A Crowd-Pleasing, Cold-Weather Dessert: Apple and Dried Cherry Custard Crisp

A Crowd-Pleasing, Cold-Weather Dessert: Apple and Dried Cherry Custard Crisp
A layer of crème fraîche custard between the fruit and the almond-flavored topping takes this crisp from simple to extravagant. (Noel Barnhurst/TNS)

Fruit crisps might have been one of the first American desserts recorded. Still, they never seem to go out of style.

Early Americans created fruit desserts with some very funny names like pandowdy or buckle. The simpler named fruit crisp is just a mixture of fruit on the bottom and a streusel layer on top. It certainly is easy to put together: Peeling and cutting the apples is the most work you'll have to do.

This recipe is one of my most requested desserts when the weather is cold. Sometimes I mix it up by using a combination of apples and pears or substitute dried apricots or cranberries for the cherries. This is just about foolproof for any cook.

This crisp is full of winter goodness with juicy apples and sweet dried Bing cherries. Most crisps usually just have the streusel topping. Here, I have added a layer of crème fraîche custard between the fruit and the almond-flavored topping to create an extravagant combination of flavors and textures.

Serve this crisp just out of the oven or at room temperature. Some folks like to gild the lily and add a big scoop of vanilla ice cream to accompany the crisp. That's up to you!

Apple and Dried Cherry Custard Crisp

Serves 6 to 8
  • 1 cup dried cherries
  • 6 medium apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces (Golden Delicious, Fuji, Honey Crisp, Braeburn, or Granny Smith will do)
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Zest of 1 lemon
For the Custard
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup crème fraîche
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
For the Topping
  • 6 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup finely ground almonds
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Place the cherries in boiling water for 10 minutes to plump them. Drain and reserve.

In a mixing bowl, combine the apples, cherries, flour, sugar, lemon juice, and zest, and mix until the fruit is well coated. Transfer to a 9-by-12-inch greased gratin pan or baking dish. Press down the fruit with the back of a large spoon to make an even layer with no gaps. Place the pan on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Prepare the custard: In a medium bowl, beat the eggs. Add the crème fraîche and vanilla and whisk until blended. Sift in the flour, whisking well to make sure the custard is smooth with no lumps. Set aside.

Prepare the streusel: In a mixing bowl, combine the brown sugar, flour, almonds, salt, cinnamon, and lemon zest and mix together. Add the vanilla and melted butter and mix with a fork until it becomes a soft dough.

Spread an even layer of the crème fraîche custard mixture over the fruit. Crumble the crisp mixture with your fingers evenly over the custard. Bake for about 55 minutes or until the top is golden brown and completely cooked through. Let rest 10 minutes and then serve. This can also be served at room temperature.

Diane Rossen Worthington is an authority on new American cooking. She is the author of 18 cookbooks, including "Seriously Simple Parties," and a James Beard Award-winning radio show host. You can contact her at SeriouslySimple.com. Copyright 2021 Diane Rossen Worthington. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.