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Choosing to wear my brown and olive green apron I got two Christmases ago and selecting a random playlist on itunes, I set to work on my very first dessert.  I chose this recipe from Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa, on foodnetwork.com for several reasons.  The main one being…it’s cold out!  (Cold for Florida at least.) I wanted to take advantage of making a warm dessert with fruits often used in the winter.  Citrus fruits are available all year, so the oranges and lemons are also easy to find.  I also wanted my first dessert to be relatively simple – unfortunately I lean toward pessimism.  Crisp recipes are, for the most part, straightforward.  The ingredients are commonplace, and the prepping tasks are processes we’ve all performed – most of us anyway.  The final reason?  Ina’s recipes are, in my opinion, the best.  Her dishes are homemade with fresh, and sometimes unusual, ingredients, and the result is a depth in flavor.

In the kitchen this afternoon, after breakfast with the women in the professionals (yes, I am out of the campus ministry now), I was fully expecting to peel the apples and pears with a knife, and a dull knife at that – I know, the prospect sounds awful.  Much to my amazement and pleasure, I discovered that we owned a peeler!  Saved my life.  So if you don’t have one, I definitely suggest acquiring one.  Despite the process being, as I described earlier, straightforward, it nonetheless took a while to peel, core and cut the fruit.  Seven songs, or 20 minutes and 19 seconds, to be exact.  The apples were tougher to peel, so I suggest peeling them first and then the pears will seem like a piece of cake.  I used a cookie dough scoop to core the pears because that’s what I had, and it made the coring super easy, but a melon baller or just a spoon will suffice.  I cheated with the apples a little.  I cut around the core instead of coring the entire apple.  Mental note: learn to core an apple.  The process worked out fine though.  The goal is just chunks of fruit right?

Another note: use big bowls!  And a large baking dish.  A 9×12 inch dish was too small.  I had a 16×16.5 inch glass dish, so I just used that.  I also had to switch to larger bowls for both the fruit and the topping because the first ones I used were too small.  In short, the entire dessert was a little bigger than I was expecting, so plan for that.  Unless it just brings joy to your heart to wash dishes!

After the mouth-watering smell of fruit, brown sugar and cinnamon wafted through our apartment for a solid hour, my roommates and I hovered our spoons over a single dish, preparing for the inaugural bite.  All I can say is that this crisp has joined the ranks of my favorite desserts.  We all agreed it was the perfect blend of sweet and tart.  The two types of sugar married well with the tart apples and cranberries while the spicy cinnamon and nutmeg swirled in the background.  I wondered exactly how the orange and lemon zest and juice would contribute to the dish.  The subtle hint of citrus made all the difference.  Cinnamon and even nutmeg were an unsurprising addition to a dessert with apples, but the slight citrus punch gave it a “zing” and a “pop” and a depth of flavor that has come to characterize dishes by the Barefoot Contessa.  It warms you from the inside and is the perfect take-refuge-at-home-from-the-cold kind of dessert.

*Side note: a cup of coffee complements it excellently.

All in all, it was quite the success, and I completed my first project within a project with no major catastrophes.  But I won’t count my desserts before they hatch – endeavors fraught with disaster make for a much more interesting read!

Pear, Apple and Cranberry Crisp

2006, Barefoot Contessa at Home, All Rights Reserved

Show: Barefoot Contessa Episode: Barn Warming

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds ripe Bosc pears (4 pears)
  • 2 pounds firm Macoun apples (6 apples)  *I couldn’t find Macoun, so I used Granny Smith because they’re firm and good for baking
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries  *I used Craisins
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

For the topping:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oatmeal
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, diced

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Peel and core the pears and apples and cut them into large chunks. Place the fruit in a large bowl and toss with the cranberries, zests, juices, granulated sugar, flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Pour into a 9 by 12 by 2-inch baking dish.  *I used a 16×16.5 inch dish.

For the topping:

Combine the flour, sugars, salt, oatmeal, and cold butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on low speed for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the mixture is in large crumbles. Sprinkle evenly over the fruit, covering the fruit completely.

Place the baking dish on a parchment-lined sheet pan and bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, until the top is brown and the fruit is bubbly. Serve warm.  *I didn’t have parchment paper, so I just placed the baking dish on a cookie sheet and it turned out perfectly.

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