Tag Archives: ginger

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.

• • •

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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the enigmatic ginger crunch

i think a great recipe is made even greater if it has a history of good memories behind it.  this is one of those recipes.

‘the enigmatic ginger crunch’ recipe came into my life when TDHH and i were exploring the maritimes this summer.  a spate of unseasonably cold and wet weather froze and saturated our usually more rugged selves and had us neglecting our tent in favour of a warm and dry b&b.  by the time we made it to lunenburg, nova scotia, we were beginning to lose hope in tourist accommodations.  we had come across too many sadly dated pastel colour schemes, surfaces covered with dead-eyed porcelain dolls and bowls of synthetic potpourri (IDS was not amused).  even TDHH, who has and will sleep anywhere, found the plethora of lace doilies and forced conversation with too-keen hosts eerily unpleasant.  then we found ‘1775 solomon house’ (one of the oldest historic homes in lunenburg) which was, by vast leaps and bounds, the most brilliant b&b we’ve ever experienced.  authentic, antique, welcoming and instantly comfortable.  the host, janet, artfully curated our time in lunenburg, ensuring we found the hidden beaches and out-of-the-way bakeries.  it turns out janet knows her way around the kitchen, too.

 

 

when we arrived late in the evening, we  found a dainty dish of these mysteriously delicious bites of glory awaiting us.  they didn’t look terribly exciting, but after one bite, i had to have the recipe.

thankfully, janet was willing to share.  i learned that janet is a former cafe-owner/chef from saskatchewan, who received the recipe by way of a new zealander customer of hers who traded it for a recipe of janet’s which she coveted.  going back a little further, i’ve read that the recipe originated many years ago in scotland and made its way to new zealand with what must have been a very discerning, food-loving scot.  such a convoluted path!

so now for the enigma explanation.  when i first tasted these, i was sure that they involved browned-butter.  others have queried cardamom or lavender.  no one who has tried them (in my presence, anyway) has correctly identified the flavour.  it turns out it comes simply from powdered ginger, butter and a splash of vanilla.

like most of the recipes i return to again and again, these ingredients create a fabulous flavour that belies their simple origin.  the combination of the thin ginger shortbread base and the smooth, subtly gingery fudge topping is a knock-out.  people have literally swooned when tasting them, and i daresay you will, too.  you may even taste the maritime architecture and the atlantic air.

• • •

ginger crunch, aka kiwi crunch (i found the same recipe in gourmet, december 1999)

for the base:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 8 or so pieces

for the topping:
3/4 stick (6 tbsp) unsalted butter
1 tbsp lyle’s golden syrup (corn syrup will do in a pinch)
1 cup icing sugar
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp vanilla

•sift the base ingredients together (i just whisk them) and blend in
the butter until it resembles coarse meal (i use my stand mixer). press evenly into a greased and parchment-lined 9×13″ metal pan (i learned that part the hard way – definitely line your pan). bake at 350°f for 15-25 minutes until golden and crisp (i know that’s a wide range in terms of time – what it means is don’t take your eyes off of it after the 15 minute mark – it browns quickly).

•just before the base is done (about 5 minutes if you can time it), melt the topping butter in a heavy pot, then whisk in the remaining ingredients until smooth. bring to a boil, then simmer, stirring, for about 30 seconds. remove the golden base from the oven and pour the topping over-top, tilting the pan to cover evenly. cool in the pan on a rack and cut into small squares or rectangles while cooling (for me, i wait 5-6 minutes so they’re cool enough that the topping is starting to set but not so cool that they crack). cool completely in pan.

yields about 2-5 dozen, depending on size cut.  squares keep at least 3 days in an airtight container.

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