I’ve been the queen of crisps and cobblers lately, partly because these homey desserts make use of plentiful summer fruits and partly because they are among my fave comfort foods. And they’re easy, nothing fussy about them.
Neither my grandmother nor my mother made crisps or cobblers. My love for this dessert was learned in school cafeterias, at St. Anthony Elementary and Lahainaluna High School, where they appeared frequently. They worked for the cafeteria ladies because they use products (butter, peanut butter, canned fruit, rolled oats and other grains) that were provided to schools through federal surplus foods programs. And they lend themselves to being made by the acre.
The other day, I was looking for a really good cookie pastry base for bar cookies. (I had such a recipe and I’ve lost track of the book it was in; it’s driving me mad). This prompted me to break down and join the America’s Test Kitchen/Cook’s Illustrated/Cook’s Country Web site. I was sure I’d find what I was looking for there.
I didn’t (perhaps I’m not searching n the right way) but I did come across a recipe I decided to try. I was heading to a lunch meeting and wanted to take a homemade sweet. But I didn’t want to run to the store and this recipe makes use of ingredients most of us bakers always have in stock — flour, butter, sugar, oats, jam.
The recipe was for raspberry squares but I converted it to apricot because I love apricot preserves and always have a jar or two. Just mix up a quick crumble in the stand mixer, press two-thirds into a foil-lined pan, bake that briefly, spread with jam, scatter remaining crumble over and bake.
Another attractive feature is that, unlike most recipes of this kind, this one doesn’t make an acre; it’s made in an 8-by-8 or 9-by-9-inch baking pan. In our hot and humid climate, crisps and cobblers don’t age well; they dry out and get gummy in the fridge or quickly begin to mold at room temperature. So unless you have many mouths to feed, it’s good to prepare only portions you can consume in a couple of days.
I really enjoyed these. They’re rich, crisp and flavorful. My only complaint is that the topping is a bit too crumbly. At the meeting, I saw several people go back for seconds and a guy whose mom is a fantastic baker (she’s the caterer I mentioned in a blog a while ago) gave me a thumbs up.
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups quick-cooking oats
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans or almonds, or a combination
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces, softened but still cool
1 cup fruit preserves (raspberry, strawberry, apricot, whatever you like)
Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 8- or 9-inch square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Fold two 16-inch lengths of foil lengthwise to measure 8-inches wide. Fit one into bottom of greased pan, pushing into corners and up sides, leaving overhang for handles. Press second sheet into pan, in the same manner, but perpendicular to the first sheet. Spray with nonstick spray.
In the bowl of a standing mixer, stir together flour, oats, sugar,s baking, soda, salt and nuts on low speed. With mixer still on low speed, add butter pieces; continue to beat until mixture is well-blended and resembles wet sand, about 2 minutes.
Scrape two-thirds of the mixture into prepared ban and pat down evenly with hands or spatula. Bake 20 minutes, until starting to brown. Using rubber spatula, spread preserves evenly over hot bottom crust. Scatter remaining crumbs evently over. Bake until preserves bubble around edges and top is golden brown, about 30 minutes, rotating pan from front to back halfway through. Cool on wire rack to room temperature, about 1.5 hours, then remove from pan using foil handles. Cut into 1 1/4-1 1/2-inch squares and serve.