Fruit Crisp

I do enjoy making (and eating!) desserts, but I’m not one of those precise bakers who construct architecturally correct cakes. Nor do I like pure sweetness. What I love are fruit desserts that balance acidic tartness with sweetness, and that have texture and bursts of flavor. Although I’m a pie baker, for everyday quick cooking I make crisps because they fit into my crazy schedule – I can bake one up on a whim right before dinner. I make up a large batch of the crisp topping and what isn’t used in that first crisp goes into the freezer and is pulled out whenever I want to make another. I rarely use a recipe, but this week I made crisp and I wrote down what I did to share it with you.

This is rhubarb season, which makes me do a happy dance, because it is my absolute favorite fruit to put in a pie (I know it’s not a botanical fruit, but I use it as a fruit, so I call it a fruit!) The rhubarb that I planted three years ago is finally mature enough so that I can get a good harvest from it.

rhubarb plant


The leaves are not edible, and are, in fact, poisonous, so before I bring the stalks inside, I lop off the tops right into the compost bin (the one that the chickens cannot get into).

rhubarb leaves


Once washed, I chop the rhubarb into 1-inch pieces. I like to add another fruit to the crumble, and I happen to have tree-ripened peaches in my freezer (bought from a local orchard and vacuum-sealed last fall.) I defrost them just enough to break them apart so they’re no longer in a block.



I’ll need 6 cups of fruit to fill a pie plate. Half rhubarb and half peaches is good.

Here’s the rest of the ingredient list for the crisp filling:

1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup of sugar, preferably coarse organic (better flavor than pure white sugar)
1 tablespoon of quick tapioca or instant clearjel (to thicken the juices)

Universal Crisp Topping: 
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup rolled oats
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 8 pieces
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (less if using salted butter)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2/3 cup sugar, preferably coarse organic (better flavor than pure white sugar)
2 tablespoon chopped crystallized ginger (optional)
1/2 cup nuts of choice (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a baking dish or pie plate with non-stick spray.
2. Combine the fruit and egg in bowl. In a small bowl, mix the 1/2 cup sugar and thickener, then stir into the fruit.
3. Put the fruit into the baking dish.



4. Put all of the topping ingredients into a food processor and pulse until the mixture is coarse and crumbly.
5. Evenly distribute about 1 cup of the topping over the fruit.



6. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the crisp is bubbly and the topping is lightly browned.



This is delicious plain. It’s excellent for breakfast with yogurt. I happened to have a bit of heavy cream in the fridge, which I whipped by hand (which yields a better texture than when done in a mixer) and had it for dessert.



Now I have enough crisp topping in my freezer for another three crisps. If I’m able to harvest my strawberries before the birds get them, I’ll be having Rhubarb-Strawberry Crisp soon. Let me know what combination of fruit you put into a crisp.


  1. Thanks for the recipe and the tip about Clearjel, and the idea for making a bunch of topping ahead of time.

    I have a ton of rhubarb this year. Do you freeze it, and if you do, how?

    By the way, my favorite hen is Edwina. She reminds me of the hens my neighbors had when I was growing up. They all mumbled to themselves with occasional squawks. Very entertaining and soothing. I check on her several times a day.

    • Yes to freezing rhubarb! Simply wash, cut and freeze. No blanching, etc. needed. I love my vacuum packer. No freezer burn, ever.

  2. My mother’s all time favorite is blackberry. She adds a squeeze of fresh lemon to her fruit pies and cobblers.

    • I love blackberry, too, but hard to find ones that are fresh enough for pie. Lemon is good, but not necessary with rhubarb.

  3. Aha! Just realised that an American “crisp” equals an English “crumble”!
    Delia Smith’s porridge oats version is our family favourite with our homegrown apples and wild blackberries. Rhubarb comes a close second with a few spoonfuls of my elderflower cordial. Oh, and a good dollop of Cornish Clotted Cream on top! Pudding heaven! ;-)

    • Our “crumble” is a more cake-like topping. We don’t have elderflower anything here, but I tried it (with gin!) when I was in England.

      • Of course, there are always gooseberries too. Again, these go well with apples. My mouth is watering even though it’s 10.40 at night here! ;-)

  4. I love ripe peaches! So this recipe hits our home. Our favorite is pineapple and peaches crumble. The “crumble” part of recipe is basically the same, except for the ginger. I will definitely add it. We grow rhubarb too. It usually ends up in a strawberry and rhubarb pie. We always add vanilla ice cream. I’m not a big ice cream fan, but my family loves it. I think I’ll try the whip cream next time. Thanks Terry.

  5. Sounds delicious…love your recipes. I just realized the goats are “visiting” the chickens and the goat cam now moves to show outside their barn too. Just love it!!

  6. I love it just the way you made it except I would add fresh crushed cardamom because it compliments the ginger.

  7. My favourite, before we had to go wheat-free, was strawberry rhubarb mango crumble. Mango and rhubarb, I think, is a wonderful flavour combination. I did find something wheat-free recently that is really yummy too (albeit a tad calorific): strawberry cherry rhubarb fool. So good! Happy to share the recipe if you’re interested.

    • Try the same recipe, just instead of wheat you take oats and blend them slightly in the food processor, so they have a texture similar to flour, just a bit more coarse. Works as well as wheat ‘crumble’ but actually tastes more flavoursome, and doesn’t affect your digestive system as wheat does. :-)

      • Thanks for the tip, Doris – I will definitely try that.

  8. I love to throw a fresh blueberry crumble or cobbler together with lime juice and tapioca. I have also made it with sugar substitute for an elderly diabetic friend. Super easy and delicious but so hard waiting for it to cool! :)

  9. My mouth has been watering since I saw the title of this post! Thank you for the recipe. I’d never heard of mixing an egg with the fruit filling of a pastry, but that sounds perfect for breakfast.

    Just hearsay, but somehow I got it in my head that the USDA considers rhubarb a fruit, because that is how it is used…just like it considers tomatoes a vegetable! Time to Google that one…

    • The egg binds it and gives it a better texture. Just one, you don’t even notice it as an egg in the filling.

  10. Ah! I’ve always wondered what you called a crisp … here in the UK it’s called ‘crumble’!!

    • There’s a lot of overlap in terminology and some regional differences. To me, a crisp is, well, crispier. Often with oats. But others will disagree :)

  11. My dad always cut off the tops and put it under the rhubarb that was left in the patch to decompose.

  12. Hi Terry, I too also have 2 huge rhubarb bushes……..I would like to try you dessert crisp….do you think pears will go with rhubarb?



  13. So you don’t cook the rhubarb first? I was wondering about that as I always have. As far as gluten-free crisp / crumbles go, I have that problem as well and cannot even use oats. My solution has been Pamela’s baking mix which makes a lovely recipe that can be kept in the freezer and used at will. It’s fun that I am harvesting rhubarb in Hawaii at the same time that you are!

    • No need to cook rhubarb first unless you’re doing a recipe with a short baking time. After about 40 minutes it softens.

  14. Oh gosh, I absolutely love rhubarb crisp. I don’t have any here, but I have an abundance of peaches on our young tree which we’ve netted to keep the birds and squirrels from eating them. I’ve never frozen peaches but I’m going to need to do that this year. Peach crisp!