23 October 2014

Pear Apple Crisp

It's autumn! Even here in Turkey. Every year for the last 12 years that I haven't lived in Michigan I long to be home for fall. At least early fall, it does have the tendency to snow stupidly early. There were many a Halloween I'm not even sure why we bothered with costumes to Trick or Treat since they were covered with heavy winter coats, scarves, mittens, and boots. However, for the brief time it is fall in Michigan it's a glorious thing.

Fruit, nuts, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove. Glorious.

When the trees turn the colors are amazing: gold, orange, red all burning against skies so blue they almost hurt. In the country you can smell people burning their leaves, after of course you've had a good time jumping into the leaf piles. Hayrides, you-pick pumpkins, apples, pears, stopping at road-side stands for some of the best apple cider on the face of the earth (unpasteurized if you're really lucky); this is how we do in Michigan. I don't miss much about my home state but I do miss that.

Michigan is becoming more and more well known as a beer state with micro breweries are popping up all over. What a lot people don't know though, because it so rarely makes it out of the state, is that Michigan is also full of wineries and cideries. I may have made up 'cidery'. Michigan hard cider is as coveted and amazing as the soft stuff. Throw in some sugared doughnut holes from a local bakery and life is bliss.

Feeling saucy and threw in some fried cranberries

Mixing by hand

Ready for the oven!

I always feel nostalgic in fall. One of my 18 uncles owned an apple and pear orchard and he would drop off bushels of them every once in a while during the season. I had no idea what the majority of produce cost until I moved to DC where I spent a minimum of $20 a week on Honeycrisp apples; far less than a bushel of them to boot. Because we always had such a surplus, crisp was a pretty frequent dessert at home. It's a little harder to make here because I can't find oatmeal. I believe Carrefour carries steel cut oats; but they are not the same and of course the price is highway robbery. Through visiting friends and my trip home in August I've built up a supply, albeit a dwindling supply.

My last Turkish class was last week and I took the opportunity of a class potluck to make a couple crisps. Normally what I would actually do is double the batch of crisp and press some into the dish as a crust as well as put it on top. However since oatmeal is a precious commodity here I put it only on the top.


I was not ready to stop there though! Crisp on its own is a wonderful thing but I wanted to go the extra mile and make caramel to pour over the top. I found a recipe that has no need for sweet & condensed milk or Karo syrup, the former being difficult to find here and the latter impossible. Sugar, butter, and cream - ingredient-wise it couldn't be easier! Making it was a slightly different story but the promise of luscious caramel beckoned.

It's not hard per say, just time consuming because sugar takes buggering forever to melt. And who makes pots and pans with metal handles?! Because while the sugar was heating so was the pot! Eventually I had to fold up a dish towel and use it to hold onto the pot handle which then ran the danger of the cloth catching on fire from the gas flame...

Oh it was beautiful. Baking is therapy for me and making two crisps (one for class one for me!) and making the caramel was soothing. But eating it was better! I ate crisp for breakfast for days. I might keep making this until my oatmeal supply runs out.

A crisp autumn day and a warm gooey dessert go together whether your view is of the chilling Bosphorus or of colorful fall leaves.

For the Crisp:

2 each pears, Granny Smith, and red apples*
2-3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
Dash of salt
Cinnamon, nutmeg, clove to taste

Peel an slice or chop all the fruit, mix in dry ingredients, and set aside for a few minutes

1/2 Cup Oatmeal
1/2 Cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/3 Cup flour
Cinnamon to taste
6 Tablespoons cold butter

  1. Preheat oven at 350F
  2. Butter an 8x8 baking dish and pour in fruit
  3. In the same bowl, combine all the dry ingredients for the topping then use your fingers or a pastry cutter to blend in the butter. Once everything is incorporated, sprinkle over the top of the fruit.
  4. Bake for 40-60 minutes depending on your oven. I'd check it after 40 and let it go longer as needed. You want the crumble top to be golden/browned but obviously not burned.
*The type of apples you use will affect both the flavor and consistency of the dessert. Some apples cook mushy while others retain a crispness. The sweeter the apple you use the less sugar you need. You can also add nuts, dried dates, (dried or fresh) cranberries...go wild.

For the caramel:
1 Cup granulated sugar
8 Tablespoons butter
120 ml (1/3 Cup-ish) heavy cream

  1. Over low heat, heat the sugar, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula. This is going to take forever. Just keep going. Stirring constantly is important because you really don't want this to burn. When melted it should be a nice golden brown, well...caramel color. 
  2. Add the butter and stir until it is all incorporated. Be careful with this part because adding the butter will make the melted sugar go crazy. It will splatter so watch your hands.
  3. Once butter and sugar are fully incorporated, slowly drizzle in cream which will make the mixture boil and rise.
  4. Let boil for one minute then remove from heat.
  5. Optional: add salt to taste if you want salted caramel
The caramel can be stored for up to two weeks in an airtight container in the refrigerator. You'll probably have to reheat it before pouring over anything. Or you could just spoon gooey caramel goodness and eat it straight. I'm not saying I did that...but you could.

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