Last week I was making a vegan plum crisp for my brother-in-law and while shopping for some plums I spied ripe Forelle pears. It may seem a bit too early for pears, but Forelle pears are now ripe and ready at my local farm stand. I love the way Forelle pears look, they are so adorable in its petit form looking like a baby Bartlett pear with rosy cheeks. I find them hard to resist and are the perfect size for an afternoon snack. Change of plans, my plum crisp just got a makeover and turned into a vegan plum and pear crisp with lots of fresh ginger and a hint of nutmeg.
What Is A Crisp?
Crumble or crisp? I have confused the names of these two desserts for so many years. It is just that the actual name of each dessert is opposite to what my backward brain believes it should be. Essentially aren’t they the same dessert after all? Yes and no. Both the crumble and crisp are baked fruit desserts with a crusty topping. However, one has rolled oats in the topping and the other does not.
A fruit crisp has the rolled oats and flour topping and is so named because the rolled oats make the rough and tumble topping crispy like an oatmeal cookie. A fruit crumble is made with all-purpose flour, butter, sugar and gets all soft and crumbly while baking and soaking up the fruit juices.
Plum and Pear Crisp
This is one of the easiest desserts you can make, and it is one that is so satisfying. Essentially it is baked fruit with a giant cookie topping like two desserts in one. Top it off with some vanilla ice cream and you have 3 dessert indulgences on your plate.
The recipe is a basic formula for all fruit crisps. Usually, crips have around 6 cups (1.5 Liters) of fruit filling for the standard amount. This formula works with any type of fruit like plums, pears, apples or other stone fruit. This amount of fruit filling fills a nine-inch (23 cm) pie plate or 8-inch (20 cm) square baking dish.
The topping generally has equal parts of rolled oats to all-purpose flour with butter and sugar. For this recipe, I wanted to make a vegan dessert so, I used a vegan butter substitute. I have success using Earth Balance Original Buttery Spread. (Not an ad.) The flavor is pleasant and tastes natural, unlike some kinds of margarine. FYI, not all margarine is vegan. It is one of the easiest desserts to convert to a vegan option because the butter is the only animal product to find a substitute for.
Keys to Success
The key to a perfectly baked plum and pear crisp lies in the fruit selection. The type of pear or plum is not as important, but how ripe they are is. Your fruit must be ripe. Ideally just ripe or a smidgen off ripe. Overripe plums and pears will dissolve into a sauce and not keep their shape. Unripe plums and pears will never get soft no matter how long you bake them. It is just not their time. Plus, they do not have any flavor.
I used a combination of black plums and European plums, like a Moyer plum. The European plum has a longer and oval shape compared to the roundness of black plums. Any type of plum will taste great as long as they are ripe.
For the pears, I used only Forelle, because they were ripe. Bosc pears work very well in a crisp or pie because they keep its shape. I did not peel the Forelle pears, but if I used Bosc pears I would peel them as the skin is rougher and thicker than Forelle pears.
I have made this plum and pear dessert many times, yet as you can see in my photographs, this time around I went a little overboard with the fruit filling. Ideally, you want a level surface of fruit filling for the buttery topping to spread over. The fruit cooks evenly when it is not piled up so high and the rolled oats in the topping won’t burn before the crisp is done.
My problem is the result of a shallow baking dish, that I chose because it would photograph better than my trusty Pyrex deep dish pie pan. My vanity resulted in a delicious plum and pear crisp, but one that did not bake as evenly as it should. I say this, so you can learn from my mistake and not feel you must make your crisp overflowing with fruit like I did.
Mix It Up
Use any fruit for the filling. Apples, pears, plums, nectarines or other stone fruit. I added some blackberries with the plums and pears in my crisp just for fun. If you want to make a mixed berry crisp, mix the berries with a type of fruit that retains its shape like nectarines, plums, or Bosc pears. Otherwise, it will look saucy without any distinctive fruit shapes.
Change the spices. I love fresh ginger with fruit and use it often. Other good spices are cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, or ground clove. Lemon zest and lemon juice brighten up the fruit and the juice prevents apples and pears from browning. Lemon zest is also a nice accent flavor mixed in the topping.
Add dried fruit like chopped dried apricots or cranberries. They add a tart concentrated flavor to the fruit filling and help absorb some of the fruit juices. Add about a half a cup (125 ml) at the most. Dried fruit should be an accent flavor, not a featured one.
Add nuts or unsweetened coconut flakes to the topping. Pecans, walnuts or almonds give the topping some extra crunch. If you add unsweetened coconut flakes, add a 1/2 a cup (125 ml), and remove equal amounts of rolled oats and all-purpose flour (1/4 cup, 60 ml, each).
P.S. Yes, I do see the reflection of the chandelier in the spoon. I could not get the darn clone stamp to work in Photoshop so I gave up and included the photo anyway. To all the Photoshop experts out there, how do you get rid of reflections in shiny objects like a silver spoon?
Ginger Plum and Pear Crisp
Fruit crisp has a basic formula that is suitable for any seasonal fruit. This basic formula makes it easy to personalize your crisp using the fruit and spices you love. I love using fresh ginger with fruit as it adds some bite and compliments most fruits like pears, plums and apples. However, ground ginger does not taste as bright as fresh ginger in baked desserts.
Often, I need a vegan dessert and I find fruit crisps are an easy vegan dessert option. There are no eggs or dairy products to maintain the structure of a crisp so all you need to substitute is a plant-based butter-like spread. In this recipe, you can use equal amounts of vegan butter spread or real butter. When selecting a vegan butter spread, read the ingredients list carefully to make sure there are no dairy or other animal-based ingredients in the mix.
- 6 cups (1.5 L) prepared fruit. Depending on the type and size of plums you will need 5- 6 plums. And, 4-6 Forelle pears or 3-4 Bosc pears
- 6 oz (170 g) blackberries optional
- 1 ½ inch (14 g) knob of fresh ginger root, peeled and minced
- ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- Juice of half a lemon
- 2/3 cup 113 g packed brown sugar
- ¾ cup 75 g rolled oats ( not quick rolled oats)
- ¾ cup 100g all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup 27 g toasted nuts, like pecans, almonds or walnuts, chopped
- 5 TB 86 g straight out of the refrigerator vegan butter substitute or butter
- Pinch 1/8 tsp of Kosher salt
Set the oven rack into the middle position and preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Lightly butter a 9-inch (23 cm) pie pan or 8-inch (20 cm) square pan. Set aside.
Slice open the plums and remove the pits then slice the plums into wedges. Add the plums into a large mixing bowl.
Slice each pear in half and remove the core. Then cut each pear into chunks about 1/2 -3/4 of an inch (1 cm - 1.5 cm). Add the pears into the bowl with the plums. The skin on Forelle pears is very thin and tender so I do not peel them. However, if you are using Bosc pears, you might want to peel the skin.
Add the minced ginger and grated nutmeg to the bowl with the fruit along with the lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of the sugar. Mix together until the sugar and spices are thoroughly mixed through the fruit. Set aside.
In another bowl add the sugar, rolled oats, all-purpose flour, toasted nuts and a pinch of Kosher salt. Mix together with your clean hands until the butter and all ingredients are evenly incorporated and forming soft clumps of dough.
Pour the fruit into your prepared baking pan then sprinkle the crisp topping evenly over the top of the fruit. Place your baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet, then slide into the oven. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes until the top is evenly browned and the juices are bubbly.
Cool on wire rack for at least 15 minutes before serving. Serve hot or room temperature. Best eaten the day it is made. Store leftovers in the refrigerator, loosely covered in aluminum foil.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
A few years ago, I offered to bring a dessert for our Russian themed book club meeting. Our theme had nothing to do with the current US and Russian political climate, but was literary based around a love story from a classic Russian novella by Sergeevish Turgenev. At the time, the possibility of Russia interfering with the 2016 election was not even a blip in our imagination. Our job was to decipher the leads told throughout a melodramatic Russian love story and form an opinion if “First Love” was the definitive love story written in the 19th century. The task was not as insurmountable as it sounds, but my bigger concern lay with what should I bring for dessert?
After reading the story, and not feeling enthusiastic about it, I waltzed into researching ideas for a “Russian” dessert. It did not take long to discover a meringue dessert created to honor the Russian prima ballerina Anna Pavlova. Pavlova is a dessert consisting of a meringue nest filled with whipped cream and seasonal fresh fruit. Each bite is a choreographed dance of sensual textures and flavors. It is soft and crispy, sweet and tart, and as light as a ballerina pirouetting on a cloud.
In 1926 and 1928, Anna Pavlova toured with her ballet company to Australia and New Zealand. Her world tours were as anticipated as the Beatles and considered a major event for both countries. Chefs in Australia and New Zealand built on the excitement and honored her by creating and naming a meringue cake in her honor. Both countries have a long-standing dispute over the origin of the pavlova, inspired by the dancer’s tutu. The pavlova turned out to be as captivating as the ballerina’s graceful dancing, growing in popularity around the world for almost a hundred years. There is evidence that neither country created this meringue cake, but they did influence in its legacy. A true love story in its’ own right.
How to Make a Pavlova
Unlike other meringues, like my peppermint meringue cookies, that are crispy through and through, a pavlova has a crispy outside and a creamy-marshmallow center. A small amount of corn starch makes this marshmallow middle possible. The luscious contrast in texture is one reason for the dessert’s popularity.
Making a pavlova is not difficult, but like all meringues they are temperamental. The right conditions, cool dry air, and slowly adding sugar to the developing meringue are key to success. Another important factor is making sure your mixing bowl and beaters, or whisk, are clean. Any oil or fat residue will prevent the eggs whites from developing into an airy cloud. A new trick I just learned is clean out your mixing bowl and beaters with distilled vinegar then wipe the bowl and beaters dry with a lint free cloth. This extra step will ensure your bowl is free of any traces of fat.
Once the egg whites are all glossy and fluffy, bake the meringue in a low temperature oven. Don’t peek. Keep the door shut throughout the cooking and cooling process. Like a soufflé, meringue deflates when exposed to air before it is set.
Meringues are very sweet, so I offset the sweetness with tart fruit and lightly sweetened whipped cream. Adding extra sweet fruit, jams, fruit curds, or sauces makes the pavlova cloyingly sweet. Passion fruit has a tart flavor and is perfect with meringue. If you can find fresh passion fruit scoop out the flesh and seeds and drizzle it over the whipped cream for a dramatic affect. Otherwise you can buy frozen passion fruit pulp in the freezer section of your grocery store. I made a sauce with the passion fruit with a little sugar and reduced it slightly. Resist the temptation to add more sugar. The sauce is tart by itself, but combined with the sweet meringue, the tart flavor subsides.
Switch it up
For a dairy free option, make whipped cream with coconut cream found in full fat coconut milk.
For a vegan option make the meringue with Aquafaba, chickpea water, and use coconut milk whipped cream. Top with fruit and passion fruit sauce.
For more lemon flavor add 1 TB fresh lemon juice to the finished meringue. Fold it in with the lemon zest, corn starch. Omit the vinegar.
Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of unsweetened natural coco powder for a chocolate Pavlova. Fold in the coco powder with the corn starch until no streaks are left. (omit the lemon zest in this recipe)
My pavlova recipe is adapted from Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa, Mixed Berry Pavlova.
Lemon Pavlova with Passion Fruit and Kiwi
- 5 egg whites about 1/2 cup (125 ml)
- 1 cup 7 oz/ 202 g granulated sugar
- 1 tsp distilled vinegar
- 2 tsp cornstarch
- Zest from 1 lemon
- 1 cup 250 ml heavy cream
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 TB powdered sugar
- 1 kiwi peeled and sliced thin,
- 3/4 cup 185 ml frozen passion fruit pulp, or one fresh passion fruit
- 1-2 TB granulated sugar if using pulp
- Berries and fresh mint to garnish
Preheat the oven to 350°F /180°C and place the oven rack in the middle position.
Draw a 9 inch (23 cm) circle in the middle of a piece of parchment paper large enough to cover a large rimmed baking sheet. Turn the paper over, and place the parchment paper on your baking sheet. The drawn side is facing down. Set aside.
Wipe your mixing bowl and beaters with some distilled vinegar then wipe dry with a lint free cloth.
Add the egg whites with a small pinch of Kosher salt to a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Turn the speed to medium-high and whisk until the egg whites become foamy and hold soft peaks.
With the motor running add the sugar one tablespoon at a time, whisking between each addition. This will take some time, about 5 minutes, but it prevents the egg whites from deflating. When all the sugar is added, turn the speed up to high and beat until the egg whites are glossy and hold stiff peaks and all the sugar is dissolved, about 2-3 minutes. Test if the sugar is dissolved by rubbing a small piece of whipped egg whites between your fingers. If it feels course, then the sugar has not fully dissolved. If so, continue beating the egg whites or a minute more, but be careful to not over beat the meringue because it will deflate.
Remove the bowl from the mixer and sift the cornstarch over the meringue. Add the lemon zest and vinegar then carefully fold the ingredients into the meringue until evenly combined.
Pour the meringue on to the parchment paper aiming for the middle of your circle. Spread out the meringue to evenly fill the circle.
Place in the oven and turn the heat down to 300°F / 150°C Bake for 1 hour then turn off the oven. Keep the oven door closed no peeking. Cool the meringue in the oven for an hour, or until it reaches room temperature.
You can make the meringue a day ahead and store in an airtight container on the counter. A cool oven is a great place to store the meringue overnight. Do not refrigerate.
Passion Fruit Sauce
Pour the passion fruit sauce into a medium saucepan. Turn the heat to medium-high and add 1 TB of the sugar. Whisk to combine and bring to a gentle simmer. Taste add another tablespoon of sugar if needed. Remember the meringue is very sweet so keep the passion fruit sauce on the tart side. Whisk to combine and simmer. Cook until the sauce begins to thicken and slightly reduces. Turn off the heat and pour the sauce into a heat proof container. Cool to room temperature.
Make the Whipped Cream
Add the chilled heavy cream to a medium bowl and whip with a hand held mixer, or use a free standing mixer, until just starting to thicken. Add the vanilla extract and sugar and beat until soft peaks form. Cover and keep refrigerated until needed.
Assemble the Pavlova
Just before serving, slowly peel away the parchment paper from the meringue. A thin spatula helps release any stubborn parts. Slide the meringue onto a serving plate, then layer with the whipped cream. Scatter the fruit on top of the whipped cream then drizzle with the passion fruit or some of the sauce. Garnish with fresh mint if using.
Serve immediately with extra sauce.
Once assembled, pavlovas do not keep very long because the whipped cream makes the meringue soggy. You can cover any leftovers with aluminum foil and keep in the refrigerator for one day with the understanding some of the crispiness will subside.
Meringues are temperamental to humid condition. Store in an air tight container until needed. A cool oven is the best place to store a meringue, just make sure you don't accidentally turn it on.
You can also make 6 - 8 small nests instead of one big one. Each meringue then gets a large dollop of whipped cream and fresh fruit.
© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.