Crisp apples. Fragrant pears. Tart cranberries. Fall's fruits arrive in abundance and just in time for the holiday baking season. To keep up, you're going to need options, and we've got them here. What's more, these recipes for coffee cake, skillet pie, quick loaf, and crisp each come with two easy variations so you can swap in the fruit you prefer (or the one that's overflowing your fruit bowl). Fair warning: taste one, and you just may have to make them all.
A cinch to prepare even when you're pressed for time, fruit crisps top our list of cook-friendly desserts. Our apple version calls for a splash of cream, which adds a wonderful silkiness to the filling. For more surprises, try the Gingered Pear variation or our Oatmeal -- Wheat Germ Topping (below). You may have a house divided over which is best.
Gingered Pear Crisp: Replace the apples with 7 cups peeled, cored, and sliced ripe pears (about 7 large pears). Increase the flour in the filling to 3 tablespoons and decrease the cream to 2 tablespoons. Stir in 2 tablespoons chopped crystallized ginger.
Oatmeal -- Wheat Germ Topping: Replace the 3/4 cup flour with 1/2 cup flour, 1/4 cup rolled oats, and 2 tablespoons wheat germ.
Easier to prepare than a traditional fruit pie, this rustic one-dish take on a fall classic dispenses with a bottom crust in favor of a single, golden, flaky top. (Don't have an oven-safe skillet? A casserole will also work.) Fill your pie with apples and pears, or try our Maple-Pecan and Apple-Date variations (below).
Maple-Pecan Skillet Pie: Replace the 1/3 cup sugar in the filling with 1/4 cup maple syrup. Mix 1 tablespoon sugar with the cornstarch and cinnamon; add to the fruit along with 3/4 cup chopped pecans.
Apple-Date Skillet Pie: Replace the pears with 6 1/2 cups apples (about 6 large apples) plus 1 cup chopped, pitted dates.
Buttery, moist, and utterly scrumptious, this decadent dessert wins new fans whenever it's served. And it's a cake big enough to feed the crowd at your next tailgate party or potluck, or to slice up and freeze for later. Pick your favorite: the apple version (link below) or our Any Berry (pictured) or Pear Cardamom variations.
Any Berry Coffee Cake (shown at left): Replace the apple with 2 1/2 cups fresh raspberries, blueberries, or blackberries. Do not fold in the berries in step 4. Instead, use them all in the topping in step 5.
Pear-Cardamom Coffee Cake: Add 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom (or more to taste) to the dry ingredients. Replace the apple with 3 cups (about 7 large pears) peeled and diced fresh pears, folding half into the batter and using half in the topping, as in the apple recipe.
This versatile bread loves fruit. Apples, cranberries, pears -- they all work beautifully here, as demonstrated by our two variations (below): Pear Streusel and Cranberry-Orange. Serve slices with yogurt for breakfast, tuck them into lunch boxes, or set them out as an after-school snack.
Pear Streusel Quick Loaf: Replace the apple with an equal amount of diced pears (about 4 medium pears). Combine 1/2 cup chopped pecans, 3 tablespoons sugar, 2 tablespoons flour, and 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces, in a large bowl. Rub well to mix. Spread the topping evenly over the batter and bake as in above recipe.
Cranberry-Orange Quick Loaf: Replace the apples with 2 cups of coarsely chopped fresh cranberries. Toss with 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar; set aside for 30 minutes. Toss with 1 1/2 tablespoons flour, as above, and fold into the batter. Replace the lemon zest with 2 teaspoons orange zest. Bake as in above recipe.
An award-winning cookbook author, Ken Haedrich teaches pie making at thepieacademy.com.
Originally published in the November 2013 issue of FamilyFun magazine.