I am beyond blessed! Have you ever been so lucky as to have a friend who’s been by your side through the ecstatically good times, the *yawn* boring times, the bad times, and even the ugly of ugliest times that life has offered up? I have a couple of those friends, and one of the best I’ve got is Jenni Field, a/k/a Pastry Chef Online. Jenni and I have celebrated successes and failures in the kitchen together, we’ve made each other laugh until we cried tears of joy, and we have cybertronically hugged and held each other tight during life’s storms. The strange thing is, we’ve still never met in person, but I feel like I've known her forever. Our online friendship began over a Twitter tweet and then it traveled over to her Facebook page, where it flourished and blossomed into a beautiful relationship.
This beautiful, talented friend of mine is a certified pastry chef. She’s a baking GENIUS! When she speaks food, I stand up and listen, because she definitely knows what she’s talking about. After all, she’s the wonderful woman responsible for my learning how to make the world’s greatest puff pastry, people!
So while I’m in the hospital today, I’m leaving you in the loving care of my friend Jenni. She’s going to teach us how she bakes up a beautiful fruit crisp. I hope you fall in love with her as much as I have. Thank you SO much, Jenni! You’re the best friend a girl could ever hope to have and I love you SO much!
Becca is one of the nicest people. Period. You guys already know that, or you wouldn't be here reading this. So, when she asked for folks to do some guest posting for her, I raised my hand Really Really high and said "Ooh, ooh, pick me, Mr. Kotter," just like Arnold Horschack. And if you don't understand that reference, I have just dated myself as a Child of the 70s! Look it up.
Anyway, Becca said "Go for it," so here I am, indeed Going For It. Thanks for letting me talk to your lovely readers, Becca. I shall endeavor to keep things Yummilicious!
On my blog, I do share recipes. But the word recipe really gets on my nerves. It implies ownership. It implies that it must be followed at all costs. Recipe implies that you Can Not Deviate. I prefer to look at recipes as a list of ingredients attached to a list of techniques. Learn the techniques, and you can apply them to any similar ingredient list.
Since we're heading into summer and the height of Yummy Fruit Season, I'd like to share with you the techniques you'll need to turn any fresh fruit into a delightful crisp. Not a recipe that will send you scurrying to the store to buy a Specific List of Ingredients. Here's how it works:
You get a ton of (insert name of fruit here) in your produce box, CSA share, from your own garden or at the farmers' market. You eat what you can just out of hand, but now it's time to add just a few extra ingredients to enhance the sweetness of the fruit, to soften it a bit and juxtapose it with a crisp, buttery topping. To concentrate the flavors so they shine.
Here's what you'll need:
- Fruit--if you have a lot, make a large pan of crisp. If you have just a little, make a couple of individual portions
- Sweetener--if the fruit is really ripe, you won't need much. Sugar, brown sugar, honey, maple syrup even. Just enough to make the fruit as sweet as you like it.
- Salt--Always. A pinch to a heavy pinch. It'll counteract any bitterness and enhance the fruitiness. Honest.
- Other flavorings--this can be anything from a splash of vanilla, other extract or liqueur to some dried spices or candied ginger to citrus zest. Just enough to enhance the flavor of your fruit, not cover it up.
- A bit of acid--Just a squeeze of lime juice or lemon juice to further enhance the fruitiness and keep the flavors nice and balanced. I usually go with lemon juice for lighter colored fruit--peach, mango, pineapple, apple, pear--and lime juice for dark fruit--cherry, raspberry, blackberry, strawberry. My exception is blueberries, because blueberries play so well with lemon. It's practically a law.
- A thickener--This is optional, and only if you want the juices to be somewhat thickened. Count on about a tablespoon of flour or corn starch per four cups of fruit.
- Crisp topping--This is basically streusel, and you make it by mixing equal parts, by weight, of flour, sugar and butter along with a pinch of salt. This is a very basic streusel. Switch it up by changing your sugar from white to brown, by adding some spices to complement your fruit, by substituting up to 1/3 of the flour for rolled oats and/or by adding a handful of chopped nuts. Mix this all up until it's nice and crumbly and sprinkle it liberally over your fruit.
Once you have your fruit in a pan and some lovely streusel strewn liberally over the top, bake at 375F until the fruit is bubbly all over and the streusel is a lovely deep golden brown. Cool it for several minutes up until just-until-warm and serve plain or with a dollop of yogurt or whipped cream or ice cream.
As an example (and because I had 3 peaches staring at me every time I opened the fridge), I made three individual Ginger-Peach Crisps so you can see the Rules in Action. To make it easy, I used one whole peach, peeled and cut up, for each crisp. I seasoned the peaches individually (once they were cut up and in the ramekins). Then, I made a batch of streusel and distributed it on the ramekins.
For the Streusel
(I like a lot of streusel. You can easily cut this in half or by 1/3 and still have plenty of streusel for each crisp)
- 3 oz. unsalted butter
- 3 oz sugar (I used Sugar in the Raw)
- 1 oz rolled oats
- 2 oz all purpose flour
- heavy pinch of fine sea salt
- about 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- two or three drops of almond extract
Mix everything together by hand until crumbly. Set aside.
For Each Individual Crisp
- 1 ripe peach, peeled and sliced
- about 1 1/2 teaspoons all purpose flour
- about 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar (I used Sugar in the Raw)
- pinch of salt
- about 1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
In each ramekin, arrange the peach slices. Sprinkle on the rest of the ingredients, then give the ramekins a little side-to-side shake or two to distribute the ingredients.
Pile on the streusel, but don't pack it down. You want it to be in loose crumbly pebbles.
Place the ramekins on a tray and bake at 375F until deeply golden brown and bubbly all over, about 35 minutes. Cool to warm and serve plain or with some ice cream, crème fraiche, whipped cream or yogurt.
Use your topping to further balance your crisp. Taste the crisp, and if it seems a little sweet to you, top it with some tart Greek yogurt. This will balance out the sweetness. If the crisp seems a little tart, serve it with vanilla ice cream or sweetened whipped cream to offset the tartness.
I hope this little post has helped to demystify crisps for you a bit and liberate you to put your own spin on fruit crisp. It's easy to make, has a delightful contrast of texture and really is yummilicious!
Thanks, Becca, for allowing me to guest at your place! Love you so much!