Individual Pear Crisps: Dinner-Savingly Delicious

December 30, 2007


Friday night’s dinner taught me something (something other than (a) strongly reconsider your desire to make your own pasta, because it just doesn’t seem meant to be and (b) never, ever use that same pasta maker insert because that ugly spaghetti is haunting my dreams). Okay, sorry about that—back to the silver lining. Friday night’s dinner taught me that a dessert can save the day.


I’m sure this is something that many cooks already know, but—since I’m not a huge dessert fan—it’s somewhat of a revelation to me. And one that I plan to keep firmly tucked in my back pocket for all future pasta excursions or any other try-something-new meal that could end in less than ideal results.


This dessert—a pear crisp—did just that: saved dinner. And not only that, but it has a few other things going for it as well. First, it’s extremely simple and can be made ahead (which is quite helpful when you are otherwise occupied with complicated kitchen contraptions and one, two, oh yes, three different sauces). Second, I baked the crisp in individual servings (which were a touch too large, but who’s counting?). Everyone loves an individual dessert and it works especially well for a crisp—everyone gets plenty of the nutty, buttery topping (and an entire bowl’s worth of the crispy browned topping along the edge) and your cold topping of choice (we went with ice cream, but whipped cream, mascarpone, creme fraiche, etc would all work well too) melts right into the crisp, rather than running all over your plate.


I used my standard crisp method for this recipe—toss the cut fruit in a bit of flour (use more flour for juicier fruit, less for drier fruit), sugar, lemon juice and zest, and spices (I used the very standard cinnamon and nutmeg here, but the options are endless; if I’d had cardamom on hand, I would have paired that with the, um, pears). And for the topping, mix oats, chopped nuts (I used walnuts here, but I’m of the opinion that any nut will do), brown sugar and spices together and cut in chilled butter until the mixture forms little honey-bunches-of-oats-esque clusters.


And though I’ve already mentioned a number of variations—toppings, spices and nuts—there are plenty more. Feel free to spike the filling with liqueur or vanilla, for instance. And go wild with your fruit choices. This was my first pear crisp and it was a delicious winter choice. But, while it doesn’t seem like it now (for me, at least), winter will eventually end. At least I hope so. And spring, fall (to me, the official crisp season) and summer will all bring new crisp-worthy fruits—ripe for dinner saving.


Individual Pear Crisps
(Serves 3 to 6)

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of salt
1/2 stick unsalted butter, cubed (chilled)
4 medium ripe Bosc pears, peeled and cubed
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 pint vanilla ice cream (or cinnamon or dulce de leche) (if desired)

Preheat oven to 350.Butter three oven-safe crocks. In a medium bowl, mix the 1/2 cup flour, oats, brown sugar, walnuts, cinnamon and pinch of salt. Add the butter to the oat mixture and use a pastry blender to cut it in, until the butter is partially incorporated. To fully incorporate the butter, mix with your finger tips until the oat mixture forms small clusters.In a large bowl, mix the pears, zest, juice, flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Divide the pears between the three buttered crocks. Top the pears with the oat mixture, dividing it evenly between the three crocks. Press the tops of the oat mixture slightly to compact.

Bake the three crocks on a baking sheet (to catch any drippings, if the crocks bubble over) for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the pears are tender. Top the crocks with ice cream, if desired, and serve.

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