We were recently invited to dinner over to a friends a house and she made a delectable strawberry-rhubarb cobbler. It was so yummy that my boys and I decided we needed to repeat it the next day. Unfortunately, strawberries weren’t available at the Dupont Farmer’s Market (a tad early for East Coast strawberries, I think), but we were able to buy some gorgeous rhubarb. So we punted and made Rhubarb-Apple Crisp. That’s the great thing about this kind of dessert – if you’re missing an ingredient, just punt.
In case you’re wondering, the basic difference between a cobbler and a crisp (or a crumble) is the topping. Both have a fruit filling that has been seasoned with spices like cinnamon or cloves and tossed with a little flour and sugar. Cobblers have a sweet biscuit crust, almost like a scone. We made many more Crisps than Cobblers while growing up and because I have an English mother, I always believed that Crisps were quintessentially English. I know that Americans make them, but since Americans already owned Apple Pie, I figured the English could own the crisps and crumbles.
If you would like to make your own crisps, you don’t need to follow an exact recipe but you want to hit some basics:
You will need a casserole dish for your dessert. We use a 8×8 dish. Butter it so that the fruit won”t stick then fill your casserole with bite sized pieces of fruit. For the pictured recipe, we used 4 apples, peeled and diced, and about one pound of rhubarb, chopped into bite size pieces. But you can use any fresh or frozen fruit – peaches, pears, strawberries, blueberries, or a combination. All of them are yummy!
Toss your fruit with a couple of tablespoons of flour, about 1/4 cup of vanilla sugar (remember last week’s recipe?), and any seasonings you like. Cinnamon is a great addition to apples and rhubarb! A pinch of cloves would be lovely as well. You can also think about anise, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, etc. Experiment. It’s how great flavor combinations are discovered!
In a bowl or a food processor, combine 6 tablespoons of butter, 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup oats, a pinch of salt, and any more spices that you would like to have in your topping. Know that you can use any type of flour (white, whole wheat, even non-wheat flours will work). And if you want some added crunch, add a 1/2 cup of chopped nuts. And know that all of these measurements are changeable. You want a sweeter top – add more sugar. Want more of a crust, increase the flour and butter. Combine with your fingers until the butter is in small pieces – or just pulse your food processor until things are crumbly. If you want larger pieces of oatmeal and nuts, just hold those back until the end and toss them in.
Sprinkle this mixture over your fruit. Place it in a 350°F oven and bake for about 45 minutes or until bubbly and brown. If the top is browning too quickly, cover with aluminum foil. It’s important that the fruit juices bubble before you take it out of the oven.
We like to serve this hot with a scoop of vanilla ice cream! Enjoy!