I was determined to do something with apples and pears but reluctant to do a crisp. Crisps are usually the only dessert that I can actually refuse. They just don't do much for me. My problem, though, was that the process of elimination wasn't leaving me any other options. I didn't feel like rolling out a crust which meant no pie, tarte, or dumpling recipes. I also wasn't in the mood for cake or quick breads. But a crisp?
Fortunately, a chance crossing with an Emeril recipe helped bridge that gap for me. Emeril must be averse to crisps, too, because his recipe used terms like "stew" and "dumplings" to describe a dish of cooked fruit covered with a sweet, crumbly mix, and baked until lightly browned. Yup, that's a crisp alright.
Candied ginger is a key part of this recipe. It enhances the lemon zest and brightens the pear and apple filling, elevating this crisp above others I've tried. If you're up for the extra 20 minutes involved, I'd encourage you to candy your own ginger. Why? Well, you save money. A few small knobs of fresh ginger will only run you about a dollar as opposed to $12.99 for a small jar of factory crystallized ginger. You get much more flavor when using fresh ginger. Whenever possible, I prefer fresh, whole spices to the prepackaged type because the instensity of whole spices just can't be beat. Plus, just look at how beautiful these strips of candied ginger are! You're not gonna get that from a jar. And making your own candied ginger is actually quite simple. You boil sugar and water, peel your ginger and cut into small strips, and let it simmer for about 20 minutes. Toss the strips in some more sugar, and you're done.
Another key part of this recipe is the moist oatmeal topping. Incorporating honey and apple cider meant just enough sweetness to compliment the butter. Don't be afraid to drop it in clumps over the gingered filling. The topping tastes better in small clumps, allowing the butter, natural sugars, and hearty oats to meld in every bite. Crumbling it loosely instead of spreading also means the oats don't dry out like other crisp toppings do.
Gingered Apple-Pear CrispI peeled half of the fruit to vary the filling's texture. You could alternately peel all the fruit or leave all the skins on as you see fit. Whole spices look pretty when served, but don't forget to remove the whole cloves as they're harder to spot.
1 cup apple cider
4 large Gala apples (not quite 2 pounds)
4 large green pears (not quite 2 pounds)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 cinnamon sticks
3 whole cloves
1/4 cup chopped candied ginger
1 star anise
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 1/2 lemon)
1-1/2 tablespoons lemon zest (from 1 large lemon)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 3-inch knob fresh ginger
1 cup sugar, plus more for coating
1 cup water
1-1/2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1-1/2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons apple cider
1-1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Prepare the candied ginger: Peel ginger and cut into thin strips about 1/8-inch wide. Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook until sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes, swirling pan occasionally. Add ginger slices one at a time, being careful to avoid overlap; simmer over low heat until soft, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent strips from sticking together. Drain candied ginger. (Ginger syrup can be reserved for another use.) Coat candied strips with sugar. Chop enough candied ginger to yield the 1/4 cup needed for the filling; reserve remaining strips for garnish, if desired.
Prepare the filling: Peel half of the apples and pears. Core and slice all apples and pears. Heat a large, deep skillet over medium to medium-high heat; add the butter and melt. Add apples, pears, cinnamon, cloves, and candied ginger; cook, covered, over medium heat for 10 minutes. Add star anise and lemon juice; uncover and cook 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; stir in reserved cider reduction and lemon zest. Season with kosher salt and a few twists from the pepper mill. Pour filling into greased baking dish.
Prepare the topping: In a large bowl combine oats and next four ingredients (through salt). Add honey, apple cider, and melted butter to oats mixture, mixing and crumbling with your hand to incorporate wet ingredients into dry mixture. Drop mixture in large clumps over fruit filling. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes or until oats topping is lightly browned. Remove whole cloves before serving. Serve with freshly whipped cream or vanilla ice cream and garnish with candied ginger strips if desired. Yield: 8-10 servings.
Inspiration for my Gingered Apple-Pear Crisp
Emeril Lagasse's Apple and Pear Stew with Oatmeal Dumplings
Holidays: Favorite Recipes, Gifts, and Decorations, Thanksgiving through Christmas by Martha Stewart (1993)
Apple Soup with Apple Dumplings by pattikay in L.A.
The Good Housekeeping Cookbook edited by Susan Westmoreland (2001)