Twice as Tasty

Rhubarb-Apple Crisp

The two rhubarb plants that now grow at my little cabin are offshoots of my dad’s crowns, likely making them fourth-generation plants

By Julie Laing
Rhubarb-Apple Crisp. Photo by Julie Laing

Rhubarb was a staple of my childhood. My dad grew it in our garden from crowns split off my grandfather’s plants, which likely were transferred from my great-grandmother’s patch. My maternal grandmother also had a passion for the tart stalks, and one of my favorite after-school snacks at her house was freshly made rhubarb sauce. Grandma Tiny’s famous pies always contained just four filling ingredients: sugar, flour, salt and rhubarb. I didn’t realize until I was in my teens that few people ate rhubarb pie unless it was diluted with strawberries.

My mom prefers the ease of fruit crisps to pies, and she is more liberal with her filling combinations. Depending on the time of year, the rhubarb might be mixed with apples, pears, peaches, cherries, boysenberries or raspberries – although straight rhubarb is always an option.

The two rhubarb plants that now grow at my little cabin are offshoots of my dad’s crowns, likely making them fourth-generation plants. In my shady woods, they put out a fairly small yield but produce steadily all summer and rarely bolt and flower. It only takes about eight to 10 ruby-red stalks to fill out a crisp, so it’s one of the first homegrown desserts I make each spring.

Apples help to naturally sweeten rhubarb without overpowering its flavor, like strawberries do; you may want 1/2 cup or more of honey for a pure rhubarb crisp. For the topping, you can replace half of the oats with nuts, like walnuts or pecans, if desired. When I’m feeling lazy, I just spread homemade granola on top. To enjoy crisps all year, slice and freeze the rhubarb and then let it defrost in a colander. Straining off the excess juice keeps the dessert from becoming soggy, and you can use the juice in a drinking shrub or syrup.

Rhubarb-Apple Crisp

Serves 4-6

1 pound rhubarb, sliced (about 4 cups)

1/2 pound apples, peeled and chopped (about 2 cups)

1/3 cup honey

3 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

1/3 cup butter, melted

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

In a large bowl, mix the sliced rhubarb and apple pieces with the honey and 3 tablespoons of flour. Butter a 9-inch square baking dish, and then spread the fruit mixture into it.

In a small bowl, stir together remaining 1/2 cup of flour, oats, melted butter, sugar, cinnamon and salt until crumbly. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the fruit. 

Bake at 350°F for 35 to 40 minutes, until the fruit is soft and bubbly and the topping starts to brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.