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.
• • •
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).
• • •