Friday, July 9, 2010

A Crumble Bumble

Okay... so you know how the cardinal rule of baking, or making anything from a list of instructions for that matter, is to read the recipe all the way through? Yeah... well, truth be told, half the time I take that "golden rule" as a whole lot of hooey (love that term!), and so - I don't. And you know what? Most of the time, no one's the wiser.

As if you haven't guessed, this was not one of those times.

It began innocently enough - I had bookmarked an amazing looking recipe for Raspberry Crumb Bars on Lynn's blog I'll Have What She's Having... who in turn got the recipe from Deb at Smitten Kitchen, who had originally adapted it from the book Baked: New Frontiers in Baking. So this recipe had quite the family tree running by the time it got to little old me! So leave it to little old me to be the sh*t crumb disturber in the chain of events!

My alterations were intended to be minor, and all to the filling portion. I had no raspberries at my disposal, but I did have a glut of local strawberries that I had frozen and a rather obese looking rhubarb plant out back begging to be cut down to size, so I figured I could just use the already proven deliciousness of that combination as the filling instead. Because the berries I was using were frozen, large and whole, not to mention the rhubarb stalks were on the large (and rather fibrous) side of things, I also wanted to change the method to pre-cook the two of them. I ran out of brown sugar making the crumb mixture (I know... it goes downhill from here), so in the filling I added honey instead - half as much, in order to combat it's higher sweetening power. I also had no lemons hanging around... but I did have a plethora of limes - so zest and juice moseyed into the filling as well. A quick thicken with tapioca starch (IMHO the best thickener out there, especially for pies and custardy things!) later and things were looking good. I had used a bit too much of both the berries and the rhubarb, but what would I have done with a third of a stalk and three frozen berries, really?? Besides, it looked fine.

So I packed the crust down into my lined and greased square pan, poured the silky pink mixture overtop, smoothed it out and topped it off with the rest of the crumble mix. Popped it into the oven and was just starting to congratulate myself on an adaptation well done when I looked at the recipe sheet I had printed off of SK. Third paragraph in, sentences 4-5: "The [bottom] crust should touch the sides of the pan. Bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes". Yup... guess what this baker DIDN'T do?

When I pulled that pan out of the oven after it finished baking (well hey, I wasn't about to waste all those ingredients... even if it was a long shot!), I was a little more than alarmed to see a gloppy, lava-esque berry mixture noisily bubbling up around the edges of a rather solid top crust. Oh great, that stupid voice of reason that's always late to the party, you did use too much filling. And really, how could you not have read those directions?? I mean, honestly. I can't take you anywhere. Disheartened by what I was sure was total disaster, but still not quite prepared to toss the pan (especially since I found out that my mom had saved slices of my fail cake in the freezer and was taking them to work!), I resolved to let the thing cool the rest of the day and see what came of it.

My patience (or stubborness) was rewarded in the long run. Thankfully, I had inadvertently (but luckily!) copied Lynn in using half the crumb mixture in the bottom of my pan, which made for a nice, thick base that didn't allow the filling to seep through (as you can see!). As well, the fact that I had needed to cook the filling in advance really saved these bars from becoming a goopy mass, since it was already a nice, thick puree when it went into the oven and wouldn't do anything but thicken further in the heat. Even though it was soupy-looking fresh out of the oven, within two hours of cooling it was already miles thicker, and after a night in the fridge it was even fairly sliceable. Did they crumble when they met the knife? Well, yeah, but when the base and top aren't much more than oats, sugar and butter that can only be expected. The amount of filling? Well, it was probably a bit too much, but then again, there were no complaints!

So I guess the moral of the story is to never give up on a plan you've bumbled up a little bit on until you are sure beyond a shadow of a doubt that the end result can't be saved. Or make sure that you read recipes all the way through. Twice. Unless you like to spend 12 hours tearing your hair out in an anxious fit... but that might just be me.

This is my version of the recipe - exactly what I did, including omitting the first bake.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Bumble (Crumble) Bars
Makes 12 bars
1/2 lb chopped strawberries
10 oz chopped rhubarb
2 tbsp honey
1/3 cup water, divided
1 1/2 tbsp tapioca flour
zest and juice of 2 limes
1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/4 cup quick (not instant) oats
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
6 oz (3/4 cup) butter, slightly soft but still cool
  1. In a small pot, combine strawberries, rhubarb, honey and 3 tbsp water. Bring to a simmer.
  2. Cook 10 minutes, until falling apart and thick.
  3. Whisk together remaining water and tapioca flour in a small dish, then stir into the strawberry mixture and cook until mixture thickens.
  4. Remove from heat, stir in zest and juice and allow to cool 30 minutes.
  5. Preheat oven to 375F.
  6. In a bowl, combine flour, oats, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon.
  7. Cut the butter into the mixure with a pastry cutter or your fingers until crumbly.
  8. Press half into a lined 8" pan.
  9. Top with cooled strawberry puree and cover with the remaining crumbled mixture, pressing down gently.
  10. Bake 35 minutes on the bottom rack of the oven.
  11. Let cool completely before cutting.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 239.2
Total Fat: 12.4 g
Cholesterol: 30.7 mg
Sodium: 172.5 mg
Total Carbs: 33.8 g
Dietary Fiber: 3.2 g
Protein: 3.8 g


  1. Looks delicious!
    I have several of my recipes that I was unimpressed with, but my husband gave me that look and said "Are you kidding?". So the recipes have stayed.

  2. It sounds like your kitchen adventure led to something pretty tasty! The pics look great. Thanks for linking me!


Thanks for the feedback!