Friday, June 27, 2014

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp (gluten free!)

Need more rhubarb recipes? The round-up is here.

This dessert is such a lovely surprise, I wanted to give it a glammier name. Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp with Buttered Oats or Brown-Sugar Crisp with Strawberries and Rhubarb or Sweet Butter Nuts Summer Fruit Heaven. But what it is is a perfect fruit crisp that just so happens to be gluten-free! Okay. It doesn’t just so happen to be anything. We were charged with bringing dessert to a gluten-free household, and so I did a little research.

Don't you want to invite me over so that I can bring dessert and then proceed to stage an elaborate photo shoot with your pretty dishes? It should be noted that this is the same family whose daughter's bat mitzvah we recently hijacked with mandolin, ukelele, guitar, kalimba, and our heartfelt, if not entirely traditional, rendition of REM's You Are the Everything. (You're welcome, again, guys! We love you.)
To be clear, I love a dietary challenge of any type. I like an excuse to buy xanthan gum as much as the next person, and I like. . . what? The way that making something special exaggerates the way that cooking is already an act of caretaking. Of love.
My brother’s kids spent a week with us in April, right after one of them went gluten-free, and it was a daily adventure. “I just love that you made it for me!” was about all that could be said, and was, about the lumpy, misshapen excuse for pizza. Gluten-free waffles, on the other hand, were terrific, and I even kind of liked the beany aftertaste. (I am nothing if not a bean-loving caricature of myself.) Many cookies were made and enjoyed. And next time I will make this rich, buttery dessert.

The inspiration. We love you, Brookfield Farm.
Use whatever fruit comes into season, and just adjust the filling accordingly. 
Pretty much anything will need less sugar than the rhubarb does, unless you have access to those nice plump horrible slap-in-your-face gooseberries to which my (English) mother is partial. 
Cherries and apricots are a lovely combination (and I am reposting that classic crisp here), as are peaches and strawberries, nectarines and blueberries, and, when the leaves start whispering about autumn, blackberries and apples. The cornstarch can stay more or less constant—although you could add a little more or less if you sense that your fruit is a little juicier or not.
Happy summer, my darlings. xo

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp
I started with this beautiful recipe over at The Minimalist Baker, and then added, oh, you know, more butter and sugar. And salt. And fruit. Also I added cornstarch to thicken the filling. Vary the fruits as you like.

For the topping:
1 cup oats (if gluten-free is your angle here, make sure to use oats labeled gluten-free)
½ cup coarsely chopped pecans
½ cup almond meal (Purchased, or grind raw almonds in the food processor or blender; I like it to be rustic, with the skins still on, but go with your preference.)
½ cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt (or half as much table salt)
6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces

For the filling:
3 cups sliced rhubarb
3 cups sliced strawberries
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch stirred into a slurry with a similar amount of water

Heat the oven to 350.

Stir together the dry topping ingredients, then add the butter and rub it all together with your fingers, lifting handfuls of the mixture and letting them fall rubbingly, until the butter is evenly distributed and the topping has turned pebbly. Pop this in the fridge while you make the filling.

Make the filling right in the dish (something 8 X 8 or 9 X 13 or in the middle will work—the dessert will be deeper or shallower accordingly). Toss the fruit with the sugar, then drizzle over the cornstarch slurry and use your hands to mix it all well.

Top the fruit with the crumble mixture and bake for 30-40 minutes, until the fruit is bubbling and caramelizing and the topping is as brown as it can be without burning.

Serve hot, warm, room-temperature, or cold, with vanilla ice cream.


  1. Looks Delicious. I just made your rhubarb crumble bars gluten-free by subbing in the gluten-free flour blend from Cooks Illustrated. They were excellent as always.

  2. DCGirl5:13 PM

    Can you specify that in order to be truly gluten-free, buy oats labeled GF. Bob's Red Mill and Trader Joe's both sell them. My son with celiac disease reacts to regular oats. Not that he would eat this gorgeous looking dessert, because you know, fruit.

    1. I was thinking the SAME THING! Thoughtful friends who make us delicious "gluten free" things but don't reassure by specifically mentioning "gluten free oats" --- it causes so much: should we eat it? Should we chuck it? Should we ask/tell her about the gluten-oats thing?

      I have no doubt that Catherine Newman did it the right way, but generally if someone doesn't specify GF oats, we assume they didn't know to get GF oats and that the thing is tainted.

      I am so much fun.

    2. Yes, I did, I did it the right way! But edited to add a note. . . thanks, guys. xo

  3. Pear-blackberry too--they ripen together here (Nor. Cal.) and are absolutely heavenly together. Evidence of the truth in the old saying that "if it grows together it goes together."

  4. love, love, love!

  5. I am working on becoming gluten free. I've been exploring it for a few weeks now (gluten free for dummies helps) and am working it into my household. It is amazing how easy it is these days. Good for my IBS and my rosacea, I read. Still have lots of gluten-full products for the kids. You know, the really healthy kinds like nacho cheese Doritos and Little Debbie zebra cakes. I am not a gluten nazi.

    Can't wait to try this. If I can figure out where in the world to get rhubarb, which I have never had. I remember you posting this before. I make a mean apple crisp, but it's been years.

  6. An absolutely delicious and healthy dish. Congrats! It's a good choice.