Crisps were one of the first desserts I learned how to bake. I presume that is because they are simple, economical and very hard to ruin. The beauty of their simplicity is that even though there are not a lot of ingredients, and they don’t require intense techniques (chop, mix, sprinkle), crisps are surprisingly complex in flavour and give you a great bang-for-your-buck when it comes to texture. They are also a great way to use up over ripe or excessive fruit – something you may find yourself with at this time of year and this change of season. I had been thinking of this Apricot and Nectarine Brown Sugar Crisp for a while before making it for the first time. With fall upon us, we are in the hay-day of fruit: trees are heavy with it, markets are bursting with it. As I dreamed of this combination, I had my mind’s eye a bit farther into the future, thinking about how to use dried fruits more when fresh ones are out of season. I considered fully re-constituting the dried apricots, but decided against it. Their intense flavor and chewiness seemed welcome with the soft sweetness of the nectarines. They also sopped up some of the wetness from the nectarines, making for a sturdier crisp. Usually I’d dredge the fruit in flour to thicken the jammy juices as the crisp bakes, but here I have turned to good old fashioned graham crumbs. I was dubious, but hopeful, and I am happy to report that the graham crumbs are perfect here.
There’s something about the calm and industrious feeling that baking gives me that I really appreciate. Baking bread and kneading dough is an obvious example, but I find all forms of baking so relaxing if I can just trust my hands. I like to think that it’s some sort of deep nostalgia or primevil link to a simpler, quieter time, that allows me the zen moments as I pare down fruit, or massage butter into oats. Besides the obviously delicious ingredients and opportunity for variety with fruit crisps, I really appreciate their particular tactile quality. To make a great crisp, I truly believe you have to use your hands.
Apricot and Nectarine Brown Sugar Crisp
preheat your oven to 350°
For the crispy topping, combine the following in a bowl:
½ C brown sugar
½ C cold butter, cut into small bits
2 C rolled oats
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
Combine with your fingers, rubbing the butter into the dry ingredients until it is pea sized and the dry ingredients have become slightly damp. Set aside.
Meanwhile, in a shallow buttered baking dish, combine the following:
8 cups chopped nectarines (skin on)
1 cup chopped dried apricots
¼ C sugar
1 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla
½ C graham crumbs
Top the fruit with the oat mixture. Bake at 350° for 60 minutes or until bubbling and golden. Serve warm or room temperature with ice cream (or the next morning with milk like cereal).