I first came upon a version of this recipe in The Sweet Kitchen by Regan Daly. Every one of her dessert recipes is fabulous. (If you like to bake, get her book, while quantities last.) The pears are sweet enough, and the cranberries, well, they are tiny and tart. It makes for a great juxtaposition (one of my favourite long words—one I actually know the meaning of!)
I make this dessert year round because I pick the cranberries myself and freeze them. Pears are one thing you can usually buy in Masset, even if you have to buy them a week before they are ready to use.
¾ cup (180 mL) all-purpose flour
¾ cup (180 mL) old-fashioned
(slow-cooking) rolled oat flakes
¾ cup (180 mL) loosely packed dark brown sugar
¾ cup (180 mL) butter, cold, cut into small pieces
Seeds of 1 vanilla bean, hull reserved for another use*
¼ cup (60 mL) loosely packed light brown sugar
¼ cup (60 mL) granulated sugar
1 Tbsp (15 mL) cornstarch
¼ tsp (1 mL) ground mace
5–6 medium-sized ripe but firm pears (Bartlett or Anjou)
3 cups (700 mL) fresh cranberries†
What you do
1 Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C). Butter a large 2½ quart (2.5 L) shallow baking dish, preferably ceramic. The trick to the best crumble topping, I read somewhere, is in the fingers. Use your fingers—the warmth of your skin will melt the butter into the right size bits.
2. To make the topping, combine the flour, oats, brown sugar and butter in a mixing bowl and cut together until the largest pieces are about the size of the oats. Use your fingers to rub the ingredients together until the mixture forms crumbly dough. The crumble can be made up to 2 days ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator. (Here we go again with the refrigerator. Why do recipes always say this? Can anyone wait that long for dessert?)
3. To make the filling, in a large bowl, stir together the vanilla seeds (or powder and/or extract) sugars, cornstarch and mace.
4. Peel and core the pears and cut them into eighths. Add the pears and cranberries to the mixing bowl with the filling in it, and toss gently to thoroughly coat the fruit.
5. Scatter the fruit mixture in the baking dish, then crumble the oat mixture over top, distributing it evenly.
6. Bake the crumble for 35–45 minutes for a shallow dish, 45–55 minutes for a deeper casserole, or until the top is crisp and golden and the filling can be seen bubbling up through the cracks.
7. Cool at least 15 minutes before serving, then serve warm or at room temperature with a scoop of ice cream. I’d suggest Dulce de Leche Buttermilk Ice Cream. (See recipe page 326)
Regan suggested, “tightly packed brown sugar” but I have changed it to “loosely.”
I like the word “loosely” better, and I also prefer my desserts on the looser, more tart side.