 (Approx. 6 cups) Apples and/or Pears Use pears that are ripe (I use Bartlett); using a variety of apples yields great flavors and textures (I use Granny Smith, Fuji and Honey Crisp).
- 1 cup Fresh Cranberries Frozen cranberries also work
- 2 TB Tapioca starch, Arrowroot Starch or Cornstarch I prefer tapioca for it's texture, clarity, and stability through cooking in acidic conditions
- 1 Orange Zested and juiced
- 1/4 cup Sucanat, Coconut Sugar or Brown Sugar Using more to adjust to your preference and fruit sweetness
- 1 tsp Cinnamon You may use your favorite cozy spices here!
- 1/4 tsp Sea Salt
Crisp Topping (Note: 1.5x or 2x this for a more hearty crisp)
- 1/4 cup Virgin Coconut Oil or Unsalted Butter Use fat of choice that has great flavor
- 3 TB Sucanat, Coconut Sugar or Brown Sugar
- 3 TB Maple Syrup or Honey
- 1 tsp Cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp Nutmeg Freshly grated is best
- 1/4 tsp Sea Salt
- 1/3 cup Spelt flour or Oat flour Make oat flour by blending oats in a blender or food processor until fine; alternatively, you may use any flour here – whole wheat, buckwheat, etc. – using gluten free if needed.
- 1/4 tsp baking powder Optional. This makes the crisp topping a little lighter in texture.
- Pre-heat oven to 350F, with a baking rack in the middle position. Line a baking tray with parchment or silpat to catch drips during baking. Get an 8"x8" baking dish or similar sized baking dish or pie plate ready.
- Peel (optional), core and chop pears and apples into ~1/2" pieces. Toss in the baking dish.
- Toss the remaining ingredients into the fruit, stirring to combine. You may also combine in a bowl, but I like to save the dishes! Taste for sweetness, and adjust by adding more sweetener as desired.
- To make the topping, melt the fat in a medium pan. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine. The mixture will be quite thin – so don't panic!
- Using a spoon, plop the topping over the fruit.
- Bake for 45-60 minutes, checking at 45 minutes to make sure the topping is not browning too quickly. Tent with foil as needed. Crisp is done when topping is browned, and fruit filling is bubbling in the middle of the dish. Allow to cool slightly before serving.