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I wish I had taken photos of the making of this dessert, but by the time I thought of it, it was already in the oven.

I have been making versions of Mollie Katzen’s apple crisp for years, but this was an exceptionally good one, I think. Though I can’t claim it to be low-fat, it contains no white sugar and is otherwise quite healthy with whole grains and fresh fruit. It isn’t too sweet so would be fine after a rich dinner. I made this to inaugurate a beautiful enameled cast-iron gratin pan which my husband purchased at the Noordermarkt flea market in Amsterdam at a tremendous discount. It worked beautifully.

These amounts are just right for one serving for four people, or two servings for two exceptionally piggy people.


  • 1 cup rolled oats (not instant oatmeal or quick-cooking oats)
  • 1/2 stick butter (1/4 cup)
  • 3-4 tablespoons honey
  • 4 or 5 Bartlett pears or other sweet, juicy, ripe pears (apples with these qualities would also be excellent)
  • Marsala wine (Madeira or Essencia are other possibilities, or a good quality sherry)

Melt the butter and honey together, then pour over the oats and mix well to combine as thoroughly as possible.

Wash (but do not peel) the pears, thinly slice (avoiding the core), and place in a one-quart shallow baking dish. A gratin pan is ideal. Spread the oatmeal mixture over the pears as evenly as possible.

Pour about 1/4 cup Marsala into the baking dish and a few glugs over the topping as well.

Place pan in a 375 oven and bake until the pears are tender. Watch to make sure the topping doesn’t scorch; place aluminum foil on top if it threatens to burn. If the pan looks dry, add some more Marsala. When pears are tender and topping is browned, remove and cool on rack.

Serve with a big spoonful of sour cream on top.

Note: I also crumbled up some Amaretti cookies and sprinkled those on top of the oatmeal topping. Chopped nuts would be an excellent addition; so would unsulfured dried fruit such as golden raisins, dates, or dried pears (first plumped in hot tea, orange juice, or Marsala). Sieved brown sugar would make a fine accent on top of the sour cream; of course some real (i.e. not out of a freezer container or aerosol can) whipped cream, a scoop of good quality vanilla ice cream, or a generous pour of heavy cream would also be good, as would freshly made custard sauce. Or serve a wedge of very sharp Cheddar or Stilton alongside.


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