Triple Berry Rhubarb Crisp

rhubarbcrisp.jpgI never remember the difference between a crisp, a crumble, and a cobbler (not to mention brown bettys, slumps, or grunts).

Crisps, crumbles, and cobblers are all low-maintenance desserts made with seasonal fruits or berries that have the flavor of pie without the work of actually making one.

A crisp is made by mixing fruit of your choice with sugar and spices then topping it with a crisp mix made of butter and sugar and a binding agent such as flour or oatmeal.

A crumble is similar to a crisp. It's made by mixing fruit with sugar and spices and topping it with a streusel, a mixture of butter, sugar, flour, and nuts.

Cobblers take longer to make than crisps and crumbles because they have a dough-like crust. Some cobblers are made with enclosed crusts while others, like my Fresh Apricot and Cherry Cobbler with Buttermilk Biscuit Crust, are made with a biscuit topping.

So when I felt like having a rhubarb berry pie but didn't feel like making a pie crust, I made a crisp (aka a lazy Susan's pie). Since I prefer a highly textured crisp, I combined chewy oatmeal, crunchy nuts, and flaky coconut. Part of the crisp's beauty though is its versatility, so have fun experimenting with different fruit and crisp combinations until you find one that tickles your palate. Or just make this triple berry rhubarb crisp.

Tangy rhubarb is mellowed by succulent vine-ripened strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries for a satisfyingly sweet-tart dessert. Though it's effortless to make, it never fails to elicit smiles from guests who delight in the sugary fruit bubbling around the edges of the crisp.

It's delicious as is, but I don't need to tell you that adding a scoop of creamy vanilla ice cream doesn't hurt.

Triple Berry Rhubarb Crisp
Serves 6
Print recipe only here.

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup chopped almonds or sliced almonds
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
4 tablespoons butter

2 cups chopped rhubarb (about 1 pound), sliced into 1/2-inch thick pieces
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 cup fresh strawberries, chopped
1 cup fresh blackberries
1 cup fresh raspberries
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
2 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 3 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Coat a 9-inch round pie dish with cooking spray.

To make the crisp, place the sugar, flour, oats, and coconut in a medium bowl, and using your hands, gently mix it, breaking up any large clumps. Add the almonds, cinnamon, and ground ginger. Toss gently. Pour melted butter evenly over the mixture, and gently stir with a spoon until well combined and moist.

To make the fruit filling, in a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat, add the rhubarb and allow to cook for 2-3 minutes (it will release water, so it won't burn). Add the sugars, berries, and ginger to the pan gently crushing the fruit with a fork or spoon. Once it reaches a boil, add the dissolved cornstarch. Return to a boil, whisking constantly, for 3-5 minutes, or until the mixture is thick. Turn off heat, and stir in the vanilla extract.

Pour the fruit filling into the prepared pie dish, and sprinkle the crisp mix evenly over the top. Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until the topping is golden and fruit filling is bubbling up around the edges. Allow to cool before serving. It's best served at room temperature or just slightly warm.


Susan Russo is a free lance food writer in San Diego, California. She publishes stories, recipes, and photos on her cooking blog, <Food Blogga and is a regular contributor to NPR’s <Kitchen Window. She is also the author of two upcoming books that will be published in the fall of 2010.