A pear crisp is a baked fruit dessert that has a crumb or streusel topping. The crisp, known as a “crumble” by the British, was invented by World War II housewives. They quite often did not have enough flour to make whole pies and, as a result, began making do with what they had. The result was a crustless fruit pie using minimal flour and other ingredients. The essentials necessary for making a crisp are fruit, flour, sugar and butter.
Pear crisps can be made using fresh, frozen or canned pears. Fresh pears produce the best results, especially when pears are in season. The simplest pear crisp includes nothing more than the fruit and topping. The topping is made by mixing together flour, oats, sugar and butter and sprinkling it on top of the fruit before baking the dessert. The pear crisp is baked until the fruit is hot and the crumb topping is browned and crispy.
There is no right or wrong way to make a crisp; it is easily adaptable to suit personal tastes and preferences. Sugar or honey can be added to the fruit for an extra sweet crisp; it also can be made without added sugar. The topping is also highly adaptable as long as it includes flour, sugar and a fat source. Most often, brown sugar and oats are used. Finely chopped pecans, walnuts, almonds or other nuts also can be added to the basic mixture.
Spices and seasonings may be added to the fruit and topping mixture. Cinnamon, allspice and ginger are commonly used in making pear crisps, but other spices also can be used, depending on individual tastes. Other types of fruit crisps include those made with apples, peaches, rhubarb, cherries, blackberries or blueberries, with apple and peach being the most common. Pear crisp can be made with pears alone or with other fruits and berries mixed in.
A pear crisp is traditionally served hot and leftovers are served reheated, cold or at room temperature. The crisp can be served alone, topped with homemade or purchased whipped cream or covered with caramel sauce. It can also be served on top of ice cream or drizzled with thick cream or half-and-half. Traditionally served as a sweet dessert, the pear crisp also makes a healthy fruit breakfast option when the sugar is reduced. Leftovers store well in the refrigerator and make an easy addition to children’s school lunchboxes.