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