The reviews are in: last week’s rhubarb crisp, containing unconventional ingredients like red wine and poppy seeds, was not well received. Our household prefers more conventional flavours, which disappoints me, as I always like to try new things. To appease the majority, I turned to something more straightforward. In the process, I learned that tapioca is not always tapioca.
Stella Parks, writing for Serious Eats, came up with the recipe. I decided to stick with 100% rhubarb, but she does offer a variation that includes strawberries. To start, I made the topping, which has five-spice powder, whole wheat flour, and pecans (sorry family, I have to sneak in some interesting flavours). I omitted anise seeds, and swapped brandy for elderflower liqueur, because I didn’t have either of those two things.
Making the filling is a two-part process: Half of the fruit is baked with the flavourings and thickeners, in a covered dish. At the 30 minute mark, the hot mixture was really thick, like, I could slice it. After stirring in the baking soda (which helps neutralize the acidity of rhubarb), I added the rest of the raw fruit. This made the mixture a bit looser, but it was still quite thick. I was pleased with how much topping there was, as it’s always everyone’s favourite part. Make sure you place the assembled crisp on a baking sheet! This recipe completely fills a deep, 9” pie dish, and IT WILL BUBBLE OVER.
That spilled-over filling turned into a chewy fruit leather, an excellent snacking opportunity. The topping was nicely browned and baked up crisp, a complementary accompaniment to the mouth-puckering filling. Most importantly, my family enjoyed eating this crisp.
Finally, there’s a note in the recipe pointing out that tapioca starch made outside of the US may be derived from sago, and not from true tapioca, aka cassava. The two have different gelling properties. That might explain why the half-cooked filling was so thick.
I almost always buy tapioca from the Asian grocery, with brands from Thailand. And I’ve always been a little put off by the metallic, citrusy flavour in anything I thicken using “tapioca”. Time to get some cassava-derived tapioca, and do a little test.