Monthly Archives: June 2012

old-school {rhubarb-strawberry double crisp}

i love rhubarb.  it is the only plant in my garden that thrives regardless of the degree of neglect it faces (which is significant).  my initial investment of a few dollars for the cutting and a few years of patient observation has finally yielded a boisterous looking plant that is established enough to support our seasonal need for rhubarb crisp.

there are so many lovely things one can do with rhubarb, but our favourite is an old-fashioned crisp with some strawberries mixed in to balance the tang.  it’s a simple enough dish – one that i’d like to be able to throw together without a recipe, but each year i learn the hard way that i really do need some help to get the topping just right.  i’ve made several different recipes so far this season, and i think i’ve found the ultimate (if you’re of the ‘you can never have too much crisp in a crisp’ persuasion).  with an ample golden buttery topping, a sweet and sour filling of just the right consistency, and a surprise layer of a deliciously thin oatmeal cookie-like crust beneath, this recipe from dorie greenspan is guaranteed to make crisp-lovers swoon.

now, before i share with you dorie’s recipe, i must say that in the kitchen, there are some things that simply can’t be improved upon and shouldn’t be meddled with.  the first time i made dorie’s strawberry-rhubarb double crisp, i followed her recipe obediently.  after all, who am i to question the wisdom of a baking goddess like dorie?  the thought of crystallized ginger studding the crust and ground ginger flavouring the fruit filling sounded amazing, but i have to say that i found all of that gingery zing a bit unpleasant and out-of-place (and i am a certified ginger-lover).  sorry, dorie.  the rest of the recipe, however, was perfect, so i tried it again this weekend, sans ginger, and i am much happier with the more traditional flavour.

this recipe is a little fiddly because you make what is essentially a strawberry jam to pour over the rhubarb before baking.  the beauty of this approach is that it guarantees a non-soggy crust and a non-soupy filling, but you kind of lose the texture of the berries.  in my next iteration of this recipe, i’d like to see what happens if i skip the cooking of the berries and just toss them together with the rhubarb and sugar, though that approach may be better suited to the truly old-school single layer crisp.  thankfully my neglected rhubarb plant continues to push up enough brilliantly red stalks of goodness to allow me a little more experimentation.

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strawberry-rhubarb double crisp (from ‘baking, from my home to yours’, by dorie greenspan)

for the crisp:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 tsp ground ginger (not for me)
pinch of salt
pinch of ground cinnamon (i increased this to 1/4 tsp)
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
1/4 cup finely chopped crystalized ginger (skip if going old-school)
1 stick (8 tbsp) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

for the filling:
1 pound (4-5 medium stalks) rhubarb, trimmed and peeled (i never peel my rhubarb. is that so bad?)
3 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 cup cold water
3 cups (about 12 ounces) strawberries, hulled and sliced (i can say that frozen berries work as well as fresh)
1 cup sugar (don’t skimp as i did the first time)
1/2 tsp ground ginger (skip if going old-school)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

•dorie says to use a 9″ square non-reactive baking pan and place it on a lined baking sheet. i just used my oval 3 1/2 quart le creuset, which was deep enough to avoid any bubbling over. preheat oven to 350°f.
•put the flour, brown sugar, oats, salt and spices in a large bowl and sift the ingredients through your fingers to break up any lumps of brown sugar. mix in the nuts (and crystallized ginger, if using), then pour over the melted butter. stir the ingredients until they are thoroughly moistened. spoon half of the mixture into the pan and pat it down lightly to form a thick crust; set aside the remaining mixture for the topping (don’t eat too much of it!).
•slice the rhubarb into 1/2″ chunks and scatter them over the pressed-in base.
•dissolve the cornstarch in the cold water and set aside. put the berries, sugar and ginger (if using) into a medium saucepan and crush the berries with a fork or potato masher. place the pan over medium heat and, stirring occasionally, bring to a full boil. pour in the cornstarch mixture and, stirring, bring back to a boil. keep cooking and stirring until the berry filling is thick and no longer cloudy, about 3 minutes. remove from heat, stir in the vanilla, then pour the filling over the rhubarb.
•scatter the remaining topping evenly over the filling.
•bake for 60 minutes, or until the topping is golden and the strawberry jam is bubbling up all around the edges. cool on a rack and serve warm or at room temperature (with ice cream, of course).  this crisp is best served the day it is made, as the bottom layer of crisp becomes a little less crisp on days two and three (if it lasts that long).

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polka dot {sorbetto}

i’ve been ogling others’ sorbettos for months.  fancy, plain, busy, simple, embellished with buttons or sewn simply with its signature pleat, sorbetto is an ace.  there are many reasons to love sorbetto, not least of which is the fact that it’s free (as if the ladies at colette patterns needed another reason for us to love them).  it is a much-loved and oft-sewn little sleeveless blouse, and i’m pleased to say that it has finally made its way into my closet.

one of the endearing qualities of sorbetto is the bias tape.  it’s.  so.  cute.  and polished.  and tailored.  while making bias tape can be a nuisance, there is something satisfying about the whole process that i rather like.  if you don’t like the fiddlyness of sewing all those wee seams, be sure to check out sarai’s tutorial on continuous loop bias tape.  it’s rad!  the concept seemed impossibly difficult at first, but, when i got my head around it, it kind of blew my mind.  turning a 10″x10″ square of fabric into a highway of bias tape just didn’t seem possible…but it worked! with no joining of pieces!  with just 2 seams!  for real!  do try it.  (yes, i see how sloppy my topstitching is.  i think i need a better presser-foot for topstitching.  any suggestions?).

sorbetto taught me another lesson: don’t pretend that quilting weight cotton is appropriate for wee drapey tops.  unfortunately, the slightly boxy shape of this pattern is emphasized by the fabric i used – it is a little too heavy, but i couldn’t get my hands on anything that wasn’t a frankenfabric of syntheticness, so i went with a heavier-weight cotton.  this pattern really needs a lightweight, drapey fabric (it virtually demands tana lawn – i’m powerless, i’ll have to give in!).  also to blame is my shape.  i cut my size according to the measurements, but i could easily cut it a size down next time – i find the back too ample and there’s a little too much room in the bust (sigh).

can’t you just imagine the endless incarnations of sorbetto?   if not, check out the flickr stream or just google ‘sorbetto top’.  so much potential!

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off the hook {orange crush scarf}

i’ve had a serious orange crush lately.  fabric, yarn, thread, fruit – if it’s orange, i want it.  i find its zesty, warm and fiery vibe so intriguing because it manages to be both comforting and invigorating at the very same time.  take that, grey.  actually, i can’t get enough grey, either, but today is all about orange.

for me, orange is just far enough outside-the-box (that is to say it’s not black or neutral or boring, like so much of my wardrobe) to feel a little daring, too.  i’ve got some goldfish coloured fabric set aside for a schoolhouse tunic, and i’m planning another cheery bag with the remnants from this birdie sling, but my first foray into orangeing up my wardrobe was this glorious tangerine coloured shawl.

this piquant rounds out my trio of lilygo projects (including this and this).  for me, this one is the most wearable of the bunch.  i predictably hooked it with malabrigo sock – that irresistibly soft and warm-but-not-too-warm 100% merino wool dyed in colours so delicious looking that you really want to taste them.

piquant was a delight to work up.  as usual, the instructions were impeccable and the charts were ever so clear.  as i have yet to develop a knack for wearing shawls, i made the smaller version (though i added 2 more repeats in section one because i needed the length) which is just the right size for luscious neck-wrappage.

this pattern is worked in 3 separate sections, which kept it interesting and made it feel as though it was a quick make.  in fact, this was such a non-traumatic project that i’m working on a second version in a deep bluey-purple, and i foresee a whole clan of intensely colourful piquants in my future (but my tangerine piquant will always be my favourite).

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