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Strawberry Rhubarb Double Crisp

Over the course of the past few days, the magnolia tree in my front yard has transformed from bright pink and white to leafy green. The daffodils are now in full bloom and our tulips from Amsterdam are rivalling the ones in the Kuekenhof. My mother’s Easter bunny cake has come and gone. The park is teeming with sunbathers and barbecues on the weekend. There’s an endless loop of The Invisible Band on in my head. I have begun to consume excessive quantities of Frae. There’s a volcano erupting in Iceland. And when I close my eyes I dream of rhubarb. It’s Spring.

When I hosted a few friends for a Spring dinner last Sunday, I was shocked to discover not one of them had ever tasted rhubarb, let alone the classic sweet-meets-tart combination of strawberries and rhubarb that exemplifies, to me, all the goodness that’s to be had this time of year. I quickly abandoned my ideas for new combinations of fruit and rhubarb (a cherry and rhubarb jalousie is high on my to-bake list) and introduced them to the tried and true standard, albeit with a few delightful twists.  Not surprisingly, Dorie has done it again: the ground and crystallized ginger and the addition of a second layer of crisp at the bottom of the dish lofted this dessert high above the same-old same-old strawberry rhubarb concoctions I had made in the past. I’m a lover of toppings and crusts, through and through, and having that extra layer of crisp, well, to paraphrase the great Liz Lemon, it’s a dealbreaker. My guests left with a newfound love of rhubarb and I went to bed envisioning the whole new world of double crisps, crumbles and cobblers that awaits me this season.

Strawberry Rhubarb Double Crisp

Strawberry Rhubarb Double Crisp
From Baking: From My Home to Yours

For the crisp mix:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
3/4 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch of salt
Tiny pinch of ground cinnamon
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
1/4 cup very finely chopped crystallized ginger (see above)
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

For the filling:
1 pound (4 to 5 medium stalks) rhubarb, trimmed and peeled
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup cold water
3 cups (about 12 ounces) strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Put a nonreactive 9-inch square baking pan (I used porcelain) on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.

Put the flour, brown sugar, oats, ground ginger, salt and cinnamon in a large bowl and sift the ingredients through your fingers to blend them — be on the lookout for lumps in the brown sugar. Mix in the nuts and crystallized ginger, then pour over the melted butter. Using a fork, stir the ingredients until they are thoroughly moistened.

Spoon half the mixture into the pan and pat it down lightly to form a thick crust; set aside the remainder for the topping.
Slice the rhubarb into 1/2-inch-wide pieces and scatter them over the pressed-in base. Dissolve the cornstarch in the cold water; set aside.

Put the strawberries, sugar and ginger in a medium saucepan and, with a fork, pastry blender or potato masher, crush the berries. Place the pan over medium heat and, stirring occasionally, bring the mixture to a full boil. Pour the dissolved cornstarch into the pan and, stirring with a whisk, bring everything back to a boil. Keep cooking and stirring until the strawberry filling is thick and no longer cloudy, about 3 minutes. Pull the pan from the heat, stir in the vanilla and pour the filling over the rhubarb. Scatter the remaining crisp mix over the filling, breaking it up with your fingers so you can scatter it evenly.

Slide the crisp into the oven and bake for 60 minutes, or until the topping is golden and the strawberry jam is bubbling up all around the edges. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool until only just warm or at room temperature.

Dorie wisely suggests that you can try to be neat about cutting the crisp into squares, but it’s pretty hopeless; better to cut pieces in the baking pan and lift them out with a spatula or big spoon into shallow bowls. I wholeheartedly agree. Also, it just wouldn’t be right to have this or any crisp without ice cream (just ask King H, who had to make an emergency run to the bodega mere minutes before dessert).

Note: This is best the day it is made, but if you keep it covered at room temperature overnight, you’ll make a bunch of breakfasters happy the next day. Alternatively, you can cover it and place in the fridge and re-heat in the oven for dessert the next day.

Yield: 9 servings.

Strawberry Rhubarb Double Crisp

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