Basic Crumbles and Crisps

Cozy, unfussy crumbles and crisps aren’t as formal or elegant as pie, but they smell heavenly and taste every bit as delicious. And they’re foolproof. Unlike most baked goods, crumbles (made with flour) and crisps (made with only oats) reward creativity and experimentation. This isn’t a strict recipe, so feel free to tweak it according to your preferences and available ingredients: Walnuts or pecans can easily replace the almonds, and certain less-sweet fruits will benefit from a bit of sugar or honey before topping. The mixture also freezes well—make a double batch and save half to use on another crisp, as a crumb topping for pie or toast it and serve over ice cream. Using all oats will deliver a crispier texture—like oatmeal cookies—while adding flour helps soak up excess juices if you’ve got especially ripe stone fruit or berries. A tart Granny Smith may need more sugar than a Cortland, while a firm Seckel pear may need a few more minutes in the oven than a Bartlett. Just test the fruit with the tip of knife; if it’s tender, the crisp is done. Whatever your preference or baking ability, this humble combination of oats, butter and brown sugar baked into seasonal fruit is always a winner.

Makes 1 8-inch square or 9-inch round crisp

1 cup rolled oats or combination oats and flour
1 cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided
½ cup sliced almonds or other chopped nuts (optional)
½ cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
2 pounds seasonal fruit (about 5-6 peaches, pears or apples, peeled, cored and sliced, or berries or a combination of mixed fruits)
½ cup cane sugar, honey or light brown sugar (optional)
juice and zest of ½ lemon (optional)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

Preheat oven to 375° F. In a large bowl, combine oats, brown sugar, salt, nutmeg and ½ teaspoon cinnamon. Add nuts, if using. Rub butter into dry ingredients with fingers until a coarse meal forms.

 In an buttered 8-inch square or 9-inch round baking dish, toss fruit with sugar (or honey), lemon zest and juice and vanilla, if using. 

Sprinkle oat topping evenly over fruit.

Bake 45 minutes or until the oats begin to brown and the fruit is tender, bubbling at the edges of the pan. Serve warm with ice cream for dessert, at room temperature for snack or cold with plain Greek yogurt for breakfast.

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Rachel is a Cambridge-based cook, writer, event producer and Executive Director of the Friday Night Supper Program in Boston's Back Bay.