Only the Berry Best

Parked on the couch Friday night after a long day of chores – on my day off, might I add – I was sipping my well-deserved milkshake and catching up on Project Runway. (I’m tempted to insert a long-winded and irrelevant rant about why I think Emilio’s stunning ready-to-wear should have won and why I think Seth Aaron is an aging Hot Topic train wreck with bad hair, but I’ll spare you the time, eyestrain and boredom. I digress.)

I had some frozen strawberries in the freezer, some leftover vanilla ice cream and an almost empty carton of milk, and I used my handy immersion blender to whip the shake into shape. As I was giddily slurping away, I thought to myself, “Now wouldn’t this have been better with some fresh strawberries? Ooh, I bet they’ll have strawberries at the Farmers’ Market tomorrow…” And that was that. I had planted the seed. My goal: fresh strawberries or bust.

Farmers’ Market Strawberries

Waking up Saturday morning to drizzle intermittently dispersed with a full-on deluge didn’t deter me. I pulled on my galoshes, donned my raincoat, fastened my rain cap (kidding, y’all, kidding) and headed out the door. The rain hadn’t deterred the Farmers’ Market vendors, either: the market was bustling and in full swing. I chatted up Candye Wynn of Wynn Family Farm about my excitement for this year’s CSA while I purchased some beautiful, plump strawberries from Deana Dickey of Dickey Farms – along with a few strawberry plants for my own garden! After a quick trip to the grocery store, it was back home to get started on my rainy day project: Strawberry Peach Crisp.

My last minute purchases at the grocery store included a bag of frozen peaches. Come on, now – don’t turn your nose up at frozen fruit. It plays a relevant and viable role in many sweet dishes, especially ones that require fruit out of season – who wants to use a rock hard, tasteless peach? Not to mention, the strawberry-peach combo is always a surefire hit.

I cleaned and hulled the strawberries, and combined them with the peaches, some sugar, flour and vanilla, while I got to work on the crumb topping. I like my topping super crispy and crunchy, which I take to mean adding more oats and more butter – if you like, feel free to add chopped nuts, like pecans or walnuts, for an extra crunchy bite. I used my standing mixer to combine the topping ingredients until the butter was completely incorporated and it all came together in soft, crumbly goodness.

Admiring Its Own Reflection

About an hour in the oven – maybe a little broiling at the end, if need be – and the crisp was ready. But what’s a crisp without ice cream? And why have ice cream when you can have custard? So while the crisp cooled, we were off to Shake’s for a quart of vanilla (and two puppy cups for the pups, natch), and back home to dig in. When the cold, creamy custard hit the warm, crunchy crisp and began to slowly melt, my eyes glazed over and I went into a trancelike state. I have a dim recollection of the sweet, pleasantly tart fruit, the buttery, crunchy topping, and lots of groaning. Yeah, it’s that good.

As always, feel free to play with the ingredients. Use blueberries, raspberries, blackberries – nectarines, apples, pears, whatever! Be creative, have fun and most importantly – give yourself a pat on the back for creating such a sweet masterpiece. Enjoy!

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Strawberry Peach Crisp

For the Filling:
2 pints of strawberries, stemmed and hulled
1 (16 oz.) bag of frozen peaches
3/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. flour
2 tsp. vanilla

For the Topping:
1 c. flour
1 c. oats
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 1/2 sticks of cold butter, diced

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Mixing the Crumb Topping

Combine the strawberries, peaches, sugar, flour and vanilla in a large bowl, gently folding together to combine the ingredients and evenly coat the fruit. Allow the mixture to sit while you work on the topping.

In the bowl of a standing mixer with the paddle attachment, or in a large mixing bowl using a pastry cutter, combine the flour, oats, sugars and butter until the butter is incorporated and the mixture is soft and crumbly.

Place the fruit in a large pie pan and top evenly with the crumb topping. Place the pie pan on a cookie sheet (to catch drips) and bake for about an hour. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.

Laura Hobbs is a regular contributor for the Fayetteville Flyer. She was born and raised in Fayetteville. She is a self-proclaimed foodie and avid cook. For more of Laura’s contributions, see her author page or visit Flyer Foodie on Facebook.