I love fruit crisp, especially in the autumn, and once, long ago, complained to my friend Betsy that my crisp always turned out poorly, either powdery-floury on top or burned fruit stuck to the pan. She told me then the secret to a good crisp is to pack it tight in the pan. If you do this, then as the fruit cooks, the juices will bubble up and cook the topping. So simple, yet I'm surprised at how many people have the same complaint I use to. It's always irritated me when certain directions (inevitably techniques) are omitted from recipes, as though we're all suppose to know everything. so I'm sharing a crisp recipe that is particularly good, and also the technique to make it perfect.
This is a recipe for apple crisp from Mark Bittman's book "How to Cook Everything". This is a great book, and though I like all the Mark Bittman cookbooks I've looked at, this one is the best. However, like all the crisp recipes I've ever encountered, it neglects to tell the reader an important step.
6 cups peeled, cored, sliced apples (or other fruit)
1 tsp ground cinnamon, divided
juice of 1/2 lemon
2/3 cup brown sugar, divided
5 tbsp cold butter, cut into small cubes (plus a small amount to grease the pan)
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut (optional)
1/4 cup chopped nuts (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Toss the fruit with half the cinnamon, the lemon juice, and 1 tbsp of the sugar, and spread it in a lightly buttered 8-inch square or 9-inch round baking pan (I use a deep dish pie plate)packing it down with the back of a spatula.
Combine all the other ingredients - including the remaining cinnamon and sugar - in the container of a food processor and pulse a few times until well incorporated. To do this by hand soften the butter first and rub together with your fingertips or a pastry blender.
Spread the topping over the fruit, packing down tightly, and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the topping is browned and the fruit is tender. You may want to place the pie plate on a rimmed baking sheet to catch any drips. This can be served hot, warm, or at room temperature.
Now, honestly, how much trouble is it to mention this important step of packing the beast into it's little plate?
This one is mine, made with a few leftovers from the fridge; four beautiful, ripe nectarines, two Granny Smith apples, and two Mackintosh apples. It's the perfect autumn dessert with lots of vanilla ice cream. Yum, yum.