It's ironic that I never grew up having dessert every night, like many of my school friends did, nor was I particularly precise enough to be a good baker. Yet I became a pastry chef, mostly because I was so frustrated that I could not seem to master this elusive art of precisely measuring flour and sugar in its infinite combinations.
Throughout my baking days and still today, I am known for desserts that are not super sweet and very often showcase fruit as their main ingredient. Dessert should be a special occasion; a small finale to a meal, not these gargantuan sugar-loaded monstrosities that people have gotten into the habit of eating. My philosophy is: Indulge in dessert occasionally, make it a small portion, and include fruit wherever possible.
This brings me to our challenge this week, which is to make a simple dessert using my ingredients. Obviously, we don't have to use them all and we can add staples to this list. Taking my own advice, I'm starting with a beautiful array of summer berries and adding some peaches that are in season now to make a simple yet satisfying summer crisp. A good dessert should boast a contrast in flavours and textures, and not be too sweet. Did I mention that? A crisp is a versatile choice with infinite possibilities of fruit combinations. The one thing I keep in mind is never to use too much wet fruit -- like raspberries and blackberries -- on its own. By adding blueberries and peaches, the crisp has more body and won't turn into a soup when I bake it.
My husband's favourite fruit dessert that I make is my apple pie, but every time I have made a crisp he asks, "What's this?" Not in a bad way, but in a "you've made this before but I can't remember it" way. He's very inconsistent in his reaction so I never know if he'll like it or not.
Dessert: Peach and Berry Crisp
This crisp is a super easy way to use summer berries in concert with any stone fruit like peaches, nectarines or plums. The filling is entirely sweetened by the natural sugars in the fruit. To reduce the fat and sugar, reduce the crisp topping in half so you'll have more fruit than topping.
Main Ingredients used (in total):
• Rolled oats
Ingredients list (for topping):
• 125 mL (1/2 cup) all-purpose flour
• 95 mL (1/3 cup) cold butter, cut into chunks
• 250 mL (1 cup) rolled oats
• 50 mL (¼ cup almonds) chopped
• 80 mL (1/3 cup) brown sugar
• 2.5 mL (½ tsp.) ground cinnamon
Ingredients list (for filling):
• 3 medium peaches, pit removed and peeled, chopped into 4 cm (1½ inch) pieces
• 1 L (4 cups) mixed berries, like blueberries, raspberries and blackberries
• 25 mL (2 tbsp.) cornstarch
• 15 mL (1 tbsp.) fresh lemon juice
• Grated zest of 1 lemon
Preparation: Preheat oven to 180 C (350 F).
In a medium bowl combine the flour and cold butter. With pastry cutter, work butter into flour until well blended. Sprinkle in rolled oats, chopped almonds, brown sugar and cinnamon. Stir to combine. Break up ingredients quickly with hands to ensure they are evenly distributed. Chill until ready to assemble crisp.
In a large bowl combine peaches, berries, cornstarch, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Toss very gently to combine, being careful not to bruise the fruit.
Place dish on baking sheet. Pour fruit filling into 20 x 30 cm (11½ x 8-inch) at least 6 cm (2 ½ inches) deep baking dish. Mound the topping over filling, covering it completely. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until filling is bubbly and topping is golden.
Makes 10 servings
The Verdict: As it turns out, he likes the combination of berries and peaches and now that I think of it, previously I made him an apple crisp but in his mind he heard 'apple,' which meant apple pie. My lesson is, if I'm going to use apples, it better be in a pie, but berries and peaches are delicious in a crisp, according to my husband!