Here in my corner of Michigan, it’s the perfect time of year. (I am acutely aware that, for much of the country, this is not the case; here is a list of reliable charities you can donate to that are helping rebuild after Harvey, and I’ll update this post with a link for Irma once it’s up). I am lucky enough to live in a region where, in September, the air has a crispness to it, the leaves are starting to change color, and the nights are cool enough to justify getting under the heavy covers. It’s that not-quite-summer, not-quite-fall sweet spot where all I want to do is spend the whole day outside. How to celebrate this magical time of year? Make this pear crisp, whose flavors are a perfect match for this transitional season.
It took me most of my life to come around to pears. I’m not sure why I avoided them as a kid; I don’t have a memory of trying it and hating it, like I do with celery (sorry, celery enthusiasts), but I somehow got the idea that pears were, well, gross. Imagine my surprise when, in my twenties, I finally tried a Bartlett pear and discovered that pears are actually delicious. They’re not as crisp as an apple, but their sweetness has more complexity, with flavors of honey and spices without actually adding anything to them.
This crisp recipe takes them up several notches by adding spices and bright lemon juice to the pears, and topping them with an oat, pecan and ginger crumble that makes sure the pears don’t get to syrupy sweet. Together, the pears and topping make the perfect forkful. You get the soft and sweet pears mixed with the crispy, nutty topping, and every once in awhile you get a hit of crystallized ginger that brightens everything up. Besides a cinnamon doughnut followed by a glass of cider, this is closest thing I’ve had to a pure bite of fall.
This recipe is as simple as can be. The hardest part is probably peeling and slicing the pears, or trying not to sneak slices while you’re chopping. You can mix the pears with the cornstarch, sugar, lemon juice, and pumpkin pie spice right in the baking dish and avoid dirtying another bowl. I used a jar of pumpkin pie spice because I had it on hand, but you could easily swap in a quarter-teaspoon each of nutmeg, ground ginger, and cinnamon plus an eighty-teaspoon each of allspice and ground cloves. The crisp does need a bowl and a spatula, and you need to melt the butter in your microwave or a saucepan, but you mix it all together in one go, pour it over the pears, and stick it all in the oven. Easy as (not quite a) pie.
So watch the leaves start to change colors, feel that cool air in your lungs, and look up your closest cider mill, because fall is on its way. And make this pear crisp at your next available opportunity.
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- ¾ cup old-fashioned oats
- Pinch of salt
- ½ cup finely chopped pecans
- ¼ cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
- 1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 6 cups peeled, cored and sliced pears, as ripe as you can find (about 6 pears)
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- Preheat oven to 425°F. Butter an 8” square baking pan.
- To prepare the topping, melt one stick of butter in the microwave or on the stovetop and allow it to cool. In a medium mixing bowl, mix the flour, brown sugar, oats, pecans, and salt. If you like the taste of ginger, add in the crystallized ginger; if that flavor isn’t for you, then skip it. Add the melted butter and stir everything to combine.
- Add the pears, cornstarch, sugar, lemon juice, and pumpkin pie spice to the baking pan and mix together well. Sprinkle the topping over it evenly.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the pears are bubbling and the topping is a deep golden brown. Place baking dish on a wire rack and let cool for 15 minutes before serving. Top with vanilla ice cream, if desired.