Do you ever have that moment of panic when you have been invited to a friend’s for dinner or to a colleague's for a barbecue and you offer to bring something and they say “YES!” and then you forget about it until the day of and you think “SHIT! I said I would bring something!” and you’ve got like 2 hours ‘till you need to be there?
Well, if so, then I offer some important tips:
1. Don’t deliberate about what to bring. Bring dessert.
People ALWAYS love dessert, even if they say they don’t, and even if you are the fourth dessert to show up, you can NEVER have too many because of the reason heretofore mentioned: people ALWAYS love dessert.
2. Pick a dessert that is appropriate for any season.
While chocolate is fabulous, if it’s 100 degrees outside, warm chocolate brownies may feel a little weighty. Similarly, frozen desserts can be a little trying from a transport standpoint in the summer and in the winter, well, it’s fucking freezing outside and people may not want to be fucking freezing inside, too.
3. Choose an item that requires little or no thought on your end.
This is not brand-new-untried-complicated-recipe time.
4. Make a fruit crisp.
I know, right?
Fruit crisps win big brownie points because they have fruit (healthy!), they are similar to, but way easier than pies (yay!) and they fill everyone with happy nostalgia (because everyone has an old relative who spoiled them more than their parents did and also made fruit pies). Not to mention you can use winter fruit in winter, summer fruit in summer and frozen fruit if you want to cross seasonal lines.
Have I convinced you?
Ok, let me try it this way:
Take a bunch of fruit. Peel it or don’t. Cut it up. Add sugar/honey/maple syrup and lemon juice, plus or minus cinnamon. Maybe a little lemon or orange zest, if you are feeling spicy. Toss into lightly greased baking dish, sized so that it is 3/4 full of fruit.
Top with a mixture of sugar, flour and softened butter (remembering 1:1:1 – 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar, 1 stick butter ) that has been mashed together until it is the consistency of course cornmeal and you can squeeze it into a loose dough. Add a pinch of salt. Maybe some cinnamon or nutmeg. Maybe not.
Cook in 375 degree oven, 40-45 minutes, until fruit is soft and bubbly and topping is crisp and lightly browned. You'll know it's done because your whole house will smell like you dropped a bottle of fruit crisp perfume.
Now, for tips and troubleshooting!
Super tart or sweet fruit? When sweetening in the beginning, always start with the notion that less is more - you can always add sugar, but it's hard to remove. So, don't be afraid to taste as you go, assessing sweetness and adjusting sugar accordingly.
Super ripe or soft fruit (like peaches or raspberries)? Throw in 1-2 tablespoons of cornstarch (or 2-3 tablespoons flour) into fruit-sugar-lemon mixture before cooking, to help fruit juices set a bit during cooking. This is totally optional and in general, I like my crisps a little on the runny side.
Frozen fruit? Treat like fresh, without thawing first. Again, adding some cornstarch or flour to the fruit mixture will help thicken extra juices during cooking.
Looking to crunch up the topping? Turn it into a crumble by adding some oats. Toss in chopped nuts, for another ante-upper.
And, if all else fails and you want a recipe you can pinch-hit with, here is one I love:
Fresh Peach Blueberry Crisp
A few blueberries go a long way in this crisp. And though summer is nearing an end, this will help you enjoy the last of it!!
Oven at 375
For the filling:
4-6 whole peaches, pitted, skins left on, sliced into quarters.
1 C fresh blueberries
Juice of half a lemon (1-2 Tblsp)
Zest of 1/2 lemon (about 1 Tblsp, or more to taste)
1/4 cup each granulated white and brown sugar (more or less, depending on sweetness of fruit)
2 Tblsp cornstarch (optional!)
Toss all of the above together and place in a greased 9" x 13" baking dish.
For the topping:
In a small bowl, blend together:
1 cup flour
½ - 1 tsp cinn
½ tsp nutmeg, preferably freshly ground
¼ t salt
Then, in a medium bowl, cream together:
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup white sugar
½ cup brown sugar
Add flour mixture in, stirring to blend with a wooden spoon, until it forms a soft, slightly crumbly dough.
Cover fruit mixture with crisp topping. Cover loosely with foil, then bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 25-30 minutes more, until filling is bubbly and topping is browned (can even broil for a min or two at the end!).
Serve warm or at room temp. Killer with my favorite homemade vanilla ice cream.