Vanilla Bean Brown Butter Nectarine Blackberry Crisp

Wow, that’s a mouthful, but you have to admit it sounds good. I got the idea from the New York Times Cooking newsletter; Kim Severson was guest writing it for the day and she mentioned a trick she learned from our mutual friend Bill Addison who learned it from Nancy Silverton (how’s that for a game of telephone?). The trick is this: when making a cobbler or a crisp, brown some butter, scrape in the seeds from a vanilla bean and then stir the whole mixture in with the fruit. As far as ideas go, this is right up there with E = mc2. (How do you get the 2 up there? Where’s Einstein when you need him?)

This, of course, was the dessert that I served Jim Parsons and his partner Todd Spiewak when they came over for dinner last week. The combination of fruit–nectarines and blackberries–was one that I saw in not one but two different cookbooks: Karen DeMasco’s The Craft of Baking and Rebecca Charles and Deborah DiClementi’s Lobster Rolls and Blueberry Pie. It was a combination that seemed undeniably winning.


The nectarines that I bought weren’t particularly ripe but I figured with all of the sugar and the butter and the baking, it wouldn’t matter too much (and I was right on that front). The blackberries add a wonderfully tart zing and then there’s that vanilla bean brown butter.


It’s as simple as this: take a stick of butter, but it into cubes, melt it in a small pan and then add the seeds from a vanilla bean and also the pod itself. Keep the butter cooking until it begins to sizzle and smell like toast. Take it off the heat and you’ve got vanilla bean brown butter. Toss it with the fruit and lay it into a baking dish.


I’m not sure what heaven smells like but I’m pretty sure it’s similar to this.

After that, you make your crisp topping. Because one of my dinner guests (not naming names (TODD)) is allergic to almonds, I skipped DeMasco’s almond topping and went with Charles’ and DiClementi’s which has oats and brown sugar and more butter.


One mistake that I made though, and I hope you don’t make it too, is I forgot to toss some flour in with the fruit so when it baked, the liquid kind of oozed out and the crisp didn’t actually get crisp. No matter. Certain people (not naming names (JIM AND TODD)) had second helpings, this was so good. And topped with vanilla ice cream, who can blame them?


So while there’s still stone fruit, you should certainly make a crisp or a cobbler for the people that you love. And if they happen to be famous, go the extra mile and brown some butter with a vanilla bean. It’s a pricey upgrade but well worth it, like flying first class for your mouth.

Recipe: Vanilla Bean Brown Butter Nectarine Blackberry Crisp

Summary: A mashup of several recipes from Karen DeMasco, Rebecca Charles, and Deborah DiClementi.


  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour PLUS 1/4 cup flour for the fruit
  • 1 cup rolled oats (not quick-cooking)
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks cold butter PLUS 1 stick for the fruit (yes, this is decadent)
  • 2 cups whole blackberries
  • 8 nectarines, pitted and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean


  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Start by making the crisp topping. In a food processor combine the 1/2 cup flour, the oats, the sugar, the cinnamon, the salt and pulse a few times. Then add the cold butter cut into cubes and pulse until you have a mixture with some big chunks in it of different sizes. Place the processor bowl in the refrigerator with the topping until ready to use.
  3. For the fruit, combine the blackberries, nectarines, sugar, and 1/4 cup flour in a large bowl. Meanwhile, in a small skillet, add the stick of butter, cut into chunks, and melt gently over medium/low heat. Then split the vanilla bean in half with a paring knife, scrape out the seeds and add them to the butter along with the pod. Turn up the heat slightly and cook until the butter begins to turn brown; it’ll smell like toast and be a dark caramel color when it’s ready. Immediately pour over the fruit and remove the vanilla bean pod. Stir to combine.
  4. Lay the fruit into a 9X13 baking dish and top with the crisp topping. Bake for 50 minutes until the top is golden brown and the fruit is bubbling. Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Preparation time: 30 minute(s)

Cooking time: 50 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 8

My rating 5 stars:  ★★★★★ 1 review(s)

13 thoughts on “Vanilla Bean Brown Butter Nectarine Blackberry Crisp”

  1. Oh to be a fly on the wall with some of my very favorite people, all together, eating that dinner! And thanks for the nod, as always…<3

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  2. I like the brown butter vanilla idea! Nectarine/peach and blackberry/blueberry crisps are a staple I look forward to ALL summer after I once stumbled across an entire flat of fresh Okanagan peaches and had conveniently picked a few pints of blackberries that same day. I tend to stick with very little sugar (none in the fruit, only a bit in the crumble) and always toss the fruit with cornstarch for thickness. This makes me pretend it’s healthy enough I can eat it with greek yogurt for breakfast. Maybe I can put the vanilla brown butter in the topping, to keep it “healthy” in my mind :-)

  3. I also posted a stone fruit crisp/crumble yesterday…..using oats.
    I think I will melt the butter next time instead of using my hands to mix in the cold pieces. I made individual ramekins, and we loved them!

  4. Karen@Mignardise

    Must make before the good peaches/nectarines are all gone! Haven’t seen blackberries at the farmers’ markets, but I’ve got loads of wild Maine blueberries and I bet that would be just fine. This will certainly be an upgrade from my usual basic (but delicious) blueberry crisp. Thanks!

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