I make a point of baking a strawberry rhubarb crisp at least once during rhubarb season (April to September roughly). I love rhubarb's tart and unique flavor and it's particularly wonderful in a pie, which is one of my absolute favorite desserts to both make and eat!
But despite being a pie-fanatic (fun fact: I entered an apple pie baking contest with a friend of mine in college and we won 3rd prize!), my small New York apartment is not so pie-friendly. Let me explain—tile countertops with grout do not make for a good pie rolling surface. I actually registered for a marble pastry board for my wedding, which I was overjoyed to receive, only to discover that I had no room in my apartment for something that weighs half a ton. Carrying the marble board back to New York from New Jersey (where my in-laws kindly store almost all of our wedding gifts) on the train would have also been a challenge. So alas, these days I am much more inclined to make crisps and crumbles.
And by the way, if you want to know the difference between a crisp and a crumble, you should check this article out. It turns out that the difference is slight, and I’m more confused than ever! But from my research I have discerned that crumbles typically do not include oats, so I’m going to make a bold statement and call this recipe a crisp.
This past weekend Brian and I ventured down to the Union Square Greenmarket to find inspiration for dinner. When we found both local New Jersey strawberries and fresh rhubarb, we knew that the time had come to make our obligatory annual strawberry rhubarb crisp.
Over the past few years I’ve come up with a fast and easy crisp topping that is consistently great. I use this topping for apple cranberry crisps in the fall and for berry crisps in the summer and spring. The topping comes together in seconds in the food processor and it can be stored in an air-tight container in the freezer for months. Don’t be concerned if your topping appears to be very dry or crumbly, the baking process helps to bring it together.
This filling includes rhubarb, strawberries, orange zest, just enough sugar, and a small amount of tapioca starch because strawberries have a high water content, which can lead to a very runny filling if you don’t add a thickener. I prefer to use tapioca as opposed to cornstarch because it dissolves very easily and also thickens at a lower temperature, but you can use either if you don’t have tapioca starch.
According to my husband, crisps are better on the second day (he is strange, and believes that the flavor is improved), but most people agree that crisps are best enjoyed on the day of baking. Vanilla ice cream is also a mandatory here.
Question: What is your favorite crisp or crumble?
Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp
Yield: 6-8 servings
For the topping:
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup rolled oats
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup dark brown sugar
- 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pea-sized pieces
For the filling:
- 19 ounces (540g) rhubarb, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch lengths
- 18 ounces (510g) strawberries, stemmed and quartered
- zest of one naval orange
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon tapioca starch (or 1 tablespoon corn starch)
For the topping:
- Move a rack to the middle of the oven and preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Place the flour, rolled oats, salt and brown sugar in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine.
- Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is coarse and crumbly looking.
- Set aside or place in the freeze in an airtight container (the topping can go directly from the freezer to the oven once you are ready to bake your crisp; there is no need to defrost it).
For the filling:
- In a large mixing bowl, carefully toss the rhubarb, sliced strawberries, granulated sugar, and orange zest in a large mixing bowl and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes. Transfer the filling to an 8x8 glass baking dish.
- Sprinkle the topping evenly over the fruit and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the topping is just beginning to turn golden brown and the fruit is bubbling.
- Let the crisp cool for 20-25 minutes before serving. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.