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A simple, crispy-topped strawberry-rhubarb crisp that you can make any time of year

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Around this time every year, when fresh rhubarb’s season is coming to an end, we start to anticipate going months without one half of our favorite fruit-dessert filling. But with this crisp, which works with both fresh and frozen rhubarb, we can get that bright, tart, floral combination any time of the year. Even better, the recipe is literally easier than pie.

Making a crisp takes little more than stirring together a topping in a bowl, tossing cut-up fruit with some sugar, and throwing it all in the oven. But baker beware! Follow the wrong recipe (or worse, no recipe at all) and you might end up with a strawberry-rhubarb soup and a soggy topping — decidedly not crisp.

That’s the real lesson of this carefully tested recipe: Different batches of strawberries and rhubarb will exude varying amounts of moisture when combined with sugar and baked. So how do you create a recipe that will result in the perfect (slightly jammy but never stodgy) texture every time?

The simplest answer is to cook the filling briefly on the stovetop, over moderately high heat, to coax out the excess liquid, reduce it, and thicken it to the consistency you’re after. Then you can top the fruit and quickly brown the crisp in the oven. Applying this simple technique also ensures that your topping remains crisp.

And we found that the crispiest topping came from the inclusion of an unexpected ingredient: panko breadcrumbs. There was a fair amount of debate on whether we were developing a recipe for a crisp or a crumble (and debate on the difference between the two). This topping ended all confusion on the matter. A crisp topping should be crispy, and panko is an excellent way to give the topping a lasting, light, airy crispness. Try it and see.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp

 

Serves 6

For the topping:

3/4 cup (3 3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour

1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs

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