Cherry Blackberry Crisp
A simple fruit crisp is the little black dress of summer desserts. It’s always appropriate, can be transformed with a simple swap of accessories, and causes men to stutter. Most recently, this all-purpose treat strut its stuff as a Cherry Blackberry Crisp, baked in honor of my mom and step dad’s first visit to Milwaukee.
To welcome my mom and Larry’s to town, Ben and I invited them to our home for a special dinner, with this Cherry Blackberry Crisp as the meal finale. It was both meaningful and surreal to host my mom, who has served me dinner thousands of times, at my very own table in our very first home. I felt quite grown up. (For the curious, our other menu items included Ina’s Herb Roasted Salmon and Tomato Gratin, along with simply roasted asparagus, an indulgent Wisconsin cheese plate, and Aperol spritz, a classic Italian cocktail.)
Above: my mom, Larry, and I after our Lakefront Brewery tour. I’m smiling because I’m thinking about the leftover Cherry Blackberry Crisp I have waiting for me in the refrigerator at home.
Of all the desserts in my recipe archives, fruit crisps are the ones that I make most often at home. I’ve played around with dozens of different topping recipes, ranging from ones that taste like oatmeal cookies to those I double-layer on both the bottom of the top of the crisp, but the one I used for today’s Cherry Blackberry Crisp—the simplest of them all—is the one I return to over and over again. The ingredients are wholesome and natural, and the only difficult aspect of preparing it is preventing myself from stuffing the entire crisp topping mixture into my mouth before it’s baked.
This emperor of all crisp toppings is a mix of oats, almond meal, unsweetened coconut, light olive oil, maple syrup, and pecans. Depending upon the type of fruit I’m using, I might choose honey instead of maple syrup or swap walnuts for the pecans, but the basic formula remains unchanged, because it is sublime. The oats become lightly crisp and toasty, the pecans add chunky texture, and the coconut provides a subtle, almost imperceptible background note that makes any fruit crisp positively addictive. The wonderful idea to add almond meal (which is a fancy way of saying ground-up almonds) came from Lindsay. It adds a deep, nutty richness that is so utterly satisfying, I can no longer imagine a perfect fruit crisp without it.
I’ve baked this basic fruit crisp with roaring success using assorted combinations of blueberries, apples, peaches, pears, and even cranberries, and today’s cherry blackberry crisp combo is one of my favorites to date. The cherries are plump and demure, the blackberries tart and moody, and the overall effect of the two together strikes a zen-master balance of sassy and sweet.
Though the Cherry Blackberry Crisp is delightful on its own, as with all fruit crisps, it certainly isn’t hampered by a melting scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Because this Cherry Blackberry Crisp is healthier than most, any leftovers can be peacefully enjoyed for breakfast with a dollop of yogurt. I like mine warmed up a little with plain, non-fat Greek yogurt top, and I imagine that vanilla would be wonderful too.
Parting words: Be confident and use the big spoon in the below photo. It’s the right thing to do.
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Cherry Blackberry Crisp
For the Cherry Blackberry Filling:
- 1 1/2 pounds sweet cherries — fresh or frozen, pitted—do not thaw if frozen
- 1 cup blackberries — fresh or frozen—do not thaw if frozen
- 2 tablespoons white whole wheat flour — or all purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the Crisp Topping:
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 3/4 cup chopped walnuts, — almonds, or pecans (untoasted)
- 1/2 cup almond meal*
- 1/2 cup flaked coconut — unsweetened if possible
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
Place a rack in the center of your oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat a deep 8x8-inch or similar baking dish with cooking spray. Set aside.
Place the cherries and blackberries in a large mixing bowl, then sprinkle the flour over the top. Add the maple syrup, lemon juice, and vanilla, then fold gently to combine. Transfer to the prepared baking dish.
In a medium bowl, stir together the oats, walnuts, almond meal, coconut, cinnamon, and salt. Drizzle the olive oil and maple syrup over the top, then use a spatula to combine until the dry ingredients are evenly moistened. Sprinkle the filling over the top.
Bake the crisp until the filling hot and bubbly, about 45-55 minutes. Check the crisp at the 30-minute mark. If the topping is becoming too brown, tent with foil then continue baking until ready. Let rest 10 minutes, then serve warm, smothered with vanilla ice cream, homemade whipped cream, or Greek yogurt.
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