Thursday, May 6, 2010

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp with Cardamom and Nutmeg

Crisps and crumbles always make me nervous.  You just never know when the filling is going to be soupy and overly sweet.  So I tend to err on the side of caution when it comes to adding sugar to any dessert with a fruit filling.  It doesn't help that Alex is terribly afraid of sweet fruit fillings.  I also feel like so long as I don't make the crisp too sweet that I can eat it for breakfast with a healthy dollop of Greek yogurt and a squeeze of honey, or I can eat it for dessert with whipped cream or a healthy scoop of vanilla ice cream. 

I love rhubarb - both aesthetically/visually and taste-wise.  Whenever I see it at the farmer's market I have to buy it.  This time I jumped the gun and purchased it at the grocery store, but it looked phenomenal.  I couldn't resist.  Last summer I made a rhubarb compote that we served with pork that was delicious, as well as a raspberry, strawberry and rhubarb crumble that was also very good.  I wanted to try something new, and since I generally prefer the sweet and crunchy topping of a crisp to the doughy topping of a crumble, I decided to make a crisp.  I got the idea to use cardamom and nutmeg in my crisp from this recipe from Bon Appetit, however I didn't like the proportions or the idea of baking multiple smaller crisps when I could just make one gigantic crisp.  Anyway, I liked this crisp, but I didn't love it.  My favorite part was the topping.  I loved the oats and the sliced almonds.

The orange flavor in the filling doesn't come through as much as I would like in the crisp, although if you really paid attention it was there.  The original recipe called for less zest and the addition of orange juice, but I didn't add the OJ since the last time I made a crumble with rhubarb I remember how wet the filling ended up.  I also didn't taste the cardamom and nutmeg quite as much as I thought I would, even though I doubled the amount of nutmeg in the filling.  I thought the spiciness of the nutmeg and the perfume of the cardamom would come through a little more.  Again, they were subtle, but there.  I thought about adding some ground black pepper, but you have to be very very careful when adding things like pepper to a dessert.  It helps if you're a pastry chef.  Before I make the crisp again I would make some minor changes (like adding more orange zest, nutmeg, cardamom and a little more sugar in the filling), but it has some serious potential.  Topped with ice cream or sweetened homemade whipped cream it makes a very nice dessert.  And with some Greek yogurt it makes a wonderful breakfast.  For breakfast I only warmed it in the microwave for 40 seconds and while lukewarm I found it easier to taste the spices than while piping hot and topped with whipped cream.  Go figure.

Recipe after the jump!

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp with Cardamom and Nutmeg
Adapted from Bon Appetit
March 2005

For Topping:
3/4 cup old-fashioned oats
3/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Generous pinch of salt
1 stick chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
For Filling:
4 cups rhubarb, sliced into 1/4-inch thick slices
1 lb. strawberries (roughly 3 cups), small strawberries halved and larger berries quartered
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 teaspoons grated orange peel
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch salt

Mix first dry topping ingredients in medium bowl.  Add butter to the mixture.  Rub butter in with fingertips until moist clumps form.

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Spray a 3 qt. backing dish with nonstick baking spray.  Combine all ingredients in large bowl.  Stir to combine.  Let filling stand at room temperature until juices form, about 15 minutes.  Pour rhubarb mixture into prepared baking dish.  Sprinkle topping evenly over filling.  Bake crisp until the topping is golden brown and crisp and the filling is bubbling thickly around edges, about 40-45 minutes.  Remove crisp from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes.

Serve crisp warm with sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

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