Big Batch Crisp Topping and Any Fruit Crisps | Make Ahead Mondays

Desserts are the big to-do. The thing over which you slave for hours or -in some cases- even days and present with a flourish to ooooohs and aaaahs. I’m as guilty of that as the next food-obsessed gal, from time to time.

But really? Desserts are supposed to be a relaxing thing. Grab a spoon or a fork, a plate or a bowl of the good stuff, plop down somewhere comfortable and give a good ahhhhhhhh. They’re supposed to feed your soul without taxing it first. In fact, ‘DESSERTS’ are ‘STRESSED’ spelled backwards. Tell me if this has ever happened to you.

I’m going through my day getting done what needs to be done. I make dinner and think to myself, “Oh, we don’t need dessert tonight. We have a big dinner and that’ll do the job.” Then after dinner, when it’s just me and my honey sitting on the couch, I think, “I wish I’d made dessert. I could go for something a little sweet right now.”

Is anyone with me? I know it can’t be just us with should’ve-made-dessert regrets. ‘No desserts’ backwards is ‘stressed on’. See?

I have a solution.

Make a big batch of crisp topping -essentially, this is sugar, oats, flour, a little spice and a lot of butter- drop it into canning jars or other airtight containers and pop it in the freezer.

When you hit the dessert-regret stage of the evening, fill a little ramekin or two or a big pan with fresh fruit or even canned pie filling. In a pinch, you could put jam in the ramekins.

Top with the ready-made crisp topping.

… and bake. Thirty minutes later (read: half of an episode of Justified or Top Chef) you will no longer be stressed. You will have desserts.

Here’s what happens next. At least at OUR house, it’s what happens next anyway. We get a container of vanilla ice cream out of the freezer and let it set on the counter for about eight minutes. We scoot a still-pretty-toasty ramekin into another bowl and top it with a pretty massive scoop of ice cream. We let the ice cream start melting just a wee bit and then we dive in.

Not bad for a dessert you threw together over a commercial break, eh? In fact, I’d call it darned good. So good, that it is the opposite of stressed. Literally.

Make Ahead Crisp Topping and Any Fruit Crisps | Make Ahead Mondays
The only thing better than a fruit crisp is one that you've put together in less than 5 minutes using crisp topping that you made ahead of time in a big batch and stored in the freezer. Use your pre-made crisp topping on fresh fruit, canned fruit or pie filling for a glorious, almost instant fruit crisp. Adapted very gently from and with many thanks to Aimee Bourque, of Simple Bites
  • 1 cup light or dark brown sugar)
  • 1 cup raw sugar (or 1 cup white sugar)
  • 1½ cups unsalted butter, softened
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • a little freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2¾ cups all-purpose or white whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup quick oats
  • 1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
  1. Combine the sugars, cinnamon and nutmeg with the softened butter and mix until well blended. Cut in the flour with a pastry cutter or two butterknives until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the oats until evenly and loosely combined and the mixture resembles coarse crumbs again.
  2. Fill jars or airtight containers with the crisp topping, top with a lid, label and freeze. This makes about 6 loosely packed or 4 firmly packed pint jars. (See note below.) This will yield about 32 individual crisps or 4 large (9"x13") pans.
  3. Note: If you pack the crisp topping loosely in the jars, it will be easier to shake directly onto the tops of the crisps you are baking. This does, however, shorten the amount of time they will store well in the freezer to 3 months from 6 months. If you pack the topping tightly, you can keep it for up to 6 months, but you may have to chip it out of the jar with a butterknife. I prefer to pack it loosely knowing we will use it quickly. This helps me avoid the dreaded 'stabbing metal things into frozen glass jars' phenomenon.
To Bake Fruit Crisps With Make Ahead Crisp Topping:
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Lay out desired number of ramekins on a baking sheet (or lightly grease a 9-inch x 13-inch pan.) Fill the ramekins about ⅔ full of fresh berries, chopped stone fruits, peeled/cored/chopped apples, or pie filling. Sprinkle frozen crisp topping directly on the surface of the fruit, filling the rest of the ramekin.( If using a large pan, make sure the filling is covered with crisp topping by at least ¼-inch.)
  2. Bake ramekins on the baking sheet for about 30 minutes, or large pans for about 45-50 minutes, or until the crisp is golden brown and the fruit is soft (or pie filling is bubbly.) Serve warm topped with ice cream, whipped cream or a little splash of heavy cream.

We are just about on gift-giving and party season, folks! A jar of this crisp topping wrapped with a pretty ribbon and a recipe card giving instructions on how to use it and make more would be a beautiful hostess gift. Added to a basket with home-canned pie filling or some fresh pears or apples, it would make a thoughtful and delicious gift for any occasion!


  1. Kathleen says

    Oh my, that looks simply wonderful! I’ve really enjoyed your Make Ahead Mondays. Do you take requests? I’d really love how to make (and freeze) roasted fall veggies, do you have a recipe for that?

  2. Vivian says

    Yes please…I have a pan of veg roasting right now and would love to know the RIGHT way to freeze! Also what to make with them later….I’m doing mine for soups.

  3. Karen says

    Yet again – a timely recipe as I had one more crisp worth of rhubarb left. I mixed gluten free flours (equal parts quinoa, fava and garbanzo and buckwheat) to come up with a substitute for the flour and GF oats and was very happy. After I put it in the freezer it dawned on my I should have used some almond flour too! Thankfully – there is always a next time! Dessert last night was rhubarb crisp and frozen vanilla yogurt.

    • says

      I don’t mind at all. I kept the ratios and types of oats used by Maria in the original recipe because I liked the variety in texture and absorption provided by using two kinds of oats. It’s nothing more complicated than that! :-)

  4. Karen says

    Because of this recipe (tweaked with Gluten Free Flours and Nuts) I’ve got a rhubarb crisp in the oven. Thank you.

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