Baking Class: Fruit surprise

Is it a crumble, a crisp, a cobbler or a clafouti?

Peaches 370 (photo credit: Thinkstock)
Peaches 370
(photo credit: Thinkstock)
For a summer dessert, keep your eyes on fresh fruit.
Layer cakes and chocolate tortes can take a hike. When dining in the light of a balmy sunset, savoring the simplicity of perfectly ripened fruit is a wonderful way to end the day (or to begin the next one if you save some for breakfast).
Yet even the most luscious fruit deserves some tender loving care – with a capital C.
We’re talking about crisps, cobblers, crumbles and clafoutis.
Mastering these simple concepts lets us mix and match a variety of fruits with toppings, from a billowy peach cobbler to a toothsome blueberry crisp.
These are homey, even humble, desserts, traditionally prepared with what a cook had on hand or what family heritage had passed along. This lack of formality has led to a (mostly) happy difference of opinion as to what constitutes a crisp, a crumble and even some cobblers.
Some recipes with nuts are called both crisps and crunches, while certain defenders of each camp deny that this would ever be tolerated.
Same goes for the presence or banishment of rolled oats.
Some bakers treat the fruit like a buried treasure, enclosing it in toppings spread from edge to edge, while others contend that the fruit needs to peek through.
So much contentiousness! Where’s the compromise?
The good news is that all these desserts are delicious. It’s fruit. It’s summer. You know the alternative.
So with blissfully little trepidation, we’ve compiled a chart we’re calling the Four C’s of fruit desserts, arbitrarily assigning certain attributes to crisps, cobblers, crumbles and clafoutis. The ingredients are kitchen staples: flour, sugar, spices, butter, eggs.
The following recipes pair certain toppings with a particular fruit, but feel free to change it up, putting dollops of the cornmeal-flecked cobbler dough on the blueberry filling, or pouring the brandy-spiked clafouti batter over the nectarines.
Serve with a scoop of ice cream and a sunset.
Many peaches are less “fuzzy” these days, so peeling may not be necessary. This recipe is adapted from The Lee Brothers Simple Fresh Southern by Matt and Ted Lee.
✔ 4 cups peaches, cut into 2-cm. pieces ✔ 1 cup fresh raspberries ✔ 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice ✔ 1⁄2 cup brown sugar ✔ 1⁄2 tsp. ground ginger ✔ 1⁄2 tsp. salt ✔ 3⁄4 cup flour ✔ 1⁄4 cup fine cornmeal ✔ 3 Tbsp. packed brown sugar ✔ 11⁄2 tsp. baking powder ✔ 1⁄4 tsp. salt ✔ 3 Tbsp. butter, cut into small pieces ✔ 1⁄2 cup buttermilk
Preheat oven to 250º. Coat a 2-liter baking dish with butter or baking spray, or divide among individual dishes.
In a bowl, gently mix together peaches, raspberries, lemon juice, brown sugar, ginger and salt. Set aside.
In another bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, brown sugar, baking powder and salt. Mix the butter into the flour by pinching with your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse meal and the butter is evenly distributed.
Add the buttermilk and stir until just mixed.
Top the fruit with dollops of the dough, letting the fruit show through.
Bake until the fruit is bubbling and the biscuits are golden, 20 to 25 minutes.
Serves 8
Note: This recipe is adapted from
✔ 6 cups sliced nectarines ✔ 1⁄2 cup packed brown sugar ✔ 1 Tbsp. cornstarch ✔ 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice ✔ 1⁄4 tsp. salt ✔ 3⁄4 cup flour ✔ 1⁄2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats ✔ 1⁄3 cup brown sugar ✔ 1⁄2 tsp. baking powder ✔ 1⁄4 tsp. salt ✔ 1⁄2 tsp. cinnamon ✔ 1⁄4 tsp. nutmeg ✔ 6 Tbsp. butter, divided
Preheat oven to 200º. Coat a 20-cm.-square baking dish with baking spray or use individual dishes.
Mix together nectarines, brown sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice and salt. Pour into baking dish.
In a medium bowl, stir together flour, oats, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add 3 Tbsp. butter into the flour by pinching with your fingers until the butter is evenly distributed in small clumps.
Sprinkle topping evenly over fruit. Melt remaining butter and drizzle over the topping.
Bake for 30 minutes, until fruit is bubbling and topping is browned. Let cool slightly before serving.
Note: This recipe is adapted from King Arthur Flour’s The Baking Companion.
✔ Butter for pan ✔ 3 cups sliced plums ✔ 1⁄3 cup packed brown sugar ✔ 3⁄4 cup flour ✔ 1⁄3 cup granulated sugar ✔ 1⁄2 tsp. salt ✔ 3 eggs
✔ 11⁄4 cup milk ✔ 1 Tbsp. brandy or other liqueur, if desired ✔ 1 tsp. vanilla Preheat oven to 200º.
Place rack in middle position.
Thoroughly butter a 25-cm. baking dish or individual dishes.
Arrange the plum slices in the baking dish, making sure some are skin side up, and sprinkle with brown sugar.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and salt.
In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, brandy and vanilla. Add flour to milk mixture, whisking vigorously until no lumps remain. Pour the batter over the fruit and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until puffed and golden. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve immediately.
The Star Tribune(Minneapolis)/MCT