As pear desserts go, pear crisp is hands down the winner if you ask me, and this is my favorite easy pear crisp recipe. It’s prepped in minutes, and after just a few more minutes it emerges browned and bubbling out of the oven just begging for a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Pear crisp wasn’t on my baking schedule for the week, but when I saw beautiful Bartlett pears on sale at the supermarket I knew it was a done deal. The pears were perfect for a crisp ~ nice and ripe, but still firm. I don’t even dare let them sit out on the counter over night, this thing’s gotta happen now.
What’s the dif between a crisp and a crumble anyway? (spoiler alert: not much)
- both have a base of fruit and a streusel-like topping
- a crisp contains oats in the topping.
- a crumble does not.
- some say it’s the other way around.
- moral of the story: don’t believe everything you hear or read, even here!
- takeaway: if it’s got a base of fruit and a crumbly topping made with flour, sugar, butter, and oats it’s a crisp. Or a crumble.
- truth: they’re both delicious.
I headed straight from the produce aisle to the freezer section to grab some vanilla ice cream…I know I’ll have everything else I need already in the kitchen to make a simple but totally luxe crisp.
TIP: You can tell roughly how much fruit you will need for a crisp or crumble by arranging it, whole, in a single layer, in your baking dish. My crisp took 6 pears, so that was pretty close.
Pears are a fall and winter fruit, and one variety or another comes into peak season from September right through to May! So feel comfortable picking them up even though the snowy months. I think they’re a lot smarter buy than some out-of–season fruit that’s been shipped halfway across the globe.
Is it ripe? Check the neck!
Give the area right around the stem a little squeeze, it should give slightly. You should be able to smell its fruity aroma, too. These Bartlett pears turn from green to yellow when fully ripe. But be careful, it’s a slippery slope from perfectly ripe to rotten when it comes to pears ~ don’t dawdle, and enjoy them asap!
I don’t bother to peel most of the fruit I bake with, I like the extra nutrition, fiber, and color that it lends.
Plus the whole baking process is a lot easier. These pears are at the peak of their season, so all they need is a little help from a squeeze of lemon, a flurry of sugar, and a hit of vanilla bean paste (vanilla extract if you haven’t been initiated into the wonders of vanilla bean paste yet.)
Just fill your chosen baking dish with the chopped fruit, you don’t even really need to measure, if it fills the dish, you’re good.
This whole recipe is very intuitive and tactile. I like to mix the crumble with my hands, and then scatter it thickly over the fruit.
Don’t be afraid to mound everything pretty high, shrinkage is real and it will happen in the oven!
Always ~ always! ~ put your pan on a baking sheet so that any erupting juices won’t make a huge mess in your oven and set off your smoke alarm.
Whether you decide to go with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or not is up to you ~ for me it’s a matter of timing…if I’m having this after dinner, the ice cream is mandatory. If I’m having this for breakfast, coffee’s my jam.
My pears were ripe but firm, and they held their shape, while releasing a lot of juice. If yours are riper, they will break down as they bake, but both outcomes are fine. I will warn you against trying to make this pear crisp with a pears that are actually ‘crisp’. If you start with very crunchy Bosc or Asian pears, they will not break down and release their juices in the same way, so steer clear of anything hard. Here’s a quick rundown of the different pears and their characteristics (from USAPears.org)
- Anjou – refreshingly sweet and juicy with a hint of citrus. (Baking, Canning)
- Red Anjou – aromatic, juicy, fresh and sweet (Baking, Canning)
- Bartlett – signature pear flavor with abundant juice (Baking, Canning, Sauce and butter)
- Red Bartlett – juicy and sweet with a floral essence (Baking, Canning, Sauce and butter))
- Bosc – crisp and woodsy with a honey sweetness (Baking, they’re best at keeping their shape, Poaching)
- Comice – succulent, buttery, and exceptionally sweet (Eating out of hand, Canning)
- Concorde – crunchy and earthy with a hint of vanilla (Salads)
- Forelle – crisp, tangy, and refreshingly sweet (Eating out of hand, Cheese plates)
- Seckel – bite-sized, crunchy and ultra-sweet (Eating out of hand, Cheese plates)
- Starkrimson – aromatic, moist and sweet with a floral essence (Eating out of hand, Salads, Cheese plates)
TIP: If you are cooking with very ripe pears you may want to add a couple of tablespoons of flour, cornstarch, or tapioca to your fruit along with the sugar and lemon juice.
Crisps lend themselves to gluten free variations because they don’t depend on gluten for texture like cake or breads do. You can easily substitute almond or oat flour for the wheat flour in this recipe, or use a good gluten free baking mix. I used almond flour in my GLUTEN FREE PEACH AND ALMOND CRISP and it worked out great. The almond flour gives it a little nutrition boost as well!
Want to know my FAVORITE Fall desserts on the blog? Ok, you twisted my arm…
- PECAN PRALINE PUMPKIN CAKE ~ this cake is tender and moist with the most amazing praline caramel frosting. It’s always a huge hit and since it’s a sheet cake it works for all kinds of Fall gatherings.
- BUTTER PECAN SHORTBREAD ~ this is a big hit with readers, and if you’re a shortbread lover I think you’ll like this simple variation.
- CHEWY GINGER COOKIES ~one of the earliest recipes on the blog and one of the most beloved cookies in our family, my girls grew up on these and still request them every year!
- CHOCOLATE CHIP PUMPKIN BREAD ~ another recipe from the very early days of the blog, and probably my favorite Fall treat. I make it to kick off the season every year.
- 2 pounds ripe but firm pears, any variety, I used Bartlett
- juice of half a lemon
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 Tbsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
- 1 cup flour, any variety (use almond or oat flour, or a good gf baking mix for gluten free)
- 1/4 cup rolled oats
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 1 cup finely chopped walnuts
- 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
- Set the oven to 350F
- Wash the pears, there is no need to peel them. Trim off the top and bottom, and slice in half, lengthwise. Scoop out the core, and chop into small chunks. Put in a bowl and toss with the lemon juice, sugar, and vanilla.
- Add the dry topping ingredients to a bowl and toss with the melted butter until well combined. I used my (clean) hands to do this.
- Put the fruit in the bottom of your baking dish and spread out evenly. Top with the crumble mixture. It is ok to mound the fruit and topping a bit because there will be shrinkage in the oven.
- Put the baking dish on a baking sheet to catch any juicy drips. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until browned on top and bubbling throughout. Cover loosely with foil if the topping seems to be browning too quickly.
Make it your own ~
- Make a pear and apple crisp by using equal parts apple and pear.
- Add a few berries (frozen will work) to the pears for a pop of color and flavor. I like to use raspberries, or even cranberries.
- Cut down on the sugar ~ leave it out from the fruit, and halve the amount in the topping.
- Spice it up ~ use a blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and clove for an aromatic variation.
- Use crushed cookies like gingersnaps in place of the flours.