Summer is definitely coming to a close. Next week is the last full week of summer vacation for my kids before school starts. It always makes me a little sad to see the kids return to school. Don’t get me wrong, I could use the alone time.
But, summer has this special magic. Something about the lazy mornings, laid-back schedule, bathing suit tan lines on my kids and dinner at 7 o’clock because the sun is still up.
Summer means sand in the car, flip flops on the feet and sleepovers.
Marco polo in the pool, boogie boarding at the beach and sand castles lining the shore.
Popsicles, ice cream cones and root beer floats.
Sundresses, shorts and t-shirts stained from slushies.
Tomatoes in the garden, corn on the cob and smiles dripping with watermelon juice.
Which brings me to my favorite summer fruit, strawberries! Oodles and oodles of sweet and delicious strawberries. We eat them plain, but I love cooking with them, too. Besides making strawberry jam, my other favorite way to cook with strawberries is to bake a strawberry rhubarb crisp.
The difference between a crisp and a cobbler
Fruit desserts are my absolute favorite dessert. It’s probably the Persian side in me as middle easterners serve fresh fruit as a dessert all the time, something lost on my Western counterparts. But also, they do not have to be tooth cracking sweet.
Fruit desserts are not only delicious, but they are rather beautiful with their bright colors. And one of the easiest desserts to bake, whether you are a novice cook or a seasoned gourmet, is a fruit crisp. But wait, what is a crisp? Is it like a cobbler or a crumble?
When it comes to fruit desserts, there are so many choices. And if you are a little befuddled about the differences of some of America’s favorite fruit desserts, I am here to clear the confusion.
Betty: Made with layers of fruit and buttered bread pieces (or crumbs) and baked together.
Buckle: A cake like batter baked in a pan with fruit placed on top. As the cake bakes, the fruit sinks down and bakes in the center. Doesn’t this brown butter blueberry buckle look incredible?!
Cobbler: Baked in a casserole dish with fruit on the bottom and sweet biscuit dough pieces on top. (Check out my recipe for peach blueberry cobbler)
Crisp: Baked in a casserole dish with fruit on the bottom and a crispy topping over it. Similar to a crumble, except that the topping contains oats and nuts. That’s what this recipe is, a strawberry rhubarb crisp.
Crumble: Fruit baked on the bottom with a crumbly streusel topping made from sugar, flour and butter.
Grunt: Similar to a cobbler, but made in a skillet on the stove top. Also called a slump. (Here’s a great recipe for a cherry berry grunt)
Pandowdy: Fruit baked on the bottom with rolled pastry on top. Once out of the oven, the pastry is then broken into pieces to absorb the sweet fruit juices. Hello blueberry peach pandowdy!
Pie: Pastry crust on the bottom with fruit in the middle and sometimes more pastry on top. (Check out my recipe for homemade peach blueberry pie!)
Best fruits for a crisp
There’s another reason why fruit crisps are so popular, besides how easy they are to throw together. You can use almost any fruit to make a crisp. Trust me, I have made a whole lot with a variety of different fruits.
You want to use fruits that have flesh and meat to it. For example, citrus fruits don’t make good crisps as they are mostly juice. Another option is use two or more fruits in your crisp.
Have you ever tried a grape crisp? I have paired juicy grapes with hearty apples to make a wonderful fall inspired crisp. You can also bake a sweet fruit with a sour for another wonderful flavor combination.
Other fruits you can use alone or paired with another fruit to make a crisp include:
Fresh fruits are preferred over frozen. If you do use frozen fruit, be sure to thaw it completely and drain the excess liquid. I also add an extra tablespoon of cornstarch when using frozen fruits. For this recipes I used fresh strawberries with thawed rhubarb and blueberries.
The incredible crisp topping
Now let’s talk about my daughter’s favorite part of the fruit crisp: the crisp topping. This is, of course, what makes the fruit crisp a crisp. The essential ingredients for the crisp topping is butter, rolled oats and flour.
You can also add nuts, any nuts! Some of my favorites are almonds, pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts and pistachios. Adding some spices help kick up the flavor factor even more. Sprinkle in some cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger or cardamom to your crisp topping.
I don’t recommend freezing a crisp, but the raw crisp topping freezes well. Mix up batches of the buttery topping and freeze them so you can make a crisp whenever the hankering arises.
More ways to customize your berry crisp
But wait, I have a few more tips to make your strawberry rhubarb crisp, or any fruit crisp, even more special. You can mix in some dried fruits along with your fresh fruits. Think raisins (black or green), cranberries, currants or apricots.
You typically add lemon juice to the fruit to keep it from browning, but it also adds a touch of sour to balance your sweet fruit. Consider using orange, blood orange or grapefruit juice instead.
I also like to mix in the zest of whatever citrus fruit I am using. Grated zest is another one of those secret flavor boosters I love to use in a crisp. Other flavor options include vanilla or almond extract.
You can also scale the berry rhubarb crisp recipe up or down, depending on how many people you are feeding. It is very forgiving and versatile and there is plenty of that delicious crips topping for all. Bake your fruit crisp in a large baking dish for a crowd, or bake them in individual dishes so no one will fight over who has more!
If baking in smaller individual dishes, place the small bowls/ramekins on a baking sheet while it bakes. The smaller bowls tend to get stuffed with fruit and can overflow with juices as it bakes.
- 1 cup rolled old-fashioned oats
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup pistachios, shelled & chopped
- 1/2 cup brown sugar, light, packed
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon, ground
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 6 TBS cold butter, unsalted, cut into small pieces
- 12 oz rhubarb, about 3 stalks, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
- 4 cup strawberries, sliced
- 1/2 cup blueberries
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 TBS lemon juice
- 2 TBS cornstarch
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- Preheat oven to 350ºF.
- In a medium-sized bowl mix together the oats, flour, pistachios, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt.
- With your fingers rub the butter into oat mixture until coarse crumbs form.
- In another large bowl gently mix together rhubarb, strawberries, blueberries, sugar, lemon juice, cornstarch and zest until the fruit is coated.
- Pour fruit into a shallow 2-3 quart baking dish and sprinkle evenly with topping.
- Bake for 45 minutes or until toping is golden brown and fruit is bubbling.
- Let crisp sit for 20-30 minutes, then serve warm or at room temperature.
Serving Suggestions: Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. Also substitute pistachios with walnuts, almond slices or pecans.
Cooking Tips: Rhubarb is usually stewed or roasted to soften the hard stalks.If you cannot find fresh rhubarb, use frozen. Remember, only the stalks of the rhubarb plant can be eaten - the leaves are poisonous. Thaw frozen fruit and discard excess liquid before making your crisp.
You can reheat the entire crisp the next day in a a 400°F oven or you can heat individual bowls of crisp in the microwave, about 1 minute on high heat.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 414Total Fat: 17gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 31mgSodium: 102mgCarbohydrates: 63gFiber: 6gSugar: 40gProtein: 6g