Triple Berry Rhubarb Crisp / by Chelsea Zwieg

Along with summer weather and the tours of all the good bands, rhubarb is maddeningly slow to come to Wisconsin. It doesn't make it's first appearance until May which leaves me to an April full of scrolling through Instagram and reading other blogs full of wonderful rhubarb recipes, completely powerless to do anything about it. But the days of logging onto Pinterest only to be assaulted by the most glorious incarnations to rhubarb are long over, because it has arrived, people! Rhubarb is here and I could not be more jazzed. Is jazzed a thing that people still say? I don't think so, because now it looks really weird. Whatever, I'm keeping it. That's how jazzed I am about this crisp.

When I was younger I used to eat rhubarb dipped in sugar, which I'm pretty sure was just a reason to eat sugar. Kind of like Rice Krispies. Would anyone actually choose that as their breakfast if it didn't imply tons of sugar sprinkled on top? I should hope not. But now, rhubarb exists for one purpose in my eyes and that is to bake with. Last year I made a rhubarb almond crumble cake, which was perfectly delicious, but I feel like I am holding out on you all if I don't share my number one, primo choice, really no other option way to eat rhubarb: crisp! 

Sometimes I feel a little silly when I share a recipe that is startlingly simple. Or that everyone probably already has a version of. Crisp is one of those desserts that doesn't really need a recipe. It's not an intricate layer cake or soufflee that will collapse if you are 1/8 tsp. off in ingredients. If you add a little extra butter or sugar or fruit or whatever, no one will ever know. If you add too little, just add another scoop of ice cream. It will all be sweet enough in the end. But that is exactly why it is one of my favorite desserts. Any fruit, any nuts, any spices, it will always be good. Oh, and also ready in under an hour. 

The basic formula that I like to follow for crisps is this. Step one: choose your dish. I like a cast iron skillet because it's nice and shallow (good fruit to topping ratio) with a handle to pull it out of the oven (convenient when you are a compulsive pan-dropper like me) and it just looks all cool and rustic. You can also use a pie plate, a glass baking dish or individual little ramekins. Step two: Chop up your fruit and toss it in the pan. Crisps are the ideal summer dessert because you can use any fruit you have one hand (especially handy when you go a little farmers market crazy and have more fruit than your refrigerator can handle) and mix them together in any combination you want. Things like berries, rhubarb (duh), peaches, cherries and apples are all great. Step two: Sugar and starch. Sprinkle the fruit with a combo of sugar and cornstarch and toss to coat. You want more sugar for things like rhubarb and tart cherries and less for really sweet peach-like fruits. The cornstarch will depend on the juiciness of the fruit. If you have really ripe juicy berries, you'll want more. Just apples, you don't really need any. As a very general rule, I like to do 1/2-3/4 cup sugar and 2-3 tbsp. cornstarch for 6-ish cups of fruit. Very specific, right? But like I said, if you wind up with not enough sugar, a little ice cream can fix that right up. Not enough cornstarch and you just have some extra saucy goodness to lick off your plate. Step three: Topping. Some people call it a crisp, some people call it a crumble. Technically, a crisp has oats and a crumble doesn't. I think they have become pretty interchangeable at this point but, since I am a die hard oat includer, I always call it a crisp.  A good ratio to start with is 1 cup flour to 1/2 cup butter. To this you can add brown sugar, oats, chopped nuts and any spices you choose. Combine all the dry, chop up some cold butter and rub it into the dough with your fingertips. Be sure not to press it down to firmly on top of the fruit, or it won't be it's best crumble self. Step four: bake. Pretty hard to over/under bake, just watch for the filling to get bubble and the topping to get golden brown. When it looks so delicious you can't control the fork in your hand, it's ready. Typically I give it 30-35 minutes. Step five: Top with really good vanilla ice cream (mandatory) and eat it. Straight out the pan, if you know what's good for you.  

Tripe Berry Rhubarb Crisp

| Ingredients

  • 3 cups rhubarb, chopped
  • 3 cups berries, chopped (You can use any mix you want. My vote would be raspberries, blackberries and strawberries)
  • 3 tbsp. cornstarch 
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup pecans, chopped
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar 
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, chilled and cut into 1/2 in. cubes

| Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 375.
  • Place chopped fruit in a large oven-safe skillet or shallow baking dish. Sprinkle with sugar and cornstarch. Stir until fruit is evenly coated. 
  • In a medium bowl, combine flour, oats, pecans, brown sugar and salt. Add butter and rub into the flour mixture with your fingertips (or a pastry cutter) until the mixture is crumbly.  
  • Sprinkle flour mixture on top of fruit in an even layer. Bake 30-35 minutes until the fruit is bubbly and the crisp topping is golden brown. If your pan is very full, I would recommend putting the baking dish on a sheet pan while it bakes. The fruit dribbles on the bottom of my oven will back me up on that. 
  • Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.