A Case For Crumbs

It seems odd to me to buy rhubarb at the grocery store. Growing up, it came from the backyard. In profusion.


So when I see fresh rhubarb in the market, I remember my father’s garden, and add some to my cart. It’s appearance is fleeting, and happily coincides with strawberry season.


There are many ways to turn the tart, ruby stalks of this vegetable into something sweet and sumptuous: crisps, cobblers, and crumbles all place fruit beneath a crisp topping. A topping which is typically, disappointingly, too scant.

So, when Smitten Kitchen, inspired by Nigella Lawson, upped the crumb to base ratio, I had to try it. As one who adores coffee cake more for the crumbs than the cake, this was a crumble of such perfection, it’s now my master recipe for any type of fruit— peaches, pears, berries, apples with cinnamon. And the best part, besides the crumbs, is that it’s easy, fast, and utterly delicious.


I topped mine with crème fraîche, but ice-cream or whipped cream would be splendid, too.


Oh, and I baked mine in my Paul Bocuse Staub Cocotte. It’s very rustic, and cast iron just makes everything better.



1 1/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons Demerara sugar (I used this)
Zest of one lemon
1/4 pound (1 stick or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted

1 1/2 cups rhubarb, chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 quart strawberries plus a few extras, hulled, quartered
Juice of one lemon
1/2 cup sugar
3 to 4 tablespoons cornstarch
Pinch of salt

Heat oven to 375°F. Prepare topping: In a mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, sugars and lemon zest and add the melted butter. Mix until small and large clumps form. Refrigerate until needed.

Prepare filling: Toss rhubarb, strawberries, lemon juice, sugar, cornstarch and a pinch of salt in a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate.

Remove topping from refrigerator and cover fruit thickly and evenly with topping. Bake until crumble topping is golden brown in places and fruit is bubbling beneath, about 40 to 50 minutes.

Recipe from Smitten Kitchen



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Susan Written by:

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