An early spring dessert
“On a spring morning when with late-surviving dew the young grass bristled under the sun, when the warmth crept into the ground and pushed yellow dandelions up, Cathy’s mother finished hanging the washed clothes on the line.”
East of Eden, John Steinbeck
A crisp is a fine dessert. It could also be called a crumble. It is an enticing excuse to enjoy seasonal fruit and easy to prepare. Any seasonal fruit can be substituted in this recipe, peaches, plums, apricots, berries and in the fall apples. Rhubarb and the first strawberries are both in season now and perfect for this satisfying sweet taste of spring.
In the United States rhubarb is a vegetable that we know as a fruit. In 1947 a New York court affirmed that rhubarb would now be a fruit and to this day rhubarb is known as a fruit. Why a court decision? Taxes, tariffs and regulations on the differences in importing fruits and vegetables. Rhubarb is quite tangy and if the stalks are thick can be very fibrous. My mom would stew rhubarb with lots of sugar and then pour the sweet sauce over ice cream. This was not my favorite dessert. At all. I prefer my rhubarb paired with naturally sweet strawberries as in this crisp. It is not an overly sweet dessert. There is just enough sugar to offset the tangy tartness of the rhubarb while the early spring voices of the rhubarb and strawberries can still be heard. The crumbly crisp topping hovers above the chunks of early spring fruit just waiting to be scooped up with a touch of sweet cream or vanilla ice cream.
There are differing methods for prepping the rhubarb. The two considerations are the fibrous exterior and the high water content. When the rhubarb stalks are large and thick I prefer to peel the stalks to remove the stringy fibrous strands. Many recipes do not call for peeling, the choice is yours. Depending on the rhubarb variety, you may peel away a lot of the irresistible pink exterior. A pale spring green, tinged with pink may remain. The freshly harvested rhubarb I purchased at The Farm was a soft crimson pink underneath the fibrous outside! I also found my sweet organic strawberries at The Farm. I’m hooked on their strawberries. They have so much more flavor than the berries at the supermarket.
Rhubarb contains a lot of water which is a consideration in baking. Sugar is almost always mixed in with the rhubarb since is very tangy. And sugar is hydroscopic, it draws the water from the rhubarb. This is why your baked product will have rhubarb chunks floating in rhubarb juice or be overly moist and juicy. Either a thickener such as flour, cornstarch or tapioca can be mixed in with the rhubarb and sugar or some of the moisture can be removed before baking. For the crisp recipe I chose to remove some of the water before baking by macerating the rhubarb in brown sugar and draining off the liquid. I prefer brown sugar mixed with the fruit, but white sugar can be used.
This recipe is very flexible. Exact measurements are not needed. I did not weigh the ingredients. Measuring cup amounts will be precise enough to obtain outstanding results.
|1 C||brown sugar|
|1 C||A/P flour|
|1/2 C||almond meal|
|1/2 C||brown sugar|
|1/2 C||sliced almonds, optional|
|Whipped cream or ice cream and toasted almonds|
- Prepare the rhubarb. Cut off any leaves and discard. Thoroughly wash the stalks. If the stalks are thick peel them by grasping just the red outer stringy, fibrous membrane and pull in a downward motion. Discard the fibrous membrane. Cut the rhubarb in 1 inch chunks and toss with 1/2 C of the brown sugar. Place the sugar rhubarb mixture in a sieve or colander over a bowl. Let drain for at least one hour.
- Meanwhile wash and clean the strawberries and cut in half. If the berries are large cut in quarters. Toss with the remaining 1/2 C brown sugar in another bowl. Set aside to macerate.
- Preheat the oven to 375°. Lightly butter a 9 x 13 inch baking dish.
- Prepare the topping. Combine flours, brown sugar, oatmeal and salt in a bowl. Cut the butter into chucks and work into the dry ingredients with either a pastry cutter or your hands. Continue working the butter into the flour until the largest pieces are the size of peas.
- Toss the drained rhubarb with the strawberries. Spread the fruit evenly in the bottom of the prepared baking pan. Scrape the bowl clean, adding any sugar and berry liquid to the baking pan. Spread the topping mixture, on top of the fruit and bake for 35-40 minutes until the fruit is cooked and bubbling and the topping has browned. Best served while warm. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.