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.
Breakfast, how I love thee, let me count the ways. I love thee for the replenishment after an evening’s fast. I love thee for the breakfast coffee which awakens me from my evening slumber. I love thee for the simple unpretentious food like cereal, eggs, toast and fruit which ease me into a new day. I love thee for the endless sweet and savory discoveries that enlighten me.
Alas, more breakfast love has come my way in the form of a new breakfast discovery. It is not sexy or fancy but belongs in the simple and unpretentious category – baked oatmeal. I happen to like oatmeal, and all hot cereal, so I am open-minded to this idea of baking it. However, if you are not a fan of oatmeal this might be the recipe that will win you over. It is one of the easiest and adaptable breakfast recipes around.
For the last 50 something years, I have been dutifully stirring a pot of oatmeal to just the right consistency, without ever questioning if there was a better way. That was foolish of me, because there is. What a novel idea. It is so simple, I am kicking myself for not thinking of this earlier. Apparently, it is an old secret because the Amish have been baking oatmeal for generations.
Baked oatmeal is rolled oats layered between fruit and sweetened with maple syrup and milk. It is like a cross between a bread pudding and a fruit crumble without the crunch. It is not custardy or rich like bread pudding, but there is a similar texture. The rolled oats absorb the maple syrup and milk, plus the juices of all the fruit and spices while it is baking. This process transforms oatmeal from an indistinguishable porridge to a healthy baked breakfast treat. It is so good, you will believe you are eating dessert for breakfast, minus the guilt.
While I was baking breakfast rolled oats, the house filled with the sweet scent of maple syrup, apple pie and oatmeal cookies. It was quite intoxicating. I had almost forgotten how magical these aromas can be. Despite the fact I had just eaten lunch, the smell of baked oatmeal made me so hungry, I became impatient for the oatmeal to finish. This seductive smell is very persuasive and could convert any oatmeal skeptic to grab a spoon and dig in. Certainly, I wish I knew about this 28 years ago when I tried and miserably failed, to get my kids to eat hot cereal. I can imagine their chiming, “Is it done yet? Can I have some?”
Easy Adaptations for Baked Oatmeal
As I mentioned earlier, baked oatmeal is one of the most adaptable recipes around. If you are on a non-dairy diet, substitute milk with unsweetened coconut milk or almond milk. If you are on a vegan diet, substitute with non-dairy milk and a flaxseed egg substitute. Full disclosure, I haven’t tested that yet, but I don’t see why it would not work. If you make this a vegan breakfast, please let me know how it goes.
Additionally, use your favorite fruit or whatever is in season. I made this fruit filling because I needed to use up some leftover dried fruit from my pantry. The dried figs, apricots and cranberries went perfectly with apples and minced ginger. Follow the basic recipe, then substitute the fruit with any seasonal fruit you have available, even frozen fruit. They all work. If raisins are the only fruit you want to use, then you will need a fresh fruit like apples, or bananas sliced lengthwise and cover the bottom of the pan. Mix the raisins with the rolled oats and proceed as directed. The fruit on the bottom of your baking dish will help prevent the oats from sticking to the pan.
Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks, is my primary source and where I first discovered this simple but remarkable breakfast. For this recipe, I followed a basic formula I found consistent in most baked oatmeal recipes. Typically, they all had about 2 cups of rolled oats, 2 cups of liquid, 1 egg, melted butter, a sweetener, and various amounts of fruit and spices.
March is a tweener month for fresh produce, and why this recipe includes apples and dried fruit. I love to combine fresh and dried fruits. The concentrated flavors of the dried fruit add a lot of fruit flavor. Plus, I had a lot of odd amounts of dried fruit that I needed to use up, and this recipe is perfect for that. My baked oatmeal has a decent amount of fruit in it, but if you want a ratio of more oatmeal than fruit, it is easy to scale the fruit down. Just make sure there is a good fruit layer on the bottom of your pan.
Baked oatmeal is also easy to make ahead and reheat it for a later time. I like to make it on a Sunday morning, then reheat individual portions in the microwave throughout the week. This makes the work week easier to manage when I don’t have to think about what’s for breakfast. You can also prepare it ahead, refrigerate, then reheat the whole dish, covered in aluminum foil, in the oven.
To be honest, I was surprised at how good baked oatmeal is. However, there is one downsize, and that is I used three bowls to make it. Baked oatmeal may require more cleanup, but it is more enjoyable to eat than the standard stove top recipe. This is one new discovery worth making. Oh baked oatmeal, how I love thee.
Baked Oatmeal with Apples and Apricots
- 2 apples which can be different varieties but should be ones that do not get too mushy when baked
- 6 dried apricots
- 6 dried figs
- ¼ - ½ cup dried cranberries
- 1 heaping Tbs of minced ginger
- ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg 1/4 tsp if using store bought ground nutmeg
- Juice of half a lemon
- 2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
- Shy ½ cup chopped walnuts optional
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp Kosher salt
- ½ tsp ground ginger optional
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 2 Tbs melted butter
- 2 cups milk or unsweetened nondairy milk - like coconut or almond milk
- 1/3 cup real maple syrup
- 1 egg
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 375˚F / 190˚C / Gas Mark 5 and place the rack on the top third of the oven. Generously butter an 8’ x 8” (20cm square) baking pan.
Core and slice the apples then chop into decent bite size pieces. There is no need to peel the apples. Mince the dried apricots into pieces between ¼ inch to ½ inch big. Chop the dried figs into bite size pieces.
Add the prepared fruit into a mixing bowl, then add lemon juice, freshly ground nutmeg, and minced ginger. Mix well to get all the fruit evenly distributed. Set aside.
In another bowl mix together the rolled oats, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ground ginger, and most of the chopped walnuts. (Reserve some walnuts to sprinkle on the top). Mix the ingredients together to get evenly combined. Set aside.
In a third bowl, whisk together the milk, maple syrup, pure vanilla extract, and room temperature melted butter until thoroughly mixed together. Set aside.
Putting it all together.
Add a good layer of the prepared fruit to generously cover the bottom of the buttered baking dish. Add the oatmeal and spread it to cover the layer of fruit. Pour the milk mixture all over the oatmeal, and tilt the pan to encourage the milk to flow into all corners and throughout the oatmeal. Bang the pan against the counter to make sure the milk has flowed completely through the rolled oats and fruit. Add the remaining fruit and chopped nuts to cover the top of the oatmeal.
Bake for 35 – 45 minutes until it is golden brown on top and looks set in the middle.
Remove the baked oatmeal from the oven and let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes.
Spoon portions of the baked oatmeal in a bowl and serve warm plain, or with additional milk or yogurt. I think it is sweet enough as is, but add more maple syrup if you want it sweeter.
Store in the refrigerator covered for several days. Re-heat in the microwave in a glass container covered with a paper towel.
© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.