Erin Patinkin and Agatha Kulaga know a thing or two about baking—together, the pair run Ovenly in Brooklyn, NY, the Greenpoint bakery with a cult-like following thanks to their innovative twists on traditional sweets. Their fanatical devotion to tinkering and improving upon classic baked goods has resulted in what just might be the perfect crisp—that catch-all term for baked fruit desserts covered with a sugary, crunchy topping. After much experimentation, they’ve hit on a version that’s minimally sweet, with a filling of contrasting textures and a crumble topping that avoids the fate of many crisps—sogginess.
Patinkin starts by par-baking the crumble—adding rye flour and poppy seeds for a hint of earthy bitterness—on its own. She then braises rhubarb slowly in red wine until it’s softened, then purées it and adds cornstarch for a thick, almost jam-like consistency. The purée is then combined with sliced rhubarb, strawberries, and a touch of brown sugar, topped with the crumble, and then baked just until bubbly. Baking the topping first helps to keep it from getting soggy; a shorter baking time allows the sliced fruit to retain its shape. The result is a creamy, chewy, sweet-tart dish that contrasts beautifully with its crunchy, nutty topping. It’s as good to start the day as it is to end a meal—beautiful with a scoop of yogurt, ricotta, mascarpone, vanilla ice cream, or even crème fraîche.