Show off cranberries with this crisp |

Show off cranberries with this crisp

Vera Dawson
VAIL CO, Colorado
Special to the Daily

Editor’s note: Living in the Colorado high country is pure joy. Baking in it isn’t. High altitude makes cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall, and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips to make baking in the mountains successful.

They’re as much a part of our holiday as Christmas cards and tinsel, so I’m delighted when cranberries appear in the market; I can’t resist their tart taste and gorgeous crimson color. From Thanksgiving through New Year’s, they appear on our table in a variety of sweet and savory dishes and star in at least one December dessert every year.

I often turn to the recipe for this cranberry crisp when I want to show them off. The sharp flavor of the berries, accented by a little orange juice and zest, is tempered beautifully by the sweet addition of a pear and an apple. A crunchy oat topping balances the fruit, which turns soft and flavorful after some time in the oven. The appeal is wholesome and homey, a lovely representation of what’s best about this time of year.

The crisp should be served warm, but you can make earlier in the day, let it cool completely, and, then, reheat it just before bringing it to the table. A scoop of vanilla ice cream, melting into the warm fruit and crisp topping is a perfect accompaniment.

Cranberry crisp

Make in a shallow 1 1/2 -2 quart glass or porcelain baking or gratin dish



12 ounces of cranberries, fresh or frozen (don’t thaw)

Juice of half a large orange

3/4 cup of granulated sugar

1 tablespoon of flour

Zest of half a large orange

1 Golden Delicious apple

1 Bosc pear


1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon of quick-cooking oats (not instant)

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon of flour

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon of dark brown sugar

6 tablespoons of cold unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees with a rack in the center position. Grease or butter the baking dish and set it aside. Wash the cranberries, discard any imperfect ones, and put half of them in a medium-sized, heavy saucepan. Set the other half aside. Add the orange juice to the pan, place it over medium-low heat, and stir until the berries and the liquid warm. Add 1/4 cup of granulated sugar, placing it right in the middle of the saucepan. Stir gently until it is completely dissolved. Repeat twice, until 3/4 of a cup of sugar is added and dissolved. Bring to a low boil; many of the berries will pop and all should be quite soft. Add the tablespoon of flour and stir until it is absorbed and the sauce is thickened slightly. Remove from the heat.

Stir the remaining half of the cranberries and the orange zest into the saucepan. Peel and core the apple, cut it into half-inch chunks, and add them to the pan. Do the same with the pear. Don’t increase the size of the pear/apple chunks or they may not be completely baked when the rest of the crisp is done. Stir until all components of the filling are well combined. Give it a taste. If it is too tart, stir in more sugar. Pour the filling in the prepared dish; make sure to scrape in all the liquid/sauce. Set the dish aside.

Make the topping: Combine all the dry ingredients in a food processor and pulse briefly. Cut the butter into 12-15 pieces, add them to the bowl of the processor and pulse until the mixture is uniformly moist and forms lots of quarter-to-half-inch clumps. (You can also blend the butter into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender, two forks, or your hands.) Sprinkle the clumps uniformly over the filling. Where necessary, squeeze the topping between your fingers to form more clumps. Cover all the filling in a single layer of topping; very little fruit should show through it. Depending on the size of your dish, you may not use all the topping. Bake until the filling is bubbling thickly and the topping is a deep golden brown and crisp/crunchy. This takes 30-35 minutes in my oven, but time will depend on the width and depth of the dish you’re using. If the topping browns before the filling is done (I test a piece of apple to determine doneness; it should be soft but not mushy), tent it with a piece of aluminum foil.

Remove the crisp to a cooling rack. Serve when warm or cool completely and reheat in a 325 oven just before serving. Accompany with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator.

Serves 6.

This is a variation of a Classic Home Desserts recipe.

Vera Dawson, a chef instructor with CMC’s Culinary Institute, lives in Summit County, where she bakes almost every day. Her recipes have been tested in her home kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact her at

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