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July 2, 2024
A Crisp Is Dessert You Can Rely On

This recipe with summer fruit is easier than pie

Crisps are perhaps the tastiest and most forgiving of summer desserts. One can be made from start to finish in well under an hour and provides a very similar experience to a fruit pie, but without any of the faff—no rolling or chilling required. In fact, when working on this recipe, I kept asking myself why I don’t make crisps more often? I couldn’t think of a single excuse.

A crisp is essentially a dish of sweet, jammy fruit topped with crumbled bits of a shortbread-like dough. As the crisp bakes, the dough cooks into a crunchy, slightly salty topping that juxtaposes the syrupy fruit beneath it. My ideal crisp is simple, letting ripe seasonal fruit shine with very few supporting ingredients.

This dessert calls for the freshest, juiciest fruit, whether it’s apples, pears, peaches, or plums. I’m especially partial to blueberries, as the pebble-sized berries don’t require any peeling or chopping, and they cook down into a delicious thick puddle of purple jam. Peak-season fruit won’t require much sugar, so be sure to sample your produce and sweeten it accordingly. My master recipe calls for about a half-cup of sugar for 2 pounds of fruit of your choice. Plums or raspberries are more naturally tart and may need extra sweetening, whereas less acidic fruits like blueberries, peaches, and apples may require less. Nearly all fruits, however, benefit from the sharp fragrance of freshly grated ginger. I only add a tiny bit, but it makes all the difference.

The topping of a crisp plays a crucial, yet supporting role, forming a crunchy, crumbly lid over the substantial layer of juicy fruit beneath. While many recipes call for oats or nuts to add extra crunch, I prefer a simpler version. To make the topping, simply mix soft butter with flour, sugar, salt, and a pinch of cinnamon until the mixture resembles a crumbly cookie dough. There’s no special technique involved here; just smoosh the ingredients together by hand. If you have it, adding a little whole wheat flour to the mix gives a sandier texture and a nutty flavor.

For the record, there’s not a huge difference between crisps and crumbles. Some say that a crisp has oats while a crumble does not. Another theory suggests that crumbles are the English version of crisps. In my world, the two terms have always been used interchangeably. No matter what you call it, think of this recipe as a loose guide. The fruit is up to you, as are the optional add-ins—the whole wheat flour and the ginger. This is a dessert you actually have time to make, so need to overcomplicate things. A giant scoop of vanilla ice cream, however, is completely essential. At least in my book.

RECIPE: Any Fruit Crisp

Zola Gregory

Zola Gregory is a writer and recipe developer based in Seattle. Having previously worked as a pastry chef and baker, she now enjoys helping others find success in their own kitchens through her stories, recipes, and baking classes.