№ 62 - Rhubarb Crisp

Baked rhubarb with a walnut streusel top

Rhubarb is a vegetable but it tastes like a fruit and it's available early in the season, usually weeks before the first strawberries. It makes a fantastic crisp (or "crumble" to the English) that rivals any you can bake with ripe summer fruit.

Rhubarb is puckeringly tart and rhubarb recipes invariably feature frightening amounts of sugar. This recipe is no exception but you get a dessert that is jam-packed with flavor. Also, to the extent the sugar has already exhausted your capacity for food guilt, you'll feel entirely at peace about the whipped cream, which is a must with rhubarb crisp.

Serves 8

For the crisp topping:

 cup walnuts

¼ cups flour

6 Tbsp light brown sugar

1 ½ Tbsp regular (granulated) sugar

¼ tsp ground cinnamon

12 Tbps of unsalted, cold butter (1 ½ sticks or 6 oz in weight) 

¼ tsp fine sea salt 

For the filling:

2 ½ lbs rhubarb

¼ cups regular (granulated) sugar

¼ cup flour

1 tsp vanilla extract

To serve:

1 ½ cups heavy cream

Equipment: Large, 2-inch deep baking dish. (A deeper dish would result in a soupier filling.)


Pre-heat the oven to 375F and bake the walnuts for 6 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes. Turn the oven to 400F. Chop the nuts coarsely and put in a medium bowl along with all the other topping ingredients. Chop the biggest butter chunks into smaller pieces by sliding two butter knives against each other in the bowl and then work the butter into the mix with your fingers. You want the mixture to stick together but stop short of blending the butter in perfectly. Refridgerate until used.

Wash the rhubarb and trim the stalk ends (including any leafy parts, which are poisoneous). Chop into 1-inch pieces and toss in a bowl with the other filling ingredients. 

Fill the baking dish with the rhubarb mixture and crumble the streusel on top with your fingers. Bake for 35 minutes or so, until the topping is golden brown and the rhubarb underneath is bubbling.

When ready to serve, whip the cold cream until it hold soft peaks but before the peaks become pointed or worse the cream turns grainy and eventually into butter. (Since the crisp is so intensely flavored, I prefer the whipped cream unsweetened.) Serve the crisp warm or cold, in bowls with a spoon (or two or three) of whipped cream.


The crisp topping part of the recipe is a version from Alice Waters' The Art of Simple Food.

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