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Rhubarb Crisp Magic

by Lori on May 23rd, 2011

Rhubarb crisp baked, take six
There is something magical about rhubarb. On the surface, it looks rather ordinary. However, add a little sugar, bake it in the oven and it turns into something amazing.

The Story

Baking rhubarb reminds me of the story The Frog Prince. A princess shows a toad a little sweetness and warmth — and he turns into a prince. It’s like when rhubarb turns into rhubarb crisp. However, finding a good toad to turn into a prince takes time, and so does growing rhubarb to make a good crisp. I read somewhere that rhubarb plants shouldn’t be harvested in their first year. Since I planted my first rhubarb plant last spring, I am patiently waiting until next year to harvest it.
Rhubarb plant, take one

In the meantime, one of my co-workers was kind enough to share with me some of her rhubarb. To show my appreciation, I transformed the rhubarb into a crisp — and brought it back to work to share.

Then I discovered another rhubarb magic trick — how to make it disappear. I went to work with a full 9×13-inch pan of crisp. By the end of the day, I only had one piece left.
One remaining piece of rhubarb crisp, take three

The Moral of the Story

Rhubarb may look like the toad of the produce aisle, but show it some sweetness and you may be pleasantly surprised by the results.
Stalks of rhubarb, take six

About the Recipe

I scoured my cookbook collection for a good rhubarb recipe. In my Best of Iowa Cookbook, I found a recipe for Rhubarb Crisp, which uses 3 ½ cups of rhubarb. In my Everything Rhubarb book, I found a recipe for Rhubarb Crunch, which is basically the same as the crisp one except it uses 5 cups of rhubarb. I picked the Rhubarb Crunch because I thought the more rhubarb the better.
A cup of chopped rhubarb

The Cast of Characters

In this recipe, the rhubarb takes center stage.
Rhubarb and other ingredients

The Play-by-Play

Chop your rhubarb into half-inch pieces.
Chopping rhubarb, take two

In a large bowl, toss your rhubarb with sugar and flour.
Rhubarb and sugar for crisp, take six

Spread the rhubarb mixture into a 9×13-inch glass baking dish.
Rhubarb and sugar for crisp, take one

In another bowl, mix together the brown sugar, oats and remaining flour.
Blending the crips topping, take six

With a dough blender, blend pats of butter into the brown sugar and oats mixture.
Blending the crips topping, take three

Sprinkle the buttered oat mixture on top of the rhubarb.
Rhubarb crips before baking, take three

Bake for 40 minutes.
Rhubarb crisp in oven

Cool the crisp on a wire rack.
Rhubarb crisp baked, take five

Scoop, serve and enjoy!
A bowl of rhubarb crisp, take five

Recipe: Rhubarb Crunch

Summary: A classic rhubarb crisp with a cruncy oatmeal topping

Ingredients & Instructions

For the recipe, check out the book Everything Rhubarb from the Lanesboro Rhubarb Festival.

Baking time (duration): 40 minutes

Number of servings (yield): 12 servings (or one 9×13-inch pan)

Meal type: breakfast or dessert

My rating: 5 stars:  ★★★★★ 1 review(s)

Additional Resources

I am still perplexed by difference between rhubarb crisp and rhubarb crunch. Wikipedia defines a “crisp” as using butter, sugar and oats. However, I couldn’t find a Wikipedia definition for a “crunch.”

Here are a few other recipes I read to try to figure it out:

  • Triple Berry Rhubarb Crisp by Food Blogga: In this post, Food Blogga explains the difference between crisp and cobbler. She says a “crisp” topping includes butter, sugar and oatmeal. A “crumble” includes butter, sugar, flour and nuts. By her definition, I made a crisp.
  • Strawberry Apple Crumble by Passionate About Baking: This was the first post I found that defined a “crunch.” The author says a “crumble” has oatmeal, a “crisp” has nuts, and a “crunch” had breadcrumbs. This post left me thoroughly confused. I thought a “crisp” had oatmeal, and a “Brown Betty” used breadcrumbs
  • Dessert Tips by TLC: This post also says a Brown Betty uses breadcrumbs, but adds that a “crunch” is a fruit dessert “sandwiched between two layers of sweetened buttered crumbs.” However, it doesn’t say what kind of crumbs.
  • Rhubarb Recipes by Rhubarb-Recipes.com: This site has a variety of crunch and crisp recipes. Most of the “crisp” recipes on this site use oats, while the only “crunch” recipe I found uses cornflakes.

Do you call it rhubarb crisp or rhubarb crunch?


4 Comments
  1. What a great recipe for this time of year! I hope I can find rhubarb at the farmer’s market this weekend. p.s. I grew up hearing crisp and crunch used interchangeably.

    • Thanks! Good luck at the farmer’s market. I haven’t seen much rhubarb at our farmer’s market yet, and can’t wait to find some more.

  2. Oh how I love rhubarb! I’ve only baked with it once when a generous coworker gave me some of hers. You are right about its magical qualities!!!

    • You have to love those rhubarb-sharing co-workers. Hope you have a chance to bake with it again. :)

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