- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Easier than a pie, but requiring more effort than simply putting out a bowl of fruit, crisps and crumbles are the darlings of home and professional chefs alike.

My friends are all avid fans, and the restaurants in our Massachusetts town always list “a crisp of the season” on their menus. Simple, plain and homey, crisps and crumbles are a little taste of heaven, especially when served warm with scoops of ice cream.

Although the terminology is sometimes fuzzy, according to Richard Sax, author of “Classic Home Desserts,” a crisp is baked fruit topped with a “rubbed” mixture of butter, sugar, flour and sometimes nuts, while a crumble is covered with oats, butter, flour and brown sugar. Either way, these popular desserts lend themselves to variation.

Take the apple and plum crisp featured here. The fall fruits that make up the filling are seasoned traditionally with sugar, cinnamon and lemon, but the topping is more inventive. An unusual addition of crushed gingersnap cookies and ground ginger is combined with butter, flour, sugar and almonds.

Like most crisps, this one is perfect for entertaining since it can be baked several hours ahead, then reheated. Garnish it with scoops of vanilla ice cream, or be more adventurous: I found a ginger gelato at a local market that paired beautifully with this comforting dessert.

Warm apple and plum crisp with a gingersnap crust

Makes 6 servings.

Butter for greasing baking dish

1 1/2 pounds Granny Smith apples (about 3 large)

1 pound ripe but not mushy plums (about 6 medium)

1/3 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Topping

1/3 cup flour

1/3 cup coarsely ground gingersnap cookies (see note)

1/3 cup chopped toasted almonds

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon ginger

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small dice

Confectioners’ sugar for sprinkling

Fresh mint sprigs for garnish

Vanilla or ginger ice cream for garnish

Arrange an oven rack at center position and preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a shallow, 2-quart ovenproof baking dish.

Peel, core and cut the apples into 1-inch pieces. Halve the plums lengthwise, remove pits, and cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch slices. Place fruit in a medium bowl and toss with sugar, cinnamon and lemon juice. Spread mixture in the prepared baking dish.

For topping, mix together flour, gingersnap crumbs, almonds, sugar and ginger in a medium bowl. Add butter and rub into dry ingredients using your fingertips, until mixture resembles pea-sized clumps. Sprinkle mixture evenly over fruit.

Bake until fruit is tender and bubbling and topping is well browned, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool 10 minutes. (The crisp can be prepared 4 hours ahead; leave uncovered at room temperature. Reheat in a preheated 350-degree oven to warm, 15 minutes or longer.)

Sprinkle crisp with confectioners’ sugar and garnish the center with a few mint sprigs. Serves with scoops of ice cream.

Note: For cookie crumbs, place ginger snaps in a food processor and pulse until cookies are coarsely ground. I used Nabisco brand and needed 6 to 8 cookies to yield 1/3 cup.

TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES

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