Summer Crisp: peaches and berries and streusel, oh my!

Is there anything quite so lovely as the blush of a summer peach?

A perfectly ripe peach, juicy, full of flavor, the essence of peachiness?

Does such a creature exist anymore?

If so — tell me where!

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I know there must be perfect peaches out there somewhere. Unfortunately, they’re not an everyday reality. Unlike bananas or apples or oranges, which are reliable year-round, a good peach is hard to find.

You grow your own? Great! Live near a peach orchard? Finest kind.

But it seems the farther peaches travel, the less likely they are to be edible. That means those of us without peach trees, and far from peach-growing hotspots like California, Georgia, and South Carolina, are nearly always deprived of the quintessential peach experience: that first crisp-soft bite, the explosion of flavor, the juice running over your hand and down your arm.

Peach paradise. Joie de pêche.

So, given the perfect peach is as rare as a sunny day in June (New England, June 2009), let’s go to Plan B: frozen peaches.

And what you can do with them. Which is plenty. Peach Pie. Peach Gingerbread. Peach Cobbler, Peach Scones, Peach MuffinsPeach Pizza!

Or a simple Summer Fruit Crisp, packed with peaches and berries, topped with streusel, and baked to bubbling perfection.

Granted, it’s not A FRESH PEACH.

But I wouldn’t turn it down. Especially when served warm and topped with vanilla ice cream.

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Trust me here. For baking, IQF (individually quick frozen) peaches are superior to rock-hard, under-ripe fresh peaches any day.

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This is one 16-ounce bag, thawed.

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The crisp needs to be thickened. So I’m mixing 2 1/2 tablespoons Instant ClearJel with 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar and 1/4 teaspoon salt; mixing first prevents the ClearJel from clumping.

Easiest way to mix thoroughly? Put thickener, sugar, and salt in a container, snap on the lid, and shake. Wait a second (for the contents to settle), and open. Perfectly mixed ingredients, no extra tools required.

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Pour onto the thawed peaches.

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Stir to combine.

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You know what the really nice thing about ClearJel is? As you stir, the mixture thickens as you watch it. No need to guess if you’ve added the right amount of thickener: you can see where you’re at before baking, and adjust the amount if necessary. It’ll thicken aslight bit more as it bakes, but at least you’ll know you’re in the ballpark, thickening-wise.

FYI, our Pie Filling Enhancer works the same way; it’s simply ClearJel pre-mixed with some sugar, allowing you to skip that step. Oh, plus a touch of ascorbic acid, which heightens fruit’s flavor, and protects its color as it bakes.

You can also forgo either of the thickeners above, and use 1/3 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour instead; mix it with the sugar, then stir it into the peaches.

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Pour the peaches into a lightly greased 9” x 9” square pan, or casserole-dish equivalent. Sprinkle on raspberries; again, frozen are just fine. Since I want to start with about 6 cups of fruit, and the peaches totalled 4 cups, I’ve used a cup of raspberries…

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…and a cup of frozen blueberries.

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Here it is, ready for its topping.

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Now for the topping. Combine 3/4 cup brown sugar, 3/4 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour, 1/2 cup rolled oats, 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg.

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Whisk to combine, then add 1/2 cup soft butter. Mix till crumbly. Better to under-mix than over-mix; go too far, and you’ll end up with topping that’s cohesive, not crumbly.

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Pour the topping over the fruit.

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Thud.

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Shake the pan; the topping will redistribute itself nicely.

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Place in a 350°F oven.

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Bake for 40 to 50 minutes. You’ll notice the filling bubbling, and topping turning golden brown.

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Remove from the oven.

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While it’s tempting to dig right in, please let the crisp rest for 20 minutes or so before serving. The filling will thicken nicely, and it’ll still be pleasantly warm.

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Well, I didn’t have any vanilla ice cream, but imagine it melting on top here. Or not; this is REALLY good in all its fruity simplicity.

Read, rate, and review (please!) our recipe for Summer Fruit Crisp.

Buy: Hancock Gourmet Lobster Company, Cundy’s Harbor, Maine — Deep-Dish Peach Crisp (ordered online for home delivery), $1.14/ounce

The Hotel at Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama — Peach Crisp with Crème Anglaise, $5/serving

Bake at home: Summer Fruit Crisp, 18¢/ounce; $1.06/serving.

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 ...

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comments

  1. Lish

    You guys are killing me with all these awesome recipes. Weight Watchers seems to be going right out the window, especially since I have all the ingredients on hand for this awesome looking crisp!

    Planning, portion control and points. You can have your crisp and eat some too!
    Irene at KAF

    Reply
  2. catherine wiese

    This sounds great, can’t wait to make it this weekend. When the peaches are thawed, should they be drained of any accumulated liquid? Can they be used slightly frozen? I wasn’t sure if the extra liquid would affect the thickener. Thanks so much!

    The great thing about the Clear Jel thickener is that you see the results as you stir in the thickener, so this may solve the extra liquid (if any) dilemma. Thawed peaches will be best for quicker cooking. Happy Baking! Irene at KAF

    Reply
  3. Kat

    You asked where to find those legendary peaches–and I have an answer. I live in Hattiesburg, MS, in the depths of the deep south. Every Sunday I go to the farm stand towards the edge of town and buy peaches. Incredible peaches. Ripe and soft without being the least bit mealy; you have to eat them standing over the sink, or with a towel on your lap, because they’re so juicy. The flesh comes clean off the pit, and I know that because I don’t waste a single bite.

    Thanks for the tip….sounds like a terrific road trip! Irene at KAF

    Reply
  4. PJM

    We get consistently good peaches at the farmers’ market, from Dwight Miller Orchards (Dummerston, Vt.). But not year-round! Have to peel, slice and freeze for that. :)

    Reply
  5. Sue

    I’m so with you on the peaches. I also live far from where the perfect peaches are grown. It seems like we get about one shipment per year and then you have to be at the grocery store on the right day or you’re out of luck.
    Combining the frozen peaches with the raspberries and blueberries is a great idea!

    Reply
  6. Anne

    Ohhh, this will be made this weekend! Happily, I live maybe 20 minutes away from South Carolina farm stands where I can buy bushels of fresh peaches. We slice and freeze ‘em – what pleasure it is to bake with my treasure trove of peaches in the dead of winter. Mmmmmm.

    Reply
  7. Jenn

    You mention that you can use Pie Filling Enhancer instead of Instant Clear Gel. How would you recommend adjusting the sugar in the recipe? Since I already have the enhancer on hand, I would like to try the recipe this weekend!

    Jenn, I’d use 1/4 cup Pie Filling Enhancer, and cut back the sugar by 2 tablespoons. Should work fine- PJH

    Reply
  8. Marcia

    Kroger has fresh Georgia peaches for $0.79 lb in the Atlanta metro area. They are local. NEVER buy a peach unless you can smell it. Chick fil A has peach milkshakes for a limited time again this summer. I have a friend who gets one 2-3 times per week! Try a fried peach pie with ice cream–they warm the fried pie for you. It is a dangerous item to get at the drive through.

    Alas, I am allergic to peaches and have to look longingly at them. It does not matter if I eat one or twenty, the reaction is the same. I have not done that for 5 years. It takes about 4 weeks to get over how it makes the backs of my hands look with Rx.

    In spite of my allergy, I was eager to read the blog. I make blackberry cobbler sometimes. But, it does not compare to peach pie.
    .

    Reply
  9. Sandy

    Although I don’t care for crisps, I did print off the recipe for the Rustic Peach Tart that was in your email from KAF Catalogue today. I live in NC and we love the fresh peaches from the NC orchards. They are everywhere in the farmer’s markets and alongside the road in stands. I remember living in parts of the country where good peaches just could not be had so am loving having real peaches available here.

    Reply
  10. AJ

    Guess what’s on the grocery list folks? Just wish I still had some Cinnamon Ice Cream from my favorite “delivery-to-your-door”
    company! Ahhh well..

    Reply
  11. Carole

    Thankfully I live in a state that produces peaches (Oregon), though it will be a little while yet before they are ripe and ready to pick. During the years when the crop is good I can a couple of batches so if next year it’s not so hot, I’ve hopefully got some to tide me over.

    I love mixing peaches with blueberries. Yum.

    Reply
  12. Kimberly D

    Michigan has great peaches, huge like a soft ball, I use to love and stop and buy one and eat it and have the juices run down my arm…….yuuuummm! This is one of my favorite desserts to make, easy to do and delicious! Just put a scoop of vanilla ice cream on it! I like to sprinkle cinnamon on my peaches for my crisp. And apple crisp is yummy too, or cherry, again Michigan grows good black cherries and apples. Ok can you tell I live in Michigan….lol! And use to work at a fruit orchard…lol!

    Reply
  13. Kimberly D

    Sorry I know I posted already but do anyone know what to do with mull berries? We have a mull berry trees, and right now the birds are eating them…

    Reply
  14. Beth

    Ahhh, PJ, should I send some white peaches (if they’re still available) to you for your birthday??

    Beth, you’re TOO nice… but I think they’d suffer something awful in transit. Send me a picture, I’ll supply the rest of the virtual experience? :) PJH

    Reply
  15. cindy leigh

    Re Mulberries- I had a huge tree outside my kitchen where i used to live. I gathered the berries and made jam with them, just like you would for raspberry jam. I also used them in canned fruit compotes. I think the recipe was in the Ball Blue Book. Blueberries on the bottom, then raspberries and mulberries, then peaches. The finished product was beautiful, the colors in layers. The syrup turned a red color and the whole thing, or just the syrup, was awesome over ice cream

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  16. cindy leigh

    Beautiful recipe! I may can some peaches this year. Would this work wth canned?
    I also make a great recipe from “Cooking From Amish Country”, which is about a 20 year old cook book. The fruit (any type) goes in the bottom of a deep caserole, then the flour mixture, then sugar, and boiling water is poured over. It forms a crispy sugar layer on top, then a cake-y layer, then the fruit. Couldn’t be easier, and delicious.
    I will try yours for sure. I think I could tweak it to meet my dietary goals, by substituting a bit of whole wheat flour and splenda, and adding a bit of high maize, and probably substituting some of the butter with canola oil. I love hte fact it’s got oatmeal in it. Maybe I could add some flax and wheat bran/germ to that. I find if I made these substitutions only up to ~ a 30% point, the recipe does not suffer and my family never notices.

    Yes, Cindy, canned are fine – wouldn’t want to share that recipe, would you? Does indeed sound EASY and delish! PJH

    Reply
  17. Lillian Stark

    It looks good and very easy to combine. Just to let you know I stopped at a near by orchard for fresh peaches, was gonna make a pie, but instead I will make this. for any one near by, its in west End, North carolina. I have froze peaches and blue berries for the paast few yeaars. I will buy Ice cream tomorrow after church, Thanks Lillian Oh come this was again next year for the baking seminar.

    Reply
  18. Pam C

    I have the Signature Secrets Culinary Thickener. Can it be used in this recipe? I’ve always used plain flour to thicken the crisps and cobblers.
    Yes you may use Signature Secrets Culinary Thickener in this recipe. Just follow the instructions on the package. Joan@bakershotline.

    Reply
  19. cindy leigh

    from Cooking from Quilt Country by Marcia Adams:
    Peach Cobbler
    1 cup AP flour
    1 1/4 tsp baking powder
    1 tsp grated nutmeg
    1/2 tsp salt
    2 tbsp softened butter 1 cup sugar
    6-8 peaches, peeled and sliced
    1/2 cup brown sugar
    1 tsp almond extract
    1 cup boiling water
    nutmeg

    Preheat oven to 350.
    combine flour, baking powder, nutmeg, and salt, set aside
    in large mixer bowl, cream butter, add 1/2 cup of the granulated sugar, and blend well. Beat in the flour mixture. (can be made ahead and refrigerated)
    oil a 9 inch square cake pan, using metal gives a better texture. (I use a tall-sided corning ware dish- the recipe is fairly deep, and I’ve never had a texture problem)
    Place half the peaches in the bottom.
    Sprinkle half the flour mixture over the fruit.
    Add another layer of peaches and the rest of the flour mixture.
    In a bowl, combine the rest of the white sugar and the brown sugar. Sprinkle over the fruit mixture.
    put the almond extract in a one cup measure and fill with the boiling water.
    Pour over the top of the cobbler but do NOT mix in.
    sprinkle with additional nutmeg and bake for one hour.
    Serve warm.
    *****************
    I have made this several times, and with different fruit. I like a few blueberries or raspberries with the peaches. It makes a great apple cobbler, I use cinnamon and vanilla instead of almond extract.
    And if you’ve got blueberries, it makes a great blueberry cobbler.
    The cookbook itself is beautiful, the author gathered authentic Amish recipes so I believe there’s a caveat that there’s an abundance of sugar and sometimes butter in some of the recipes. And it has beautiful color photos of food and Amish life.
    There’s a very good baked lemon graham nut (grapenut) pudding recipe too- that yields a pudding layer and a cake layer. There’s a recipe for hte homemade grapenuts, too.

    Reply
  20. Barbara

    This looks like a wonderful and simple recipe. It’s great that you can use either fresh or frozen peaches. Here in California we’re getting great stone fruit right now (peaches, nectarines, plums…yum!). And cherries! I love cherries (I guess they’re a small stone fruit too).

    I made a FABULOUS cherry cake but I’ll bet it would work with any stone fruit: http://strangerkiss.wordpress.com/2009/07/13/turning-cherries-upside-down/.

    I can’t wait to try this crisp. I love all those cobbler, crisp, crumble things.

    Reply
  21. Heidi

    Mulberry pie was one of my favorites when we lived in the Midwest and collected these big juicy ones.

    2 cups of mulberries
    1 cup finely chpped rhubarb
    1 cup sugar
    1/4 cup flour
    2 Tbsp. butter

    Combine fruits. Add flour and sugar mixed together and toss with fruit. Place in 8″ pie crust and dot with butter. Apply top crust and bake at 425 for 40-50 minutes.

    Thanks, Heidi – I never knew what to do with these berries except climb in to the tree (bush? as in round and round the…) and eat them. :) PJH

    Reply
  22. Linda

    about peaches…..

    Born and raised in South Carolina. Grew up picking peaches off the tree’s, which as as kids we hated because the fuzz would get on us and we would itch until bath time. How ever we grew up eating the best of the best peaches. Ripe, juicy, delicate exquisite but unstable for shipping because they ripen and bruise very quickly and easily. Come visit the south during the month’s of July and August and I promise you the best peaches you have ever eaten. The other 10 month’s of the year we pretty much eat them out of the freezer. It’s just not the same, good, but not the same. I love peach crisp and can’t wait to try this recipe.

    Reply
  23. Robin

    Oh boy, fresh peaches! I grew up in Michigan and helped my mother can bushels of local peaches, pears and apples. Peach crisp was a great wintertime treat, but I always loved eating a fresh ripe peach, fuzz and all, the juice running down your chin–yum! Mom would use the bruised fruit to make batches of jam (after cutting out the bad spots of course). She would put a couple of hulled peach pits in the jam while it was cooking to give it a nice bitter almond flavor. There’s nothing like homemade peach jam on homemade bread! :)

    The crisp recipe posted above is excellent. For anyone gluten intolerant, try substituting Ancient Grains flour for the all-purpose flour. I’ve found GF flours work pretty well in streusel toppings. They might not brown as much as wheat flour so you have to keep an eye on the timing, but the results are very tasty. Just make sure to follow the directions to not mix the topping too much, or you’ll get a layer of sandy mush in place of crunchy goodness :)

    Peaches are in season here in southeastern PA. We can buy Jersey peaches in the stores, and local orchards have plenty for sale both in their roadside stands and at farmers markets. Summertime fresh fruits rule!

    Robin, just had my very first GOOD peach of the season, up here in New Hampshire – at the local coop store, from Pennsylvania. THANK YOU, Pennsylvania! A great peach experience at last. PJH

    Reply
  24. Robin

    You’re entirely welcome PJH. It was all my doing, of course. ;)

    Out there pruning and picking, huh? You do GOOD work! PJH

    Reply
  25. Hipolito Lagares

    This is a great recipe!!! King Arthur is the best.We live in South Jersey and we have plenty of fresh peaches.We just got done with the blueberry season but we have plenty of them frozen. We use white and yellow peaches and blueberries and it is great.

    Reply
  26. Lish

    I made this following the recipe exactly a few weeks ago and loved it! We went peach and raspberry picking this past weekend and my son wanted the crisp again. I used half the amount of sugar in both the filling and topping, I used a little more than half the butter in the topping, and I used white whole wheat flour and slivered almonds in the topping. It still came out awesome, my husband and kids liked it even better this way, and they usually think more sugar is better. The ripe peaches were so sweet and juicy it was the perfect summer dessert with a batch of homemade fresh pasta with a veggie heavy sauce with the fresh veggies from the weekends farmers market. Yummy! I love this recipe and will continue to make it as long as I can get some fresh peaches.

    Would this work with home canned peaches? I am canning some that we picked this week. It should. You would need to increase the amount of thickener that you use. Mary @ KAF

    Reply
  27. Judith Loring

    Once I make peach cobbler, can I freeze it to use later, like in a week or so? Have a family gathering, want to cook and bring with me but no way to cook and bring the next day. Any ideas/comments will be much appreciated as I’m trying to make a good impression on future in-laws!

    Cook first, then freeze. To really entice the recipients of your baking efforts, re-heat the cobbler before serving time. Bring it to room temp. then heat at 250′ for 30 minutes. It may be helpful to do a test run with the recipe, freezing and reheating, to be sure your results are perfect for the future in-laws! Irene @ KAF

    Reply

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