One thing I have made a lot of times over the years is fruit crisps. Or maybe, since they're not always the same, I should say "things I've made a lot of times over the years are fruit crisps". It's one of those non-recipes that you can throw together at the drop of a hat; it's not actually any easier, now I think about it, than the cobblers I ate growing up, but somehow I'm far more likely to make it and, with the extra fiber in the oatmeal, I can almost persuade myself it's healthy--you know, if I'm feeling delusional.
Chop fresh fruit into a baking dish.
For the topping, combine equal amounts of
- old-fashioned oatmeal;
- white sugar;
- melted butter or margarine.
Mix those four ingredients together and you have your topping. Pat it onto the fruit. Put it into the oven at 350 degrees or a bit higher and bake until the topping is done.
What kind of fruit? Pretty much anything you like. I usually use apples, but pears are yummy like this and I've done many mixed fruit combos. Berries, if used alone, can be a bit too juicy. The most delicious fruit crisp I ever had was a post-Christmas concoction I made to use up some rapidly over-softening pears. I chopped the pears together with some apples, added some raisins I'd soaked in brandy, threw in some leftover cranberry sauce (yes, really), and added vanilla to the mixture. The result was a surprisingly elegant taste to this usually utilitarian sort of dessert. (If desserts can ever be utilitarian.)
What kind of flour? Plain, unbleached, or even whole wheat. I never buy self-rising, as plain is more versatile, and you wouldn't want the leavening in this, in any case.
Why not brown sugar? Brown sugar tastes good in the topping, but makes for a softer texture.
Why no measurements? Because saying equal amounts of every topping ingredient is easier to remember and more flexible as to size. If you're making a fairly small dessert, use a wee casserole dish for the fruit and use about a half-cup of each topping ingredient. If you want a larger dessert, layer your fruit into a big dish and use a cup (or however much it takes) of each topping ingredient.
Isn't that a lot of butter? Yes. If I'm making a big, cup and a half of each ingredient crisp, I'll usually reduce the amount of butter. Something in me just recoils at the idea of putting three sticks of butter into one dish--it's mostly a Scrooge thing.
Don't I use any spices? With apples, I usually dust the fruit with cinnamon or with a combo of things that I might like in apple pie. With other fruits I might or might not add spices, as the whim takes me. I do not normally use any liquid flavorings.
Anything else? Yes, for years I've been meaning to try this with nuts--probably slivered almonds--added to the topping mixture. I'm sure that would make it extra yummy. Though the nuts might take this out of the strictly cheap, super-easy, always-have-the-ingredients-on-hand category. Also, to give credit where credit is due, I first got the idea for this in one of Amy Dacyzyn's essays, in a passing comment about something she made in the microwave for her toddler.