Thursday, July 23, 2009

Berry Crisp...if not now, then when....

If not now, then when? This is high cherry and berry season and berry crisps are versatile and foolproof.
If you like pie but don’t want to make pie crust , you can add some flour to a pile of cherries or berries, spread on the crisp topping, and you’ve got CRISP in an hour or so. If you want baked and still juicy cherries or berries with crunchy topping to layer with ice cream, pile in the fruit, spread the crisp topping and bake.
My Apple Crisp topping comes from a former colleague whose grandmother’s recipe fortunately was not in the hand-written notebook that I mistakenly recycled years ago. It is a brown sugar crisp and works well with apples and pears. For berries and cherries, I use white sugar, and pulverize roasted unsalted almonds and candied ginger in the food processor with the rest of the ingredients. Both recipes are below.
1. Put a lined baking sheet or a sheet of foil on the rack below your baking rack or else plan to clean the oven after this dessert boils over.
2. Crisps are fully baked when four things happen: your kitchen smells fabulous, the crisp looks crisp and brown, you can see bubbling juice around the sides of the pan, and you can hear the sound of the bubbles.
3. You may take enormous liberties with the type and amount of fresh and dried fruit, berries and cherries that you put into a crisp. Your friends and family will compliment you on your creativity.
4. You can make crisps out of frozen fruit – and now is the time to buy perfect fresh berries and to freeze them. Lay them out in a single layer to freeze, and then pack into freezer bags.
5. No one will complain if you double the amount of crisp topping.
Missy’s Grandmother’s Apple Crisp
1. Spray or butter a 9x13 Pyrex pan. Use parchment or silicon to line the pan if you like. Preheat the oven to 375.
2. Peel and core 10 Granny Smith Apples; slice thin into water with a few T of lemon juice.
3. Drain the apples and layer them tightly up to the top of the pan.
4. Sprinkle the top with 2-3 T lemon juice.
5. For the Topping: Mix 1 cup brown sugar, ¾ flour, 1 stick of butter, 1 tsp cinnamon, pinch of salt. You can buzz this in the food processor, or do it the old fashioned way – either with two forks or a pastry blender. The crisp should look and feel like crumbly sand.
6. Spread the topping over the apples.
7. Add ¼ cup of liquid – a little bit in each corner. You may use water, apple juice, apple jack, Calvados or the liquid of your choice.
8. Bake at 375 for 50-60 minutes or until you can see and hear bubbling juice.
Cherry or Berry Crisp
1. Butter or spray an 8x8 or 9x9 pan. Use parchment or silicone to line the pan if you like. Preheat the oven to 375.
2. Mix 5-6 cups of berries and or cherries (Optional: include up to ½ cup of dried berries or cherries) in the pan. If you are aiming for a pie-like dessert, mix in 2 T flour with the fruit. If your goal is juicy berries and crispy crisp (for ice cream or because that’s the way you like it), omit the flour.
3. For the Topping: Mix ½ cup almonds; ¼ cup candied ginger, ¾ cup white sugar, ¾ cup flour, 1 stick of butter, ¼ tsp salt, ¼ tsp cinnamon. Buzz this in the food processor until it looks like crumbly sand.
4. Spread the topping over the berries.
5. Add ¼ cup of liquid – a little bit in each corner. You may use water, tart cherry juice, or cherry or berry liquor. If there are cherries in your dessert, and you remember to do this, reduce 2 cups of tart cherry juice to ½ cup. Put ¼ cup in the dessert and the rest into a glass of something sparkly for the cook.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Never fail fruit (and beet!) torte: Thank you, Marian Burros

After mistakenly recycling a treasured 20-year collection of handwritten recipes, the first one that I recovered and entered into a large, heavy leather-bound journal was Marian Burros’ Plum Torte, which she first published in the New York Times on August 14, 1984.

It was one of the most requested Times recipes – ever -- and she republished it along with some great reader stories and questions in The Best of DeGustibus (1988, Simon and Shuster). Between the torte and the recipe for plum jam in Laurie Colwin’s More Home Cooking (1995, Perennial), Italian Prune plums are market prizes for me now.

But this torte is a treasure because it isn’t a One Trick (fruit) Pony. While it sings with Italian Plums, it welcomes all plums, stone fruits, strawberries, blueberries (fresh and dried), and, especially good news for beet lovers – roasted beets. It is also very good with roasted carrots. Beets and carrots may be surprises in dessert, but, trust me -- they will be welcome surprises.

Among this torte's other sterling qualities are its limited tool requirements (bowl, spoon, small baking pan: no stand mixer required), flexibility (although it calls for two eggs, one will do nicely), multiplicity (double, triple, quadruple to your heart’s content), and the fact that it freezes easily and thaws beautifully.

A note on baking pans: this works in a spring form pan, in 8 or 9# square pans or in 8 or 9# rounds. If you have silicone liners, use them, but butter or spray the silicone and the pans well.

All Purpose Torte (adapted from DeGustibus)

For one 8x8 or 9x9, or two six inch rounds

1 cup sugar
½ cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 cup flour
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
2 eggs (1 egg will work just fine)
Choice of: 12 plums, pitted and cut in half
10 oz strawberries, trimmed and cut in half
1 pint of blueberries
1 cup of dried blueberries, reconstituted in blueberry vodka or water
2 cups of roasted beets or carrots, cut into bite sized pieces
Topping: 1 T sugar, 2 T lemon juice, dusting of cinnamon

1. Preheat the oven to 350. Butter or line a pan (see note above) with silicone liner.

2. Cream the sugar and butter. Add the egg and mix until the egg is combined.

3. Whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a small bowl. Add to the butter and sugar mixture and mix until all of the flour has disappeared.

4. Spread the batter into the prepared pan. Add the fruits or vegetables in rows or circles. If you are using stone fruits, put them in skin side up.

5. Top with sugar, lemon juice and cinnamon.

6. Bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees.

7. IF FREEZING: cool completely, wrap tightly in double plastic and then in double foil. Reheat at 300 for 20 minutes.