Pear Cranberry Crisp
Earlier this fall, Paula and I had a dinner party, and I was overly ambitious with the menu and the cooking plan.
Nothing new there—I always make WAY too much food for our little gatherings; the only difference this time was that Paula stepped in and stopped me from going completely overboard on the dessert. So I made an apple galette (like this one, except with apples instead of apricots, and blueberry jam instead of almond flour) a day in advance of the party, but nixed my plans to try combining pears and cranberries into a crisp.
(I suppose it’s true that if you bake a galette and buy a quart of vanilla ice cream, you can probably stop right there and still be forgiven.)
This worked out fine because I still had plenty of other cleaning, soup-making, and dish-washing tasks to do before the party. And when I finally tried out this recipe later that week, Paula and I got the entire 8 square inches of crisp to ourselves. It only took a few desserts and a breakfast or two to devour it all.
Since then (early November), I’ve made this four or five times. This recipe—like last year’s Cranberry Apple Crisp which inspired it—is a keeper.
The main difference between the two recipes (other than Apples v. Pears) is that this one is much, much easier. Since last year (thanks to this recipe), I’ve realized that cranberries are not the sturdy little marbles of bitterness I once thought they were—they don’t actually require the pre-cooking in a skillet (with sugar and orange zest) that I assumed they did, especially if you’re still going to stick them in an oven alongside other ingredients.
Instead, raw cranberries can be straightforwardly tossed together with sliced pears and a generous sprinkling of ground cardamom to produce little tart juicy pockets of sourness that stand out against the sugary pears.
In other words, this crisp is very simple to assemble (which is true of most crisps, and one of the reasons I love them); the only ingredients aside from the topping are pears, cranberries, cardamom, and cinnamon—the pears are so sweet, no additional sugar is needed.
Also nice: the crumbly topping is a low-maintenance melted butter situation. No need to worry about keeping the butter cold (which is always the moment I become aware of just how hot my hands feel—good circulation is no friend of pastry-making), and even more importantly, no need to worry about the fussiness of perfectly softened butter.
I continue to love this type of gluten-free crisp topping made with oats* and almond meal or finely ground almonds. You can also toss in some coarsely chopped nuts, like pecans, for added crunchy texture.
There is something about cardamom-scented pears (or cardamom-scented anything really) that seems so cozy and inviting. I tend to enjoy baking with pears more than snacking on them, since fresh pears are almost too sweet for me unless they’re slightly underripe. Pear crisps are a lovely way to celebrate the fall and get my fill of pears; the addition of tart, colorful cranberries takes this dessert into winter.
Many subscribe to the theory that some people are pie people while others are cake people. If I had to take sides, I’d choose the pie side any day, but I am not really a pie person despite my conviction that baked fruit and buttery crust are superior to most cakes with low frosting-to-cake ratios.
It’s not that I’m not a dessert person; I just like it when desserts can be whipped up quickly and simply (and in advance), then set aside to make way for the cooking that I enjoy more than baking. Especially in the case of a dinner party, when the dessert can always be chilled and re-heated later, but you want your soups and entrées and maybe even your appetizers to be just-cooked and still warm.
So because of all that, I can never truly be a pie person—at least not when I’m the one making the pie. I am more of a lazy version of one: I’m a crisp person.
* Check to make sure the oats were made in a gluten-free facility if that’s important for you.
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Pear Cranberry Crisp
Active time: 20 minutes; Total time: 1.5 hours.
~ 5-6 Bosc pears (firm but ripe)
~ 1 tsp. ground cardamom
~ ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
~ 1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries, picked over
For the Crisp Topping:
~ ¾ cup brown sugar, packed
~ ⅔ cup almond meal (finely ground almonds)
~ ⅔ cup rolled oats
~ 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
~ ½ tsp. ground cardamom
~ ¼ tsp. salt
~ 6 Tbsp. butter, melted and slightly cooled
~ ⅓ cup pecans (or other nut), roughly chopped
How to make it:
1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven, and pre-heat to 350 degrees. Peel and evenly slice the pears, tossing them into an 8- or 9-inch square baking dish. Sprinkle the cardamom and cinnamon over the pears, and gently toss them so the spices are evenly distributed, then pour in the cranberries, making sure those are spread out evenly as well. Set aside.
2. Make the crisp topping: In a medium bowl, whisk together all topping ingredients except the butter. Once the melted butter has cooled slightly, add the melted butter and stir with a rubber spatula to incorporate it. Then use your fingers to pinch together small clusters of the topping as you sprinkle it over the fruit.
3. Bake for 1 hour, or 1 hour and 10 minutes (until the fruit juices are bubbling), checking periodically after 45 minutes to see if the crisp is starting to brown too much on top (if so, cover with foil for the rest of the baking time). Let cool before serving.
Make the crisp ahead of time: cover and chill in the refrigerator for up to several days, then bring to room temperature and re-warm briefly in the oven. Serve either warm or at room temperature.
Print this recipe! (PDF)
Related recipe posts:
|Pear and Pomegranate Salad with Hazelnuts||Pear Brown Butter Buckle||Zesty Lemon Lime Bars||Skillet Cranberry Apple Crisp (Gluten-Free)|