Apple-Pear Crisp

I have found a gold standard for crisps: a nutty, dark topping with plenty of oats and nuts, and a snappy, bright filling with lemon and ginger. I just love the contrasts of both tastes — high notes of lemon and ginger, a baseline of brown sugar and walnuts and a melody of apples and pears — and textures — the nuts are crunchy, fruit still has texture, but the juices are soppy and sweet. I’m not sure how I first stumbled upon it, but I do know where: A recipe by Nancy Baggett that appeared in the Washington Post in 2003. I’ll post it, with step-by-step photos, after the jump.

I’m tweaking the original recipe just a bit — and just the order that you put things together. I feel like if you’ve got to melt or chill butter in any recipe, that should be your first step. In this case, you have to melt and then cool a stick and a half of butter.

While that’s melting, get out the rest of your ingredients:

Chop your walnuts, then mix them with the rest of your dry ingredients: flour, brown sugar, oats, cinnamon and salt.

Give it a good stir:

While the butter is cooling, you can get the rest of the crumble ready. First, peel and mince your ginger:

Then zest your lemon and squeeze its juice:

I say do this before you peel your fruit, because tossing the peeled, cut fruit with lemon will help keep it from turning brown.  But before you prepare your apples and pears, finish making your crust. Pour the cooled, melted butter into the dry ingredients, and blend well but leave some lumps:

Set aside and start peeling, coring and slicing your fruit. I use a vegetable peeler. Hold the peeler still and turn the apple. You should be able to get it off in one connected ring:

(That’s not really the way to hold it; I just had to move my hands to take the photo. And you may use a paring knife if you like. If you’re good. And careful.)

I like to use a melon baller to remove the core:

And a paring knife to get the stems out:

Get a nice heaping full four cups. I always do a little more than the recipe calls for because of shrinkage. (Including my own nibbling!)

Toss with the lemon juice and zest:

Do the same thing with your pears:

Heaping full. The recipe calls for 3 1/2, but I went for more like 4 cups:

Butter your dish. It can be 9 by 13 or any similar size:

Toss one cup of the topping mixture with the fruit:

Then spread the fruit —

— into the buttered dish:

Don’t worry about filling it too high. Go all the way to the top… it will shrink down:

Spread the rest of the topping on, breaking up any big lumps with your fingertips:

And bake for about 35 minutes, until the topping is brown and the fruit is bubbling:

A little vanilla ice cream never hurt anyone, neither.

Easy Apple-Pear Crisp
From Nancy Baggett and The Washington Post

8 to 10 servings

* Nonstick spray oil or butter for the baking dish
* 3/4 cup (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
* 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 cup packed light brown sugar
* 3/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
* 3/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (optional — I used pecans instead)
* Scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
* 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
* 2 teaspoons peeled and finely minced ginger root
* 4 1/2 cups peeled, cored and sliced (1/4 inch) Granny Smith, Stayman, Greening, Newton Pippin, York, or other tart, flavorful apples (4 or 5 medium apples)
* 3 1/2 cups peeled, cored and sliced (1/4 inch) barely ripe Bartlett, Anjou or Bosc pears (about 3 medium pears)
Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Coat a 9-by-13-inch or similarly sized baking dish with nonstick spray oil or butter.

Melt and cool the butter. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, oats, nuts (if using), salt and cinnamon. Add the butter and stir until it is evenly incorporated and the mixture forms clumps. Set aside.

In a large nonreactive bowl, add the lemon juice and zest, and ginger. Add the apples and pears and toss. Add 1 cup of the crumb mixture and toss to combine. Spread the mixture evenly in the baking dish.

Sprinkle the remaining crumb mixture evenly over the top, using your fingertips to break up any large clumps.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the top is well browned and the fruit is bubbly. Transfer the dish to a wire rack and set aside to cool until barely warm. Spoon the crisp into bowls or onto dessert plates, then top with scoops of vanilla ice cream or garnish with dollops of whipped cream. (May cover and refrigerate for several days. Cover with foil and reheat slowly in a low oven just until warmed; do not serve chilled.)