- Published on Tuesday, 07 September 2010 17:00
- Written by Megan Rowe - Special to the Town Crier
As summer wanes and the days grow shorter (and busier), don’t skimp on dessert. Instead, whip up a quick fruit crisp for the family.
Crisps at their simplest are fruit topped with oats, flour, sugar and butter, then baked until the juices bubble and the topping browns. They are related to crumbles (fruit topped with a nutty streusel) and cobblers (fruit baked with a sweet biscuit topping), as well as the more evocatively named slumps, grunts and pandowdies.
Some scholars think crisps emerged during World War II, when it was difficult to find enough butter to make a double-crust pie. Others think the tradition arose far earlier when colonists attempted to adapt their pudding recipes to what was on hand in America. Either way, crisps are a delicious way to serve ripe summer fruit without the fuss of making piecrusts.
Crisps and their cousins are almost infinitely adaptable, making them an ideal dessert for the busy home cook. And while they’re quite simple to throw together, the contrast between the warm, bubbling fruit and the sweet, crunchy topping makes them elegant enough to serve to company.
Crisps are also ideal for picky eaters or those with various dietary restrictions. They’re dairy-free (unless you top them with ice cream, a highly recommended addition if you can handle dairy), and you can easily substitute a gluten-free baking mix for the 1/2 cup of flour to make them safe for those with wheat intolerances.
Plums are ripe and juicy right now, and their hint of tartness plays well with the cinnamon and oats in the topping. If plums aren’t your favorite, you can substitute the same volume of any juicy fruit to adapt this to whatever is in season – berries, mango or other stone fruits now, or apples and pears in a few months. You can play around with the spices, adding a pinch of cardamom to a pear crisp or almond extract instead of vanilla to peaches. You can also add up to 1/2 cup of chopped nuts to the topping to make it closer to a crumble and equally delicious.