I came to baking and food relatively later in life--okay, but I'm not that old, so it really is relative--so a lot of things are still new for me. Like rhubarb, for instance.
I'd never even heard of the stuff until college, and it's taken me this long after college to even man up and try it. I mean, I've heard the virtues of rhubarb extolled many times before, but it was really reminiscent to the unknowledgeable me of celery, which doesn't really scream "yummy dessert!" for me. But, at last and finally, I have gotten down to trying the classic combination of strawberries and rhubarb.
I decided for my first experience with rhubarb, that I should go with something classic, so I chose the super-homey, tried-and-true strawberry rhubarb crumble. Not to say that super-homey and tried-and-true is anything bad at all. In fact, it was delicious.
Like any good academic, I of course did my homework first by researching rhubarb and how it's used in baked desserts. For one, I discovered that you can't cook rhubarb in cast iron skillets, though, had you could, that would have made for one awesome photo. Then, while reading up on rhubarb in Alice Waters' Chez Panisse Fruit (wait, is rhubarb really a fruit?), I came across this little tidbit from the ever-wise Alice Waters: rhubarb goes lovely with oranges. So, may I present to you, strawberry rhubarb crumble, flavored with orange zest. And, by the way, Alice Waters was so right. Orange is the perfect citrus accompaniment to the combination of strawberry and rhubarb. It's just acidic enough to add that bit of tartness, but, unlike lemon, orange is also sweet, which compliments the rhubarb really well and adds just that extra depth of flavor to the whole dish.
Now, I may be new to rhubarb, but I'm not new to crusts, and I have to say that the crumb crust on this crumble *almost* outshines the strawberry rhubarb +orange filling inside. The crumb, too, is spiked with orange zest, and the brown sugar and butter with just a hint of salt makes for a perfect contrast to the sweet, sticky insides of the crumble. I layered the crumb topping on thick for a solid filling-to-crumb ratio so that you can get a good taste of everything in just one bite.
There is only one thing that could make this better.... Wait for it...
Yup. Make sure to serve this baby with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or some sweetened heavy cream. Not that it needs it, but it sure doesn't hurt!
Now, I hope you'll excuse me while I dig into what's left of my crumbles....
Oh, and by the way--I think I'm calling this one a success with rhubarb. Now, what else can you do with this celery-like "fruit"? Tell me your ideas in the comments!
Read on for recipe...
Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble
makes two 5" crumbles or one 9" crumble
9 oz. rhubarb, peeled and chopped into small, 1/2" chunks
12 oz. strawberries, hulled and halved (or quartered, if you have bigger strawberries)
freshly grated zest of 1 large orange
3 Tbspn freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup sugar
4 Tbspn corn starch
for crumb topping:
1 cup flour
3/4 tspn salt
1/2 tspn baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
freshly grated zest of one orange
1 stick butter, cold
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Make the filling first. Toss and combine all of the filling ingredients in a bowl. Spoon into the baking ramekins and set aside.
3. Make the crumb topping. Combine all of the ingredients except the butter in a bowl.
4. Using a pastry cutter or fork, cut the butter into the flour mixture. Continue until the butter is the size of small peas and evenly distributed throughout the mixture.
5. Top the prepared ramekins generously with the crumb topping, patting it down if you need to pile more on.
6. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until bubbly and the tops are golden brown. Remove and let cool briefly before serving.
7. Serve hot, with vanilla ice cream or a splash of sweetened cream. You can reheat the crumbles if you don't plan to eat them right away: 375 degrees F oven for 8-10 minutes.
Tip: A large star piping tip makes for a great strawberry huller.
Tip: You want to consider putting a thin cookie sheet or piece of aluminum foil on the oven rack underneath the one the crumbles are baking on, if you have the tendency to overfill them like I do. It makes it much easier to clean up.