"Dessert is probably the most important stage of the meal, since it will be the last thing your guests remember before they pass out all over the table." William Powell
Pie is the best dessert known to man because fruit is so much better than flour (OK, cake fans, let me have it). But they are a bit tricky to make because the pie shell must follow a rigid recipe and a procedure and the filling must be just right or it can be too runny or too dry.
But weekend warriors like us can make some superb pie-like rustic fruit desserts on the grill or in Dutch ovens from recipes created long before gas and electric stoves. Basically we skip the pie crust and simply cut up fruit, mix in sugar, pour it into a pot or pan, put some sort of topping on it, and bake. Called a "crisp", it is a fruit compote topped with a streusel. A compote is fresh, frozen, or dried fruit simmered with liquid and sugar, and a streusel, also called a crumb topping, is simply a crunchy mix of sugar, butter, and flour. The topping caramelizes and makes my favorite crust.
if you have a Dutch oven like this Camp Chef 10" with a rim on the lid to hold coals, you can bake it in a campfire, on a grill, or just on a patch of dirt. You can do this in a simple baking pan or frying pan without a lid. I describe the method in the sidebar.
Below is my recipe for an Apple Cranberry Crisp that is baked in a cast iron Dutch oven. Here's a video:
Takes. 30 minutes of prep, about 45 minutes to cook, and 20 minutes to cool
Makes. 6 servings
Ingredients for the compote
3 firm baking apples
2 cups of whole fresh or frozen cranberries
1 tablespoon of all purpose flour
3/4 cup of sugar
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon powder
1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt
butter to coat the pot, about 2 tablespoons
Ingredients for the topping
3/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar (light or dark)
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon powder
1 large egg, beaten
4 tablespoons of salted butter, melted
About the apples. The best baking apples are on the hard side. The tried and true classics are Grannie Smith and Golden Delicious, and my favorite is Honeycrisp, but other good ones are Jonathan, Jonagold, Braeburn, Winesap, Cortland, Gala.
About the topping. On 8/15/2016 I changed the recipe for the topping after tasting a better one from the book A Kansas Compote, published in 1991. My wife and I collect these regional cookbooks and relish in the wisdom of generations of homemakers.
About the butter. If you have only unsalted butter, add 1/4 of kosher salt
1) Start a chimney of about 36 charcoal briquets.
2) Make the compote by peeling the apples, cutting them in quarters, and removing the cores. Then cut the apples into slices about 1/4" thick, and drop them into a non-reactive pot. Dump in the cranberries, flour, and the sugar. Scrape the zest off the lemon and add that. Then squeeze in the juice of the lemon (watch for seeds). Add the cinnamon and the salt.
3) In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and cinnamon. Add the beaten egg and mix until crumbly.
4) Coat the inside of the Dutch oven or pan with butter, but not the inside of the lid. Pour the compote into the pot and top with the crumble. Pour the melted butter over the crumble.
5) Pour about 12 white briquets on the ground or inside your grill and arrange them in a circle the same width of your Dutch oven. Place the oven on top of the coals and place the lid on the oven. Add another 18-24 hot briquets to the top of the lid.
6) Bake for about 45 minutes or until you see the juices bubbling. Take the lid off, let it cool for about 20 minutes (this is the hardest part of the recipe, not burning your mouth because you are impatient). Top with whipped cream, sour cream, yogurt, or ice cream. Or nothing!