Extra-Crispy Peach and Blueberry Crisp

Extra-Crispy Peach and Blueberry Crisp by The Messy Baker.

21 Jul Extra-Crispy Peach and Blueberry Crisp

Extra-Crispy Peach and Blueberry Crisp by The Messy Baker.

Writing a book is a lot like working in theatre. “Hurry up and wait!” is the mantra. You learn your lines (or write them in this case), hit your marks (deadlines) and then wait. For months. You watch the clock, the calendar and your nails grow. While time grinds to a halt, other people go off into dark corners and hover over the ugly, artless Word document you sent them, dissecting the manuscript insipid word by insipid word. You are sure it’s all a huge mistake and the only reason you got hired was a clerical error. They were just too polite to set the record straight.

Eventually, around the time you are sure they have forgotten all about you, an even uglier, less artless (as if that is even possible) marked-up copy arrives in your inbox. It’s time for edits. This stage is a bit like rehearsing a farce in which the door you’re expected to leap through changes every run-through. And you do this blind-folded and half-drunk with lack of sleep. Every Track Changes underline underlines your weaknesses. Anxiety follows you around like an ugly rumour. You get paranoid, defensive, unsure of yourself. You hate every idea you’ve ever had and every word you’ve ever typed. You hate your computer, the Internet and your parents for giving you life.

Your writer friends assure you this is normal. You feel sweet, knee-buckling relief for 30 seconds. Anxiety descends and drapes over your shoulders like an old sweater. You pull it tight.

Because you are a Professional, you blow your nose, grab your notes and race off to the coffee shop where you spend your entire advance on lattes while  addressing all the editor’s questions and fixing all your mistakes. You must stay out of reach of your supportive friends and family. Only caffeine and fear can propel you forward. Kindness will drag you down, dissolve you. Hugs and understanding can be welcomed only after the manuscript is off your desk.

You send it back stuffed with as many exclamation marks and smiley faces as you feel you can get away with while still being taken as a Serious Writer. And then you wait. Again.

You float in a timeless sea, bobbing between waves of pride and worry. You did it. But not well. You loved it. You want to crawl into bed and eat Almond M&Ms until you burst. You have the best job in the entire history of the universe. No one needs another cookbook.

Your writer friends assure you this is normal.

Then it hits you. Writers aren’t normal.  And you have just proven you are every inch a Writer.

You clean the oven because you’ve always wanted to tell people you’re ready to stick your head in the oven. While others find this disconcerting, you like playing with metaphors, even disturbing ones, proving once again that writers aren’t normal. Congratulations, Writer, you’re following your path.

One day, as you stand in the kitchen admiring your sparkling clean range and vowing to never, ever cook in it again since you really hate cleaning ovens, a giant package lands on your front stoop with a thump. The first pages have arrived. This is the art department’s rendering of your book, all done up with photos and formatting and “000” where page numbers will eventually be. It begins to feel Real.

You sit in the living room and go over every page, realizing your words aren’t as artless as you’d imagined — at least not with a nice font and pretty pictures to support them. You read it in bed, at breakfast, on the patio. You flip through the pages soaking in the tub. Anxiety now merely hovers inches above your shoulders. You approve the pages and mail the 5-pound manuscript back purchasing every tracking feature the post office will legally allow. And wait.

Within an hour you find yourself obsessively tracking your package, cursing yourself for not making the 10-hour drive to the editor’s desk yourself. Your sanity is worth 20 hour’s of non-stop highway travel and a couple tanks of gas, isn’t it? But it’s too late, so you just stalk the package online. And wait.

In the meantime, you are sure the manuscript has gotten lost, the publisher has changed their mind or that you just dreamed the whole thing. After all, it’s been 2 years since you started and you barely have the patience to tie running shoe laces now that Velcro is an option.  You busy yourself with unrelated things, dig in the garden, and obsessively Instagram the cat.

And then when you’re on vacation, trying to relax and not think about all the work that’s piling up in your absence, Oprah.com selects one of your recipes for If You Make Only One Dessert This Summer.

The waiting is over. It’s Show Time!

Remains of Extra-Crispy Peach and Blueberry Crisp by The Messy Baker.

Photos in this post were taken by the patient, talented and unbelievably artful Ryan Szulc.

Extra-Crispy Peach and Blueberry Crisp
Recipe type: Baking
Cuisine: North American
Prep / inactive time: 
Cook / active time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6 to 8
I had made some zucchini fries using panko and, being a very messy baker, hadn’t cleaned up fully from the night before. When I was creating this recipe, I saw the panko crumbs, which are extremely crisp, and thought, “Crisp for the crisp.” Unlike traditional crumb toppings made from oats or flour, this one is extra-crunchy, in perfect contrast to the tender, classic summertime blueberry and peach mixture bubbling away beneath the surface. To enjoy the topping at its crunchiest, eat the crisp while still warm from the oven, but be careful when you serve it. The juices like to slop about.
For the filling:
  • ½ cup lightly packed brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • Peel of 1 orange, finely grated
  • 3 cups pitted, peeled and chopped peaches
  • 4 cups blueberries
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
For the topping:
  • 1½ cups panko bread crumbs
  • ½ cup lightly packed brown sugar
  • ½ cup chopped hazelnuts
  • ¼ tsp. fine sea salt
  • ⅓ cup melted, unsalted butter
  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
  2. To make the filling: In a small bowl, mix the brown sugar, cornstarch and orange peel until evenly combined.
  3. In a large bowl, place the peaches and blueberries. Sprinkle with the vanilla and toss gently to evenly distribute the fruit. Sprinkle with the sugar mixture and toss gently to coat evenly. Spoon into an 8-by-8-inch glass baking dish. Level with the back of the spoon.
  4. To make the topping: In a medium bowl, toss the panko, brown sugar, hazelnuts and salt until well combined. Pour the butter over the crumbs and toss to coat well. Spoon the crumbs evenly over the fruit. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is crispy. Allow to cool for 30 to 45 minutes before serving. The crisp can be served warm or at room temperature. Eat as is or topped with Chantilly cream, ice cream, crème anglaise or crème fraîche.
  5. This dessert is best eaten the day it's made. Any leftovers should be covered and refrigerated. Soggy topping can be rescued with a minute under the broiler.
Crisps are a great way to use up fruit that is almost past its prime. Be sure to remove bruises before chopping. For best results, try to cut the fruit into uniform pieces. Panko are coarse, extra-crispy bread crumbs often used in Japanese cooking. Once confined to Asian markets, these crumbs can now be found in most large, chain grocery stores. Look in the Asian section or in the regular bread crumbs/melba toast aisle.

Psst! Buy the book. It includes recipes for Chantilly cream, crème anglaise and crème fraîche.


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  • Robin
    Posted at 15:35h, 21 July Reply

    Wow and Wow again!!!! One from me, and one from Laura, who is home for the day. We are both suitably impressed by Oprah’s good taste (lol) in the recipe choice. I am also delighted as I bought a box of Panko crumbs for one meal, that only used 1/8 of the box. Now i can use the rest!
    Way to go!!
    Love Robin

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 12:34h, 22 July Reply

      Thanks, Robin. I was in Florida when the news arrived and I was stunned. Thought it was heat stroke. Nope.

      As for panko, this might be my favourite use, although Andrew would vote for fried chicken.

  • Lori desormeaux
    Posted at 22:09h, 21 July Reply

    I am really looking forward to receiving my now pre-ordered copy , I’m hoping you might sign my copy ? 😉 See you at the anniversary party , please let me know if I can bring anything !! congratulations !!!

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 12:35h, 22 July Reply

      Thanks so much for pre-ordering! I’m happy to sign a copy for you. I’m touched by all the people who bought early!

  • Julie
    Posted at 12:30h, 22 July Reply

    That’s such amazing news, Charmian — an Oprah pick! Congratulations on published authorhood.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 12:37h, 22 July Reply

      Thanks, Julie. I didn’t know my publicist had reached out to Oprah’s people so it was a complete and total shock to be picked.

      Authorhood feels pretty good! And I know you know the thrills of seeing your book in print. I’m sure you are also familiar with the downs of the writing process. Perhaps you’re not as neurotic as I am about it :-)

  • Kristy @ She Eats
    Posted at 19:24h, 24 July Reply

    One of my most favourite things about you is how honest you are. I love and honor your candor. And this is pretty much my favourite posts you’ve ever written. I’m so thrilled for you and can’t wait to get my paws on a copy.


    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 22:14h, 24 July Reply

      Thanks so much, Kristy. That means a lot!

      I wasn’t sure if I should post this. It’s hard to admit realizing a dream isn’t all sunshine and roses. But given the feedback, I’m glad I did. “Favourite”? I’m framing this comment!

  • Em Maxwell
    Posted at 15:11h, 25 July Reply

    Loved the book, here’s a link to my review, and good luck! http://missmrecommends.blogspot.com/2014/07/charmian-charms.html

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 15:44h, 25 July Reply

      Thanks so much for the enthusiastic review. I’m glad you liked the recipes but am over the moon that you’d suggest a memoir or novel with recipes. Hope you find many recipes you like! Keep baking!

  • Vanessa
    Posted at 11:21h, 29 July Reply

    Finally had a chance to read this post, and oh what a wonderful writer you are! To put those emotions in so few paragraphs, I do so admire you. Trying this recipe tonight. I tried the ice cream one for a large group recently and they sang your praises!

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 09:52h, 30 July Reply

      Thanks so much for your kind words, Vanessa. There were — and still are — a lot of emotions swirling around. Most of the very good. Anxiety now just hangs in the closet and waves as I pass by.

      I am thrilled the ice cream worked and look forward to hearing how the crisp turns out. Ice cream AND crisp? Sounds like a winning combination!

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