Some Sundays are so perfect—nearly to the point of being painful. It was so warm in the morning that we claimed an outside table at a nearbye cafe, took our sweaters off and sat in tank tops and teeshirts, bare arms drinking in the sun—can it be late October?
After the dog parade I couldn't resist the call of the little Sunday greenmarket, choosing a pile of burnished red Anjou pears and some battered looking yellow Bartletts. To my surprise, the scratched up Barletts peeled beautifully, and were ripe and perfumed, while the Anjous were a little crunchier, and less sweet.
Crumble/crisp was one of the first recipes I learned to improvise on, so usually I make these pretty much from memory. But I'd seen this recipe for Pear Crumble with Crystallized Ginger online, so I started from there, adding a few crushed gingersnaps to the topping and a little vanilla to the fruit. I substituted whole wheat flour for half of the topping flour, and made only a 9 x 9 square crisp (cutting the topping quantities in half.)
Sitting in the late afternoon light, reading the paper while the crisp baked, I was hit with a rush of scent. I am not exaggerating, this crisp might be the single best-smelling creation to have ever graced our kitchen. I had to make myself take it out of the oven—I wanted to bake it all evening, if only the scent could keep going. (Of course, then the handle fell off my oven, and then I was worried that I wouldn't be able to get it out...)
A warm scoop of this at the end of the day after a walk in the West Village and a few slices of John's pizza was pretty wonderful. Though a little dulce de leche on top wouldn't hurt. And I might try to add more of an acidic bite next time—replace half the pears with apples, or add cranberries to the mix. Once it cooled off, the pear-and-vanilla combo was a bit too much like the canned pears of childhood memory. But those didn't smell nearly as good.
Pear Crumble with Crystallized Ginger
Adapted from Bon Appetit (Oct 1998)
1/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour (or all white if you prefer)
1/3 cup old-fashioned oats
1/3 cup (packed) muscovado sugar (or brown sugar)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon minced crystallized ginger
5 gingersnaps, crushed
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (I microwaved it a minute to soften it.)
About 3-4 pounds firm but ripe pears, peeled, cored, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon sugar (we don't like crisp too sweet)
1 tablespoons minced crystallized ginger
1-2 teaspoons unbleached all purpose flour
Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter 9 x 9 baking dish. Mix first 8 ingredients in medium bowl. Add butter and rub in with fingertips or a fork until moist clumps form.
Combine pear slices and lemon juice in baking pan. Add remaining ingredients and toss to blend.
Sprinkle topping over. Bake crumble until pears are tender and topping is golden brown and crisp, about 45 minutes. (Start checking at 30 minutes) Cool at least 10 minutes. Serve warm. (Microwave if it's cooled off—this was not as good at room temperature.)