There is a whole family of American fruit desserts related to the family of pies; this other family—with members such as the crisp, the cobbler, the grunt, the slump, the buckle, the pandowdy—also combines fruit and pastry, but usually uses less pastry than a pie, or even starchy alternatives to pastry. The simplest to make is one of my favorites: the crisp, which is merely a crunchy layer of rubbed-together sugar, flour and butter on top of cooked fruit. The following recipe is a classic example.
makes 8 servings
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small bits
6 cooking apples, such as Granny Smith
grated zest of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon powdered cinnamon (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 450°F.
2. Sieve the flour and 3/4 cup of the sugar into a medium bowl. Using your fingertips, rub in 3/4 cup of the butter until the mixture looks like coarse breadcrumbs. Refrigerate the topping while you prepare the apples.
3. Butter a 6-cup ovenproof gratin dish with the remaining tablespoon of butter and set aside.
4. Peel and core the apples. Quarter them, and cut into 3/4″ wedges. In a medium bowl, toss the apples with the remaining cup of sugar, lemon zest and cinnamon. Arrange coated apples evenly in the gratin dish.
5. Remove the topping from the fridge, and sprinkle it evenly over the apples. Place in the oven and bake until the top is lightly browned, about 15-20 minutes. Watch it carefully, because it’s cooking at a high temperature. Serve warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream (find my current favorite in Rosengarten Report Issue #3!)
Note: This topping can be used with other fruits. If the fruits are juicy add 2 tablespoons of flour when tossing with the sugar. Adjust sugar if necessary—using less sugar if the fruit is very sweet, more sugar if the fruit is tart.