May 11, 2012

Rhubarb Crisp with Whipped Cream

As a child, I spent the majority of my time in the woods. I was a tiny a forest dweller. If we could have moved my toys to the woods, I probably would have lived there. My dad had a old canvas tent, smelled like mildew and mold. When the sun rose in the morning you would bake like and apple pie. We didn't have super light weight, breathable, REI tents back then, camping equipment was bought at the army surplus store. That tent was the closest I ever got to living in the woods. I tried to make my own house in the woods, for me and my sisters. We gathered up some old tarps, and tied them around the trees with that ridiculous yellow rope that doesn't seem to hold a knot, unless you are boyscout trained.  I think I was going for the tee-pee style of housing. I've got to admit, our forts were amateur. My dad saw our struggles with the architectural design, and built us a fancy tree fort. The only problem was that he built it like a patio, with railings, dark brown. It was high, and I am terrified of heights, you see my issues with the fort.  We had no privacy, probably done on purpose. The novelty of the tree wore thin, and the fort went mostly unused for years. Until one day, the tree fell down in a storm. It killed my mom's Magnolia tree in the falling. I don't think she was very pleased about that.

We were pretty well-behaved children. We didn't have many rules. Cross your fork and knife when you've finished your meal.  Don't go on the neighbors 4 wheeler. Don't tie a skipping rope around your sister's neck and pretend she is a puppy.  And, most importantly, don't eat anything that grows the forest without asking first. Too this day, I am still skeptical of wild raspberries. Understandably, we did have a few poisonous berries, toxic mushrooms, and poison ivy, not very threatening in my opinion though, but then again I was a child, and death wasn't a possibility. 

I remember taking a walk through the woods with my grandma and neighbor Louise. Louise lived across the street from us, and was insane about cats. She has two unruly children, whom I would often babysit when her and her husband went off to fancy dinners at the Hunt Club.  A few weekends a year, the hunt club would gather together, dressed dapper in bright red jackets, tight spandex pants, and black leather boots. They would take off into a flock, galloping down the road nestled together in their intimidating pose, floppy eared dogs and all, charging through the woods blowing an ear-piercing horn. The Fox and the Hound being my favorite book as a child, I was terrified. 

We used to take many walks through the woods as a child. Although, this walk has a particular mission - rhubarb. Up until this moment, I was completely unaware of rhubarbs existence. I'm sure I'd eaten it, probably in pie-form, but never put two and two together. Louise reached down with her giant sheers and hacked away at a few stalks. I thought, this is the ugliest fruit I'd ever seen. I couldn't imagine why anybody would eat a long ugly stem, similar in shape to celery, and that it could actually taste good. The next thing I knew, Louise kneeled down on one knee, grabbed me by hand and said, don't you ever put these leaves in your mouth, they will kill you. Terrified by Louise, the leaves, the red berries growing beside my fort, I told myself that I will never eat anything from the woods. Ever.

Older, and a little bit wiser, I am a surely less terrified of strange berries in the woods? If you live in the Pacific Northwest, Rhubarb is now in season. It is so deceiving, with its celery-like appearance, and poisonous leaves. Chopped into tiny pieces, baked with flour, sugar, butter, and oats. It is so tangy and tart. Like sour patch kids, but healthier. Albeit, adding a ton of sugar and butter, might make it arguably less healthy than those delicious tiny sour jelly candies. Tough call. The rhubarb is tangy and tart. Swimming in a sea of sugary juices, bubbly through the crumble, letting us know it has reached perfection.  The crisp is sweet, nutty and earthy. It is layered on top of the rhubarb in perfect form. Two different consistencies, individual in their own right, but share a perfect partnership. A partnership depended on the flavors from one another. The whipped cream is an extra bonus. Unifying the relationship further. It is not needed, but definitely wanted. Something to be desired.

makes one 9" dish

3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup oats
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup almonds, chopped
6 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

4 cups (6-7 large stalks) rhubarb, washed and leaves removed and discarded
1/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp lemon juice

1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup white sugar

In a medium size bowl, combine the flour, oats, white and brown sugar, cinnamon, and almonds.

Add the melted butter, and mix with your hands. Squeeze the mixture into medium sized crumbles. Place the bowl in the freezer for 20 minutes.

In a large bowl, mix the chopped rhubarb, sugar, flour, salt, and lemon juice. Let it sit for 20 minutes while the crumble is chilling.

Preheat the oven to 375ºF.

Scoop the filling into a 9" baking dish. Remove the crumble from the freezer and scatter on the top of the filling.

Bake for 40 minutes, or until the crumble turns light brown and the rhubarb is bubbling.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the heavy cream on medium speed until soft peaks form. Add the vanilla and sugar, and beat until the cream has formed heavy peaks. Scoop into a bowl and store in the fridge covered for up to 2 days.

Remove the rhubarb crisp from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Serve with a generous serving of whipped cream. Store the crisp in the fridge for one week.


  1. Love rhubarb pie and I bet this crisp is just as tasty! Great post :)

  2. How wonderful! It looks delicious and fortunately for me, my folks have rhubarb growing at their home on Vashon.

    I too was a woodland fort building child. Those are special memories.

    1. Wow fantastic! I love Vashon.

  3. I love that this is moderate in sugar - it looks divine!

  4. Anonymous14 May, 2012

    Dear Heather,
    Your stories take me back to a lovely time when you and your sisters were little. We still have the rhubarb I transplanted from Louise's property onto ours and it is starting to come up. I should get ambitious and cut some. Stewed rhubarb was your grandmother's favourite in the morning on toast.
    Love, Mom