Friday, January 29, 2010

Winter Fruit Crisp

There are some really lovely pears and apples in abundance right now. The pears I bought were especially succulent to eat as is, but since it’s been raining and overcast for several days over the last week, it’s time to conjure up a simple and comforting winter harvest dessert to shake the cold!

This Winter Fruit Crisp is a version made mostly of ingredients out of our good old-fashioned American pantry. To start, I use apples and pears tossed with lemon juice. Since I love tart things, I added a handful of dried cranberries. But for a spot of intrigue, I decided to throw in a few chopped dates, which are cooked for a couple of minutes with brown sugar, the spicy warmth of cinnamon and cardamom, a splash of Amontillado sherry, a perk of orange zest and finished with a dab of butter, all of which conspire to create a very lovely spicy caramel. For textural contrast, the streusel topping includes some oatmeal and walnuts.

The proportion and blending of these flavors and textures really plays out beautifully. Each bite has layers of luscious fruit, heady spice and soft, chewy, crunchy texture. The aromas and flavors that emanate from each spoon are very much in keeping with the season. It’s rustic and familiar but in a very different and delicious way, a quintessentially winter treat so good you could certainly offer it to your best friend. Or anybody you’d like to be your best friend. As the rain beats on our windows, light the fireplace and curl up with this Winter Fruit Crisp for a kind and soothing song of warmth and comfort.

Bench notes:
- Pears should be ripe but firm. I used D’anjou pears and Fuji apples.
- I used a Lustau Amontillado Los Arcos Sherry, which has a roasted nut bouquet and a trace of caramel.
- You could certainly omit the walnuts in the streusel, but they really do add a great earthy/toasty goodness.

Winter Fruit Crisp

Serves 6

3 apples
2 ripe pears
2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice (1 lemon)
1/4 C granulated sugar
2 T flour

1/2 C Amontillado sherry
3 T water
1/4 C brown sugar
zest of 1 orange
3/4 t ground cinnamon
1/2 t cardamom
pinch of salt
1 T butter
6 medjool dates, diced into small pieces
2/3 C dried cranberries

For the topping:

1/3 C flour
1/3 C light brown sugar, only lightly packed
1/4 t salt
1/2 C oatmeal
1/4 t cinnamon
1/2 t orange zest
1/2 C walnuts, chopped into small pieces
2 oz (1/2 stick) butter, diced into small pieces

6 4” ramekins or 1 9” baking dish

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

To make the topping, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, salt, oatmeal, cinnamon, orange zest and chopped walnuts. Place the butter in the mixture and work it in with your fingers until the mixture is combined into large crumbles. Set aside.

Peel, core and cut the apples and pears into medium-sized chunks. Place the fruit in a bowl and toss with the lemon juice, granulated sugar and flour.

Place sherry, water, brown sugar, orange zest, spices and salt in a saucepan over low heat. Bring to a boil for about 2 or 3 minutes, stirring. Add the chopped dates and dried cranberries and lower heat. Cook for another minute or two to blend flavors. Cool for a couple of minutes, then gently toss together with the apples and pears until all ingredients are combined.

Divide the fruit into 6 ramekins or pour into a baking dish. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the fruit and out to the edges of the dish so the fruit is completely covered.

Place the baking dish on a sheet pan and bake for about 30 minutes, until the topping is browned and the fruit is bubbling vigorously. Serve warm.


Lucie said...

This looks just right for the kind of weather we have right now in Paris: dreary, dreary and more dreary! Adding the dates is a terrific idea!

Foodiewife said...

I'm am so, so impressed with this crips. I make a crisp "mix" of flour, sugar and butter and keep it in my fridge. We love fruit crisps, so I grab some "mix" and add nuts or oats for texture. It's fun to play with fruits-- but your combo really went to a much higher level than I've ever been. What flavor combos! You've raised the bar. Yummy!

TasteStopping said...

Omit the walnuts!? Never. They are so perfect in this. In fact, the whole dish makes me think of a painter creating a work of art, the way you casually tossed around the cranberries, dates, sherry and orange zest to come up with this beautiful result. Truly inspired. Thanks for sharing!

Anyway, I found you through TasteSpotting and am writing to say that if you have any photos that aren’t accepted there, I’d love to publish them. Visit my site (below), it’s a lot of fun! I hope you will consider it.