Deliciously sweet and tart Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp enhanced with 2 secret ingredients delivering intensified flavor in filling and added crunch in topping. Simply the best.
In my part of the woods being the Northeast, rhubarb is in season from May thru July. If you see these beautiful stalks of crimson red, grab some along with some sweet strawberries to create a simple crisp made incredibly better by adding 2 special ingredients. One of them brings out the sweetness in the strawberries and also the tartness of the rhubarb. The other makes the topping more addicting. What are these 2 special ingredients? They are apple cider vinegar in the filling and cornmeal in the topping. What a difference they make!
I never knew what rhubarb was until I was an adult. I thought it was a beautiful weed not knowing it was a deliciously tart vegetable. The leaves contain oxalic acid making them poisonous, but the stalks are used to make jams, sauces, and desserts like this crisp we’re about to make here.
The first time I tried rhubarb was in Maine. My husband ordered a slice of strawberry rhubarb pie and I asked for a bite. He winced and reluctantly gave me a bite. Why reluctantly? Because every time I ask for a bite it turns into many bites. Sometimes he orders dessert and asks for only one spoon then looks at me and says he’s not sharing and to get my own (lovingly, of course).
“I don’t want my own. I just want a bite.”
“Every time I get dessert I get one bite and you eat most of it.”
“That won’t happen this time. I don’t know what rhubarb is and I just want a bite.”
I took a bite which turned into a few more bites. The pie is gone. My husband shakes his head and orders another slice. In my mind, I technically didn’t order dessert which makes me feel a bit better about myself. Also, I got to try rhubarb which I enjoyed as it was paired with my favorite fruit being strawberries.
I saw rhubarb stalks for sale at the market next to the strawberries. I decided to try my hand at making dessert. I didn’t want to make a pie and deal with making crusts as it was a bit more work. Instead, I’ll make a crisp as I already had a base recipe for the topping when making a blueberry crisp. A few tweaks and I’ll go from there.
The thickener I use is cornstarch. For this crisp it’s fine because I am expecting a lot of juices drawn out from the strawberries and the cornstarch will aid in thickening. Cornstarch will make the sauce a bit opaque but I’m ok with that. If this was a strawberry rhubarb pie, I might not choose cornstarch because too much juice would structurally impact the pie. The juices would all run out and make the bottom crust soggy which isn’t desired. But this isn’t a pie, this is a crisp, and I look forward to the juices to be absorbed by the topping and any that run out will mix with the ice cream when serving. It doesn’t impact the composition of the crisp.
I use 2 pounds of each fruit to make this crisp. I figured make it substantial or go home. Cut the strawberries in half and place in bowl. Slice the rhubarb into 1/2″ pieces and place in bowl along with strawberries. Add the apple cider vinegar and give it a stir.
Sprinkle in cornstarch, sugar and salt and stir to combine. Three tablespoons of cornstarch makes it thick enough to slightly gel and still leave it juicy enough to spoon over ice cream.
Using ½ cup of sugar makes it sweet enough to combat the tartness of the rhubarb but only if your strawberries are ripe and sweet. Try a strawberry before adding the sugar, if it’s sweet enough for you add ½ cup sugar, otherwise use ¾ cup.
The topping is a combination of flour, oats, and cornmeal. The cornmeal would give it a surprising crunch. Why be ordinary when you can be extraordinary? Combine the flour, cornmeal, and oats in a bowl. Toss in the cubed butter.
To melt or not to melt? For this particular recipe, I do not melt the butter when mixing with the dry ingredients. I use the same method as I do with my Maple Scones. Why? Well if you melt the butter and mix the flour/corn/oat mixture, it will adhere to the dry ingredients better, but it will stay on top of the crisp. Because the fruit in this crisp create a lot of juice, I want the topping to stay loose allowing it to seep into the crisp to absorb some of that delicious, flavorful juice from the strawberries and rhubarb.
Add the strawberry rhubarb mixture into a baking dish. Sprinkle the topping over the fruit covering it completely.
Before baking, place on top of a lined baking sheet just in case to catch any drippings. I have not had any problems, but why not be preventative? The last thing I want to do is clean the oven!
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I have to say, thank goodness I took the pictures right away because this crisp did not last. The cornmeal made a huge difference. It was delicious – really delicious. If you share, be forewarned, they might eat the whole thing leaving you with an empty plate. Don’t you just hate that? 🙂
Be happy, eat well…
- 2 pounds strawberries hulled and halved
- 2 pounds fresh rhubarb chopped 1” pieces
- ¾ cup sugar - ½ cup if strawberries are sweet
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- ¼ teaspoon fine salt
- 2 sticks unsalted butter cold and diced
- 1 cup flour
- 1 cup cornmeal
- 1 cups quick-cooking rolled oats
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- ¾ teaspoon salt
Preheat oven 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, combine filling ingredients and pour into a 9x13 baking dish or 8x8 baking dish if halving recipe.
For the topping, combine the topping ingredients in a bowl. Using a fork, a pastry cutter, or your fingers, mash the butter into the flour until it is mostly incorporated.
Sprinkle the topping evenly over the fruit covering it completely. Bake in middle rack of oven for 1 hour. The top should be golden brown and the fruit should be bubbling around the edges.
Remove from oven and let rest for at least 15 minutes.
Serve with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, or simply as is.