If you know me at all, you know I am about as un-vegan as they come. Living in a world without butter, cheese, eggs or cream is a world I don’t want any part of. Baking without these things is utterly terrifying. I am all about the butter, baby. However, I was going to planning the ring in the summer with a couple of dear friends who both have lactose intolerance issues and I couldn’t selfishly flaunt a butter laden dessert in their lactose free faces.
I decided to bake a cherry crisp without the aid of rich creamy European butter (sigh). It was summer solstice, the longest day of the year, but I was short on time and needed something quick and easy to make. My lady friends and I had a long night of drinking ahead and we required a dessert that could hold it’s liquor as well as we could. So, I did what any addict would do in this situation, I swapped once vice for another. Butter for alcohol. I replaced the butter with a vegan shortening and I soaked those cherries in an unreasonable amount of whiskey in an effort to mask the artificial flavor of the shortening. I threw more flavors at the problem; almonds, cinnamon and freshly grated ginger. Once I felt the cherries were sufficiently sloshed, I poured them into junior moonshine jars and topped them with counterfeit butter crumble top. At this point, I tasted the topper and was quickly sobered up by the taste, so much better than I had expected! But, would it hold up when baked in the oven?
Once the mason jars cooled down, I screwed the lids on tightly and they were ready to travel to the home of the hostess. We sat fireside, catching up over a few bottles of wine and the best 90’s music mix I have heard since the actual 90’s (thanks for the dope tunes, Suz). It was after midnight before we realized we hadn’t even busted into dessert yet! Part of me was hoping they’d forget about dessert altogether as I worried the crisp might taste like crisp cardboard on a bed of cherry stained whiskey. We reheated the little jars, topped them with lemon sorbet and dug in under the bright solstice moonlight. It could have been euphoria from the start of summer or the fact we were 3 bottles deep but that crisp was over the moon. The lack of butter was a non-issue, in a blind taste test I wouldn’t have even noticed. The crispy topping orbited around the whiskey ginger cherries with a warm and tangy flavor that lingered into the long evening like the smoldering fire we’d been feeding. The tartness of the cherries was hushed by the strength of the whiskey which was mellowed by the bite of the ginger. Dessert in the moonlight was a smooth and relaxing nightcap to the longest day of the year.
- all purpose flour - 6 tablespoons
- brown sugar - 1/2 cup
- cinnamon - 1 teaspoon
- salt - 1/4 teaspoon
- vegan shortening, cold and cut into 1/4" cubes - 5 tablespoons
- sliced almonds - 1/2 cup
- Bob's Red Mill thick rolled oats - 3/4 cup
- fresh cherries, pitted - 3-4 cups
- granulated sugar - 2 tablespoons
- cornstarch - 1 tablespoon
- whiskey - 1/4 cup
- freshly grated ginger - 2 teaspoons
- small mason jars - 6
- Preheat oven to 375° F and adjust oven rack to lower-middle position.
- Pit the cherries, I finally broke down and bought a handheld cherry pitter. Totally worth it.
- Add the whiskey, sugar and cornstarch to the cherries, use a wooden spoon to toss the mixture until blended. Allow the cherries to soak in the mixture for at least 30 minutes, the longer the better.
- To prepare the topping; whisk together the flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. Add the shortening pieces and toss to coat with flour. Using a pastry cutter, gently cut in the shortening (you can also just use your fingers by pinching the shortening pieces together with the flour mixture) until the mixture looks crumbly and like wet sand. Cut in the almond slices.
- Refrigerate the topping mixture for at least 15 minutes.
- Divide the cherries evenly into mason jars, filling 3/4 full.
- Sprinkle the crisp topping evenly over the cherry jars until the crisp reaches the top of the jars.
- Place the jars on a silpat lined baking sheet to help prevent them from sliding around when you put them in the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the topping turns a deep golden brown and the fruit is bubbling.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool before placing the lids on top. Use caution and don't touch the jars until sufficiently cooled.
- Serve warm or at room temperature. A cold scoop of lemon sorbet is a great drinking buddy for this crisp.
- You can omit the whiskey, if you must, and just add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract instead.
- You can also use butter in place of the vegan shortening, I only imagine this crisp is even tastier with actual butter! If you don't have mason jars, this recipe will suffice as a single, 6 serving crisp.