My husband and I, well, we’re exactly as exciting as you might imagine because we talk about pears a lot. I’ll take the blame, I’m sure I usually start the conversation, which goes roughly like, “Pears? Really? You just don’t like pears?” And he’ll say “They’re just so one note. They’re sweet and boring,” usually while slicing another of his beloved Granny Smith apples into perfect quarters. (He’s such a tidy eater people, I comparatively eat with the grace of a Hoover). And the thing is, I agree with him 100 percent, but I see these things as characteristics, not flaws. However, in baking, I agree that pears could use a little help. They like acid and they like berries; brighter fall spices like ginger play off them well and you’ll be surprised what a pinch of white pepper can do to wake them up.
This crumble is adapted from a pie in a cookbook that came out a few years ago from a bakery in Park Slope called Sweet Melissa. The pie was single-crusted with a regular butter dough, but I skipped the base because I knew it would just play third fiddle to all the excitement on top of it. I like my pie doughs to garner as much attention as possible, thank you very much. As a crumble, this is another page in the fall bliss book, right up there with black bean pumpkin soup, cider doughnuts, harvest festivals and telling your kid that you’ll buy the biggest pumpkin he can lift only to find that he’s really quite a show-off and you’re going to be eating toasted pumpkin seeds until February. I digress! I made a few other changes — namely that I dialed back the sugar significantly, and am very happy that I did — but I kept the real genius of Melissa’s pie intact, which is they way she balanced the mellowness of the pear with all sorts of bright things like lemon, cranberries and a backdrop of spice. That gentle heat is dreamy, just perfect for the cooler days to come.
One year ago: Spiced Applesauce Cake
Two years ago: Cauliflower with Almonds, Raisins and Capers, Silky Decadent Old-School Chocolate Mousse
Three years ago: Deep, Dark Salted Caramel Sauce, Pink Lady Cake and Cabbage and Mushroom Galette
Four years ago: Gluten-Free Chocolate Financiers, Pumpkin Butter + Pepita Granola
Five years ago: Spinach Quiche and Pumpkin Muffins
Pear, Cranberry and Gingersnap Crumble
Adapted from Sweet Melissa Patisserie
1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
3 tablespoons (37 grams) packed dark or light brown sugar
1 cup gingersnap crumbs (4 ounces or 113 grams or about 16 storebought cookies)
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon table salt
Pinch of white pepper, especially if your gingersnaps aren’t particularly snappish
1/2 cup (4 ounces or 113 grams or 1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 pounds (about 4 to 5) large ripe pears (I used Anjou, suggested in the original recipe) peeled, halved, cored and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces or 170 grams) fresh cranberries
1 tablespoon (15 ml) lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons (14 grams) cornstarch
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Stir together the flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, gingersnap crumbs, ginger and salt. Stir in the melted butter until large crumbs form.
In a 1 1/2 to 2 quart baking dish, mix the pears, cranberries, lemon juice, lemon zest and vanilla. In a small bowl, whisk the sugar and cornstarch together then toss it with the fruit mixture in the pan. Sure, you could do this in a bowl but then you’d also have to wash that bowl and hooray for fewer dishes.
Sprinkle the gingersnap crumble over the fruit. Set the crumble on a foil-lined baking sheet (in a 2 quart dish, mine didn’t come close to bubbling over but I see no reason to risk it) and bake it for about 45 minutes, until the crumble is a shade darker and you see juices bubbling through the crumbs. See how long you can wait before digging in.