When Lindsey sent this new addition to the Dessert for Two series, I actually squealed. I LOVE cherry desserts, and just looking at the photos I thought, “Ooooh. I bet those come together quick. I’m going to be making a ton of these.”
I think you’ll really love this recipe. Delicious and informative — because Lindsey starts with a short discussion about the difference between cobblers, crumbles and crisps. Do you know the difference? Plus, just in case you don’t like cherries, Lindsey suggests lots of alternative fruits that would work just as well.
Here’s what Lindsey says:
The other day I typed the following into a search engine: “What is the difference between a cobbler, crumble, and crisp?” And wouldn’t you know, I found my answer fairly quickly, and it was actually a Design Mom post. Ha!
I had completely forgotten about this discussion from a few years ago. And it’s still relevant, obviously, because I couldn’t quite remember which was which when it came to crumbles and crisps. (Tl;dr – cobblers and crisps are basically the same except a crisp contains oats. Cobblers are topped with biscuit or a short crust/pie crust.)
Moving right along…
I’m almost giddy thinking about all the fresh produce filling the farmer’s market and fruit stands in my city. We’re getting a few things in from California right now, which is only making my excitement that stronger. I found a bag of gorgeous cherries next to bags and bags of grapes, almost hidden. I snatched up a bag and proudly carried it to the checkout.
Cherry season is fleeting. Thankfully, I can still get my fill of them by buying gargantuan bags of frozen cherries during the off season. But fresh cherries, sigh, still have my heart.
Last year I remembered to buy a cherry pitter before they were sold out. And believe me, that does happen; even online. I went for years and years without one because it seemed like a (perhaps) unnecessary kitchen gadget that is only used once, maybe a few times a year.
But I’ll tell you this: there’s many a kitchen gadget I own and use often that I would happily trade in for a cherry pitter. True story.
The only danger is that you’ll be pitting cherries and eating them so fast…and well, if you were a little kid who didn’t listen to your grandma tell you not to eat too many cherries, then you’ll know what I mean. Ahem.
Cherries are often cloaked in a buttery double crust and baked to bubbling perfection. But who has time to wait for pie?! (I do, but sometimes I’m so impatient! Okay, confession time. These crisps, if you’re using uber fresh cherries, take a little longer to bake. But don’t dismiss the recipe — it’s so worth it.)
Obviously there’s room for both cherry pie and cherry crisps in this world.
Crisp topping is essentially streusel. And as we all know, streusel makes nearly everything better. (Just ask my kids!) I love the sweet, nutty crunch with every bite of juicy fruit. Pecans are a go-to because they have such a delightful little crunch and marry well with the brown sugar in the topping.
The cherries, especially if they are ripe off the tree, will have enough flavor on their own. They just need the teensiest amount of flavor boosters in the form of fresh lemon juice (to brighten), and vanilla and almond extracts (to ever-so-slightly enhance the cherry flavor). I do add a little cornstarch to help thicken the juices. A little sugar helps too. But you can certainly leave the sugar out of the filling. The topping is perfectly sweet.
You’ve probably noticed that I used canning jars for these mini cherry crisps. First, they are so adorable I can barely handle it. Second, they are perfect for holding all the fruit and topping without spilling over, and there’s still room for ice cream on top. And third, they are heat safe and most people have them in some form, so no special baking dishes needed. (I used the short pint jars, but the regular ones work great too.)
As the crisps bake, they will lose volume, so don’t be tempted to use less fruit or topping. I promise you this is perfect ratio of fruit to topping.
Last thing: if cherries aren’t your thing, of if you can’t find them where you live, or you just want to use something else, just about any fruit will work here. We love strawberry-rhubarb, peach, mango, apricot, berry, pear, and apple. Or a combination of several fruits.
Tuck this recipe away when you have some time to kill and want a fruit dessert that is homey and utterly delicious. For me? That time is always.
Mini Baked Cherry Crisp
2 cups fresh or frozen cherries, pitted
2-4 tablespoons granulated sugar (depending on preference)
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
Pinch sea salt
1/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons butter, chilled
1/4 cup chopped pecans or sliced almonds
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Have ready two pint (500ml) mason jars and a baking sheet. (The short, wide jars are awesome, but taller ones can work too. Or use single serving casserole dishes.)
2. In a bowl stir together the cherries, sugar, and cornstarch. Add the lemon juice and extracts. Set aside for 10-15 minutes to allow cherries to start releasing their natural juices.
3. In the meantime, prepare the topping. Stir together oats, flour, brown sugar, and salt. Add the cold butter and work it into the dry ingredients until crumbly. Stir in the chopped nuts.
4. Prepare the crisps by dividing the cherries and any accumulated juices between the two jars. Divide the topping between the two jars. Place both jars on the baking sheet, cover tightly with foil, and bake for 30 minutes.
5. Remove the foil and bake for another 5-10 minutes to crisp up the top. Depending on the ripeness of the fruit, the baking time may vary a bit. If the crisps are bubbling all over and in the center, they should be cooked through.
5. Remove from oven and let cool slightly. Serve warm or room temperature with a scoop of ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream.
– To make this gluten-free, use gluten-free certified rolled oats and replace flour with almond meal/flour.
– To make non-dairy/vegan, use cold coconut oil or non-dairy butter in place of butter.
– Coconut sugar can be substituted for the white and brown sugar in the filling and topping, as can maple syrup. If using maple syrup, combine the dry ingredients in a bowl. Melt the butter (or butter alternative) and add the maple syrup, then add to the dry ingredients and stir until damp and sandy in texture.
Thank you so much Lindsey. I always look forward to new additions to the Dessert for Two series, but when they’re fruity? Like the Lemon Curd Tarts? Well, I admit, I feel an extra dose of excitement. This Cherry Crisp is right up my alley.
How about you, Dear Readers? Are you a cherry fan? If not, be sure to see Lindsey’s suggestions for alternative fruits.