My favorite summer dessert is the simplest one: a fruit crisp. A layer of jammy, sweet-tart fruit topped with crunchy, chewy streusel topping-it’s addictive. I often slide a 13×9 into the oven right before dinner for a warm treat after a dinner party on the patio, but my favorite way to eat crisps is right out of the fridge for breakfast, maybe with a dollop of yogurt on the side.
The best part might be that you can use any fruit to make a crisp. Grabbed fresh peaches at the farmers market? Perfect! Mixed berries? Scrumptious! Have a bag of blueberries buried in the freezer? They’ll work, too! You can also mix fruits (like apples with pears or strawberries with rhubarb). (Here are the summer foods you can freeze.)
Here’s the basic formula to make any fruit crisp at home. (Don’t get bogged down in perfecting ratios or measurements. Crisps are very forgiving.)
For the filling:
3/4-1 cup sugar (Base the amount upon whether your fruit is predominantly sweet or tart. More on that in a minute.)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon various spices, optional (Think versatile favorites like cinnamon, cardamom and ginger.)
5 cups fruit, frozen or fresh (If large, chop the fruit; in these images, we use a mix of apples and cranberries.)
For the topping:
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour (If you prefer, you can use gluten-free flour instead; we like almond.)
1/2 cup chopped nuts (Use whatever kind you like! Pecans, walnuts, almonds and pistachios are delish.)
1/3 cup cold butter
Step 1: Toss the fruit filling together
In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch and, if using, spices. Add the fruit and toss until it’s coated with the sugar mixture. (You can use your hands or a wooden spoon.)
A quick note on sugar: Be careful not to add too much! The fruit should provide a tart balance for the sweet crumble on top. Because of this, we suggest erring on the side of less: Start with 1/2 to 3/4 cup. Toss, then taste the fruit. If it’s slightly tart, it’s probably perfect. Is it mouth-puckeringly tart? Add a bit more sugar. Remember, if it turns out not quite sweet enough, you can always add sweetened whipped cream, ice cream or a dusting of crunchy turbinado sugar before serving.
Test Kitchen tip: Cornstarch doesn’t add flavor. Its role is to thicken the juices that come off the fruit as it cooks. It’ll make your fruit crisp jammy and gooey (as opposed to watery). If you don’t have cornstarch, you can use regular flour, but it can dull the colors of the fruit. You’ll need about twice the amount of flour (for this recipe, 2 tablespoons) to achieve the same result. Other options include instant tapioca and arrowroot…or nothing at all, if you don’t mind a runnier filling. (Did you know you can skip these 14 common recipe instructions?)
Step 2: Prep for baking
Preheat the oven to 375°. Grease a 2-qt. baking dish with butter or cooking spray. Add the fruit mixture, spreading so it’s evenly distributed. The fruit will bubble up during cooking, so it should reach about a half inch below the rim of the dish.
Test Kitchen tip: While many recipes call for preheating to 350°, we prefer a slightly hotter oven, which makes for an ultra-crunchy topping.
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Step 3: Make the crumble topping
In another bowl, combine the oats, brown sugar, flour and nuts. Cut the butter into half-inch cubes and blend into the oat mixture with a fork, pastry cutter or your fingers. Work the butter in until the mixture is crumbly. It’s OK if some larger pieces of butter remain.
Sprinkle the crumble over the fruit. Don’t pat it down! The topping should be chunky and uneven in order to get that classic crunchy-chewy texture once baked.
Step 4: Bake
Bake, uncovered, for 45-50 minutes or until the topping is firm and golden brown and the fruit is bubbling. If you’re worried about drips, spread a layer of aluminum foil under the dish.
Test Kitchen tip: If the topping starts to get too brown before the fruit is tender and bubbly, loosely cover the baking dish with foil. (This works wonders for many baked goods, even savories like lasagna.)
Step 5: Eat
We like this best served warm with a dollop of ice cream, whipped cream or creme fraiche, but it’s also delicious as a leftover, warmed up or cold.
Store leftovers in the fridge. Wait until the crisp is cool to cover it so the topping doesn’t go soggy. (Psst: ever wondered why Saran wrap has gotten less sticky?)
Expert Variation: Try a Savory Crisp
Want a culinary adventure? Try making a savory crisp. Tomatoes and zucchini are some of the vegetables (actually, strictly speaking, they’re fruits) that taste delicious baked this way. Use a lot less sugar and add a bit of salt and vinegar or lemon to bring out the veggies’ flavors. Add some cheese to the topping (and again, cut way back on the sugar).
Fun fact: It used to be a lot more common for bakers to use veggies and unusual fruits (like green tomatoes) in desserts. Find 50 vintage baking recipes here.
Want more easy desserts? Find 5-ingredient desserts over here.