Blueberry crisp: it SHOULD have been a piece of cake...

Ah, blueberry crisp: ideal for Mother’s Day. A simple recipe anyone can make. No rolling dough, no scary knife work, no fancy techniques. Just 1) mix, 2) pour, and 3) bake. Or so I thought.

Two weeks and about 39 versions of blueberry crisp later, I have one I like. And I also feel like a tornado picked me up and whirled me around and finally deposited me, upside down, miles from where I started.

Baking ideas are like that; they can fool you. The flaky pastry that looks like it requires a CIA degree turns out to be a no-brainer. And the simple fruit crisp—berries on the bottom, streusel on top—becomes a multi-headed monster, finding a different way to fail every time it’s baked.

Mind you, my co-workers here at King Arthur Flour didn’t deem any of the “no-pass” versions a failure. Each and every one was eaten with gusto. Still… none was exactly what I wanted. And what, pray tell, was this lofty goal, the shining nirvana of blueberry crispdom? Berry filling that was EXACTLY the right consistency: not stiff and rubbery, not a puddle of berry-filled juice, but soft enough to barely ooze when cut. The crisp had to be crisp, but not hard; and it had to stay heaped on top, not sink into the berries and become doughy.

And, since the point was to make an EASY recipe for Mother’s Day, something that anyone in the family who knows how to turn on the oven and find a mixing bowl could make: the thickener had to be flour, and the filling made from frozen (not fresh) berries, since both are pretty much universal ingredients.

Though it didn’t turn out to be QUITE as simple as I’d hoped, this blueberry crisp is still pretty much 1) mix, 2) pour, and 3) bake. There’s some microwaving involved: melting butter, thawing berries. You do have to stir together both the filling, and the topping. But other than that, I’d reckon it’s something most people could do, even those whose only previous exposure to baking has been to unwrap and slice an Entenmann’s coffeecake.

So, all you moms out there—if your family wants to bake you something for your special day, point them to this easy Blueberry Crisp, then clear out of the kitchen. Go read a book; catch some rays in the yard. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to buy a pint of vanilla ice cream and have it ready when it’s time to add “à la mode” to your family’s Blueberry Crisp.
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First step: frozen blueberries. Dump them into a microwave-safe bowl. If you want to make this recipe with fresh berries, try our recipe for Summer Fruit Crisp, substituting blueberries for the peaches.

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Next step: NOT THIS! I thought, hey, why not simmer off all the excess juice first. Not only will it concentrate the flavor, it’ll cut down the baking time—I thought.

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Great! After a 35-minute simmer, almost all the juice had been absorbed. One problem: it still had to get its streusel on top and be baked. And there was so little juice that when it came out of the oven, it was dry and gluey. Plus, simmering for 35 minutes prior to baking isn’t really saving much time or energy. Back to step one: frozen berries.

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This time, I microwaved them for 5 minutes, just enough to thaw them and bring them to room temperature.

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Stir in the remainder of the filling ingredients: confectioners’ sugar (the starch acts as a thickener), flour, spices, lemon juice, almond and vanilla extracts, and butter. Butter may seem like excess baggage here, but I’ve found that just a couple of tablespoons helps enrich the flavor and texture.

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Stir it all up, spoon it into the pan, and into the oven it goes for 30 minutes, sans topping. How come no topping? Because I found that if I applied the topping immediately, it melted into the berries as they simmered. So I figured, let the berries cook awhile, THEN add the topping.

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This is my favorite crumb/streusel topping. It differs from the norm in that you melt the butter before combining it with the flour, sugar, and cinnamon.

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Melting the butter makes lovely, irregularly sized crumbs, crumbs that turn into crunchy/soft nuggets as the streusel bakes.

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The berries have baked for 30 minutes, and they’ve started to bubble. If this was YouTube, you’d be able to see it. Since it’s not, you’ll just have to take my word for it.

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Spread the streusel evenly over the berries, and return to the oven.

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Bake for another 45 minutes. The berries will bubble vigorously and flow up over the filling in spots. That’s OK; you’re going to be dishing this into individual servings anyway. If you serve the crisp immediately, it’ll be very liquid-y. I prefer to let it rest for several hours, preferably overnight. The berries re-absorb a lot of the juice.

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Next day, reheat each serving briefly (about 20 seconds) in the microwave. And there you have it: good old fashioned blueberry crisp. Make it à la mode at your own risk!
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Now here’s the result I was really hoping for: blueberry crisp without the puddle of juice in the bottom of the pan. Success!

Read the complete recipe for Blueberry Crisp.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

  1. Mary

    I love your tips for the perfect fruit filling consistency but I am one of the followers of the “oats in the topping” school of thought. Do you think I could just add oats to the streusel or must i follow another recipe?
    And thanks for the blog. I really, really enjoy reading what my fellow baking nuts are up to.

    Reply
  2. PJ Hamel

    Mary, I believe you could just add some oats to the topping, or perhaps substitute oats for some of the flour – sounds to me like it would work. Have at it!

    Reply
  3. Teresa

    Wow, 39 trials. I can’t imagine making something 39 times in a row and analyzing and changing one thing at a time to get to the ‘right’ product. I love baking/cooking, but testing is something else. Thank you for all the hard work to work out a recipe just right.

    Reply
  4. Trisha

    P.J., I have been looking for a recipe that I could make to serve a crowd of 30 people in early June, and I think this may be it! It looks yummy and easy and can be made ahead of time. Can this recipe be tripled?

    Reply
  5. PJ Hamel , post author

    Teresa, it wasn’t REALLY 39 trials – that was an exaggeration. However, I probably did do it 5 times, which is a lot of our test kitchen, where we have the “three strikes” rule: if we can’t get REALLY close on a recipe after three tries, we move on.
    Trisha, I would think yes, you could certainly make this recipe as large as you want simply by increasing ingredients in proportion. I’d make it a day ahead, though, then rewarm if you like; if you serve it RIGHT out of the oven it’s way too juice. It needs to rest. (And don’t we all…)

    Reply
  6. Sue E. Conrad

    YUM, YUM, YUM!!!! Will have to wait, though, until our annual summer pilgrimage to New England to make this…………Florida blueberries just don’t cut it!!! Bought a couple bags of Wyman’s blueberries while there last summer, and made two pies – pure bliss!!! We have SweetBay supermarkets here (Florida’s version of Hannaford’s) and perhaps if I beg and plead, they’ll start carrying Wyman’s. Sure is worth a try………

    Thanks so much for yet another super-duper recipe!

    Reply
  7. Carolyn J Fetrow

    Can I substitute Splenda for the confectioner’s sugar? Maybe add a tablespoon of cornstarch for the starch thickener? I cook for a diabetic who loves blueberries.

    Reply
  8. PJ Hamel , post author

    Carolyn, give Splenda a try in the filling – it should work well, as the sugar in this recipe isn’t adding to the structure (aside from the slight thickening power in the cornstarch, as you say). Rather than add conrstarch, I’d just increase the flour – to maybe 6 tablespoons?

    The streusel topping is more problematic. I don’t believe Splenda would work at all. You might try to find a streusel recipe that’s mostly oats (for structure), then sweeten them with Splenda plus add some flour… I’m on shaky ground here, though, never having tried this. Best of luck-

    Reply
  9. Catherine D.

    Yum. I think I’ll try it, although I’d probably use a mixture of white whole wheat and oat flours for the streusel. (I’m a real fan of sneaking white whole wheat into things, because nobody ever notices :)

    Reply
  10. PJ Hamel , post author

    Judi, don’t see why you couldn’t use blackberries – sounds delicious! You might want to add a bit more sugar, as blackberries are somewhat more tart than blueberries-

    Reply
  11. Pat Wright

    How about a multiberry crisp. I’ve found that a mixture of berries (blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries) have the most delectable summery taste. Need a tad more thickener because of the strawberries, but the result is fabulous! I also use this mixture for my shortcake and my family raves over it.

    Reply
  12. Louise C. Sacci

    Just took the Blueberry Crisp out of the oven and the blueberries came over the topping and I followed the recipe exactly. I don’t have very much crunchy topping. The Blueberries have bubbled over the topping causing the crunch to go into the berries. I used a casserole that had a 4 inch side. I am glad Iused a casserole because the berries would have gone over the side of the pie plate.

    Reply
  13. N.Desai

    what changes would you recommend to make this into individual crisps . How many and what size baking dishes could one use?

    Reply
  14. PJ

    To make multiples, use whatever dishes you’d like, filling them about half full with blueberries, then spreading the topping on top. I couldn’t really tell you how many without knowing what size; just use your best judgment. And you’ll bake a shorter amount of time – not sure how long… Make sure the berries bubble for about 45 minutes, that’s how to gauge it.

    Reply
  15. Kimberly

    Can you use the way you make the filling in a pie also? I had a problem with a blueberry pie filling I made, it was to runny.

    Reply
  16. Sherree

    Mary,

    Take a look at the Summer Fruit Crisp recipe, it has oats in it …. I think it sounds more to my liking … and it has nuts too … Yum …

    Reply
  17. Roberta

    I made this recipe and it was delicious. I didn’t slice it until the next day and the texture was perfect.

    With all the talk about antioxidants – this recipe should thrill people. I used Wyman’s blueberry – yummy.

    Reply
  18. Julien

    I made this last night, ate some today and it was incredible. I didn’t have the all spice and forgot the lemon juice, but it still came out really good.

    @Louise C. Sacci, is it possible you made it in a smaller than 8″ pan? Because mine only bubbled up a little. or maybe your topping wasn’t thick enough…

    Reply
  19. Christine

    Can you use dehydrated blueberries instead of fresh? I recently bought some dehydrated blueberries and am having trouble finding out how to use them in baking. Should I plump them first? Or should I just use them like I would use raisons? I appreciate any suggestions.

    Actually, this crisp is about the worst use you could make of your dehydrated blueberries. They’re precious as gold! Use them in muffins and coffeecakes (yes, as you’d use raisins). Depends on how wet the batter is/how long whatever it is bakes, if you have to rehydrate; they’ll often rehydrate themselves if the batter is wet enough. Rehydrate and use in oatmeal cookies, like raisins. Add to granola, or granola bars. Or stir them into your breakfast oatmeal. Add to an apple pie. And enjoy- PJH

    Reply
  20. Wendy Parrish

    I just made this using blueberries I grew and froze last summer. I used a glass baking dish, 8×8 and a little over 2″ high. Good thing! The blueberries bubbled right up to the edge. I added 8 minutes to the cooking time because it wasn’t bubbling in the center at all by the end of the 30 plus 45 minute published cook time (and the crush wasn’t looking quite done). When it was time to serve it, it was very juicy (runny juice) and didn’t hold together at all. The topping was anything but “crisp”. Lastly, the flavor didn’t taste very blueberry — I think the allspice is too overpowering for this dish. Very disappointed.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Sorry this didn’t work out as planned, Wendy. It’s difficult to gauge the amount of thickener any particular fruit will need, especially berries; they can vary region to region, crop to crop, so it’s an educated guessing game. A couple of things: make sure to let the crisp cool completely before serving; it’ll thicken as it cools, and if you want to serve it warm, rewarming a completely cooled crisp is more effective than serving it warm from the oven. Also, you can cook the berries halfway (or even more) atop the stove before assembling them into a crisp. This allows you to see exactly how much juice they’ll exude, and might inspire you to adjust the thickening. Thanks for giving us your feedback here – PJH

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