A large part of the joy of cooking is witnessing the perfection of nature.
I believe in respecting the integrity of foods– as Brooks Headley so eloquently put it, above. He also said, “the key to making great food is to get the best possible stuff and avoid fucking it up”. Okay Brooks, simple enough.
His cookbook Fancy Desserts is a real pleasure to read. It’s one of the quirkiest, unique, personal, thought-provoking, and creative-juice-stimulating ones I’ve ever read. (“I genuinely love holding a piece of fruit in its perfect state, barely able to contain its own fragile insides, a few hours away from rot. It is magic.”)
Although I haven’t gotten around to making anything from it yet (chocolate eggplant sounds a bit far fetched, even for me…), it just reminded me again how lucky I am to be spoiled by the bounty of local, fresh summer fruit.
For me, there’s a sort of default dessert they’ll be siphoned off to– a crisp. It always goes back to the crisp. It’s quick, easy, simple, versatile, and respectful. You’re fully in charge of how much or how little sugar to add, the combination of fruits, how “whole” you want to leave the fruit, the types of oats and nuts in the topping. Whether or not you want an element of surprise. Black pepper and strawberry, perhaps. A bit of herb in the topping, like thyme, perhaps. It’s easier to make than a pie, since there’s no waiting for the crust to chill, no need to dirty your counters rolling out the crust… it’s pretty much a mix-and-dump type deal. Plus, there’s the added bonus of being able to sneak in oats, your choice of nuts and seeds, and even almond flour into your crisp topping, so you can convince yourself it’s breakfast food. Serve it à la mode, and you’ve got yourself the perfect summer dessert.
In this case, my little surprise element is kirsch. A clear, colourless brandy made from double distillation of morello cherries, with the subtle flavour of cherries and bitter almonds. Part of David Lebovitz’s top 5 ingredients.
Its bitterness highlights the cherries’ sweetness, while balancing out its tartness. It’s not really a secondary flavour, as a… flavour in harmony with that of the cherry. You’ll definitely taste it.
Texture-wise, nothing can be more balanced than a crisp– soft fruit swimming in its thickened juices, in contrast with the crunchy crumbly roasted earthy nutty topping.
Have I convinced you yet?
Cherry Kirsch Crisp
Adapted from averiecooks
- 4 cups fresh cherries, pitted and stems removed
- scant 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1/4 cup kirsch
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup old-fashioned whole rolled oats
- 1/4 cup all purpose flour
- 1/4 cup almond flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup toasted walnuts
- black sesame seeds
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly oil a 9-inch nonstick pan or glass pie dish.
- Toss cherries, granulated sugar, lemon juice, kirsch, and cornstarch in a large bowl gently, until all traces of cornstarch have disappeared.
- In another large bowl, combine the butter, brown sugar, oats, almond flour, flour, salt using a pastry cutter. The texture you’re looking for is sandy, with some small pea-sized clumps. Stir in the toasted walnuts.
- Dump out the fruit and all of its juices into the baking dish. Evenly sprinkle the crumble mixture over the berries. Gently pat down. Sprinkle the black sesame seeds evenly on top.
- Place the baking dish onto a cookie sheet (this is very important, it will most likely bubble over in the oven), and bake for about 45-50 minutes. It’s easy to know when it’s done– the crisp will be bubbling, and the top should be golden brown and set.
- Allow to cool enough so it won’t burn your mouth, but go ahead and dig in. With vanilla bean ice cream, if you know what you’re doing.