Sum­mer lov­ing: Fruit crisp and vanilla ice cream

Whether you call it a grunt, a slump or a cob­bler, this type of dessert is a favourite at any time of year

The Hamilton Spectator - - FOOD - EL­IZ­A­BETH KARMEL

The crisp, cob­bler, crum­ble, grunt, slump or buckle.

What do these all have in com­mon? They are all fruit desserts baked with a sweet “pas­try” top­ping.

They’re also the epit­ome of a fresh sum­mer dessert — although I have been known to turn ap­ples and pears into crisps in the fall. Still, a hot sum­mer fruit dessert topped with vanilla ice cream is the essence of sum­mer.

I am par­tial to a crisp which is fruit topped with a com­bi­na­tion of “crisp” oat­meal, flour, but­ter and su­gar and some­times nuts.

The top­ping ranges from streusel to gra­nola and com­pletely cov­ers the fruit. Since the top­ping is ev­ery­one’s favourite part of the dessert, I add pecans to make the crisp top­ping even more crunchy and sub­stan­tial.

I think of it as the dessert ver­sion of gra­nola. The crisp is some­times re­ferred to as a crum­ble or a buckle when a more clas­sic streusel top­ping is used.

Cob­blers are gen­er­ally topped with bat­ters or bis­cuits and the top­ping is spooned onto the fruit, leav­ing space that the fruit can bub­ble up and show through.

Grunts or slumps are like cob­blers and the name is pur­ported to come from the sound that the fruit makes as it cooks and emits steam through the spa­ces be­tween the bis­cuits.

No mat­ter how it is topped, I love to grill this dessert. Even though the process is sim­i­lar to bak­ing it in the oven, it is much more dra­matic and you will surely im­press your friends and fam­ily.

In the sum­mer, I make a crisp al­most every week. Right now, I am mak­ing it with straw­ber­ries and rhubarb, but it is good with what­ever fruit you find at the mar­ket. Make sure that the fruit is ripe, and mix it with a lit­tle bit of su­gar, cit­rus and cin­na­mon.

The ad­di­tion of Grand Marnier is op­tional but one that I al­ways opt for as it makes a big dif­fer­ence in the depth of flavour, and mar­ry­ing all the ingredients.

If you don’t have Grand Marnier, add a bit of bour­bon or your favourite cit­rus or nut liqueur.

When you toss the fruit with the su­gar and corn­starch, be sure to mix well and let the fruit sit for five min­utes to bring out the nat­u­ral juices and mix again.

When bak­ing it, make sure that it’s in the oven long enough for the corn­starch and fruit juices to bub­ble up and turn opaque or your crisp will taste slightly raw and gritty in­stead of silky smooth and fruit tart. The tell­tale sign of a crisp that is done cooking is the drips of this juice run­ning down the side of the dish.

The dessert is made for easy en­ter­tain­ing since you can as­sem­ble it early in the day and bake it just be­fore you want to eat it and serve it hot-off-the grill, or bake it in ad­vance and serve it at room tem­per­a­ture.

If I am bak­ing it while we eat, I put the crisp on the grill over in­di­rect medium heat when I take the meat off the grill. That way, it is bub­bling and hot when ev­ery­one is ready for dessert. I love the drama of lift­ing the lid of the grill in front of my guests and see­ing their eyes light up with the thought of a grilled fruit crisp.

Ei­ther way, it is en­hanced by a scoop of best-qual­ity vanilla ice cream.

Straw­berry-Rhubarb Crisp with Pe­can Top­ping

MAKES 10 SERVINGS

Top­ping: 1 cup packed light brown su­gar 1 cup all-pur­pose flour 1 cup reg­u­lar or quick-cooking oat­meal (not in­stant) 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans 1 tea­spoon ground cin­na­mon ½ tsp kosher salt ½ cup (1 stick) un­salted but­ter, soft­ened, cut into small pieces Fill­ing: 3 pounds straw­ber­ries, cleaned and halved (about 5 gen­er­ous cups) 2 cups chopped rhubarb, about 3 stalks 1/3 cup gran­u­lated white su­gar 1 or­ange, zested and juiced (about ½ cup to­tal) 1 lemon, zested and juiced (about ½ cup to­tal) 2/3 cup su­gar in the raw ¼ cup corn­starch 1 tsp ground cin­na­mon 2 tbsp Grand Marnier, op­tional

Start to fin­ish: 110 min­utes (20 min­utes ac­tive)

Build a char­coal fire or pre­heat a gas grill. Or pre­heat oven to 350 F.

Make the top­ping: In a big bowl, com­bine all the top­ping ingredients ex­cept the but­ter. Work in the but­ter with a pas­try blender or fork un­til the mix re­sem­bles large, coarse bread crumbs. Set aside.

Make the fill­ing: In an­other large bowl, place the straw­ber­ries. In a smaller bowl, toss the chopped rhubarb. Add the or­ange juice, lemon juice, or­ange and lemon zests, su­gar, corn­starch and cin­na­mon; mix lightly. Add the Grand Marnier, if us­ing. Set aside for five min­utes. Place the fruit mix­ture in a deep round bak­ing dish or souf­flé dish. Top it evenly with the streusel mix­ture.

In a grill, place the dish in the cen­tre of the cooking grate over in­di­rect medium heat, cover the grill, and bake.

In the oven, set the dish on a sheet pan and place in the cen­tre of the oven. Bake for 60 to 90 min­utes, or un­til the juices bub­ble over the bak­ing dish, and are clear, and the top is browned.

Chef ’s note: Those of you used to mak­ing fruit crisps may be sur­prised by the cooking time, but the rhubarb takes longer than most fruit to cook. I made this twice; the first time, I took out the crisp at 60 min­utes and the rhubarb was still crunchy. Ninety min­utes re­sulted in a per­fect tex­ture.

Trans­fer the bak­ing dish to a cool­ing rack. Serve warm with ice cream, if de­sired.

Per serv­ing: 444 calo­ries (160 from fat); 18 grams fat (7 g sat­u­rated; 0 g trans fats); 24 mil­ligrams choles­terol; 107 mg sodium; 72 g car­bo­hy­drate; 5 g fi­bre; 50 g su­gar; 4 g protein.

RICHARD DREW, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

The tell-tale sign of a crisp that is done cooking is the drips of this juice run­ning down the side of the dish.

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