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Sherry Yard, a brilliant pastry chef and dear friend, asked me to create a blend to spice up her signature fruit crisp. In the process of trying different spices with her recipe, I found that her fruit crisp is simply the best because the top- ping is extra crisp while the seasonal fruit filling is juicy without being mushy. She does this by baking the topping separately from the fruit and by simmering the fruit on the stovetop to control how tender it becomes before marrying the two just before serving. Both components can be prepared far ahead of time, making this crisp ideal for entertaining. And both elements can take a variety of different spices, even unexpected ones like tongue-tingling Sichuan peppercorns.
I add an extra dose of rum into the fruit base. When it combines with warming anise, cinnamon, and Sichuan peppercorns, it creates a kind of magic. Tangy sumac highlights the fruity tartness of berries and dried apricots in the jammy filling.
Lior Lev Sercarz, from Mastering Spice
4 tablespoons salted butter (56 grams), diced
1⁄2 cup confectioners’ sugar (64 grams)
1⁄4 cup packed light brown sugar (50 grams)
1⁄4 cup slivered almonds (29 grams)
1⁄2 cup all-purpose flour (67 grams)
3 tablespoons dark rum
2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar (26 grams)
8 ounces blackberries (13⁄4 cups), halved if large
8 ounces blueberries (13⁄4 cups)
8 ounces strawberries, hulled and cut into 1⁄2-inch pieces (13⁄4 cups)
4 ounces dried apricots (1 cup), halved
1 tablespoon cornstarch
To make the topping: Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper.
Combine the butter, confectioners’ sugar, and brown sugar in a large bowl. Squeeze and mix with your fingers until well blended and only a few streaks of confectioners’ sugar remain. Add the almonds and half the spice blend. Mix and squeeze with your hands until evenly incorporated. Add the flour and keep squeezing and pinching until the flour is incorporated and the mixture forms almond-size chunks with coarse crumbs.
Spread the mixture evenly in the prepared pan, scraping every last bit from your hands. Bake, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and crisp, 22 to 25 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack.
While the topping bakes, prepare the fruit: Place the rum and brown sugar in a deep 9-inch skillet set over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves, about 1 minute.
Add the blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, apricots, and remaining spice blend. Cook, stirring gently once or twice, until the fruit is soft, about 3 minutes.
Stir the cornstarch with 2 tablespoons cold water in a small bowl. Drizzle over the fruit while stirring. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is jammy, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat.
You can keep the fruit in the pan if you’d like to serve from it, or transfer to a 9-inch baking dish or individual bowls. Evenly scatter the crisp mixture on top right before serving the crisp hot.
The crisp topping can be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to 1 week. The fruit can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Bring back to a simmer before topping and serving, if you’d like.