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February 2002 Issue
The Best of Cobblers and Crisps
by Ronda L. Halpin
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Cold months call for warm desserts. At least, that's the way I see it. But what about a warm dessert that also lets you indulge in a little of summer's favorite sweet treat? I'd call that a fruit cobbler or crisp, since their soulmate in sweetness is none other than good old fashioned vanilla ice cream.

Cobblers and crisps are relatively simple desserts that are composed of a fruity filling and a topping that, when baked, becomes a warm crispy bit of heaven. What's truly wonderful about them is that the fillings and toppings can be prepared in advance, then put together and baked when the fruity dessert inspiration hits you. In fact, the two components of these fruity desserts can be as simple as a spruced up pie filling and your favorite breakfast cereal!

What's more, if you spend a little time planning them out, they can be really healthy desserts. Fruit is sweet by nature, so little additional sugar needs to be added to the filling and whole grains are easy to incorporate into most toppings. That's a double dose of fiber and a great source of vitamins and minerals. What more could you ask for?

The Basic Recipe

Rather than present a huge multitude of recipes, I'm going to start out with a basic recipe for the kind of crisp and cobbler I make. I give that caveat because there are recipes out there that have you baking the filling, then adding the topping and baking some more or others still that require changing oven temperatures or the like. That's not my kind of dessert. I want a quick dessert that spends no more than a half an hour in the oven and comes out ready to be spooned into a bowl and topped with a scoop of ice cream.

So, without further warnings, here's my ultra-simple basic recipe:

 

Basic Fruit Crisp or Cobbler

This recipe gives you a basic form to follow when making these fruit desserts. The fillings and toppings are up to you!
  • Filling of your choice
  • Topping of your choice
Make the filling and topping as desired. Suggestions and recipes for both follow below.

Pour the filling into an appropriately-sized baking pan. Carefully sprinkle or drop the topping onto the fruit as directed. Bake, uncovered, for 20-30 minutes in a 350 degree oven or until the topping is golden and the fruit is bubbly. Serve warm with ice cream or whipped topping.

  • Yields: Depends on amount of filling and topping
  • Preparation Time: 35-45 minutes
 

That's it. Now it's time to talk about the wonderful things that can find their way into these simple and satisfying treats.

The Fillings

While you can always make a filling by simply softening your favorite fruit on the stovetop and sweetening and thickening it to your liking, I find that the best crisps and cobblers take advantage of one or more fruits. Since making the filling is going to be simple either way, I think it's helpful to pair some tried and true favorites to get flavors that add a touch of elegance to it. Here are two of my favorites:

 

Cranberry-Pear Fruit Filling

Use firm pears for this filling or you will end up with a very mushy result.
  • 2 T. honey
  • 1 firm green pear, sectioned into 12 slices and then cut into thirds
  • 1 c. frozen cranberries
  • 1/3 c. pineapple or apple juice
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch
Heat the honey over medium heat in a nonstick skillet. Add the prepared fruit and mix to coat with the honey. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries begin to pop, about 4 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small dish, combine the fruit juice and cornstarch and mix until no lumps remain. Add the mixture to the hot skillet and mix until the liquid bubbles and thickens. Remove from the heat and place in a small baking dish, if it's to be used as a filling for a crisp or cobbler.

  • Yields: 2 servings
  • Preparation Time: 10 minutes
 

 

Mixed Berry Fruit Filling

Using three different types of berries will add a special texture and flavor depth that's just not possible with one. Be sure to use frozen berries if making a filling with tender berries or add them at the very end of the cooking process.
  • 2 T. honey
  • 2/3 c. hulled and quartered strawberries
  • 2/3 c. blackberries -- I use frozen berries
  • 2/3 c. blueberries -- Use firm berries or opt for frozen
  • 2 T. amaretto
  • 2 T. pineapple juice
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch
Heat the honey over medium heat in a nonstick skillet. Add the prepared fruit and mix to coat with the honey. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the frozen fruit softens slightly, about 3 minutes. If using some tender berries, add them to the mixture during the last minute of cooking time.

Meanwhile, in a small dish, combine the amaretto, fruit juice and cornstarch and mix until no lumps remain. Add the mixture to the hot skillet and mix until the liquid bubbles and thickens. Remove from the heat and place in a small baking dish, if it's to be used as a filling for a crisp or cobbler.

  • Yields: 2 servings
  • Preparation Time: 10 minutes
 

If turning on the stove for about 10 minutes seems like too much work, crisp and cobbler fillings are still within your reach. With the huge variety of quality canned pie fillings available at your grocery store, a warm fruit dessert can be literally on your table in minutes. Some of my favorite pie filling fix-ups include:

Feel free to try your hand at making your own homemade and "quick fix" fillings too!
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