CHEF JEFF: One Byte At A Time — Mom’s Rhubarb Crunch

Rhubarb is very likely the first vegetable — yes, it’s not a fruit — harvested in the spring by gardeners. It perhaps is also the most-awaited one by cooks who prefer making desserts above all else.

Fresh rhubarb from the garden is still weeks away from being harvested, but that’s not stopping me from pleasuring my sweet tooth.

That’s because I had the foresight — as do a lot of other rhubarb aficionados — to freeze several 2- to 4-cup containers of the cut-up “pie plant” last spring when it was abundant in my backyard.

My go-to dessert recipe has been one for a crunch that was shared with me several years ago by an old friend, the late Wayne Knain, whose love for rhubarb was only surpassed by his penchant for Dairy Queen Blizzards.

Recently, though, I decided to look through Mom’s old recipe box for a rhubarb dessert recipe that she used to make in my childhood that was among my favorites.

After a little searching, I came across the following recipe but wasn’t quite sure if it was the right one. But after my first taste, there was little doubt in my mind that it was real McCoy.

And with a scoop of ice cream added for good measure, it sure made me happy that I didn’t have to wait weeks to enjoy this sweet indulgence.

Mom’s Rhubarb Crunch
1 cup sifted flour
¾ cup oatmeal
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
½ cup melted butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon
4 cups diced rhubarb
Mix all ingredients except rhubarb until crumbly and press one-half of mixture into greased 9-inch baking pan. Pour rhubarb mixture on top.
Combine and cook until thick and clear:
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla
Pour over rhubarb and top with remaining crumbly mixture. Bake in oven preheated to 350 degrees for 1 hour.

Wayne’s Rhubarb Crunch
1 cup sifted flour
5 tablespoons powdered sugar
½ cup butter
2 eggs
¼ cup flour
1½ cups sugar
¾ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups rhubarb, cut in small chunks
Mix together 1 cup flour, powdered sugar and butter in a bowl. Pat into bottom of an 8- or 9-inch square pan. Bake in preheated 350-degree oven for 15 minutes or until brown.
Beat eggs until fluffy and gradually add sugar, ¼ cup flour, baking powder and salt that has been sifted together. Stir in cut rhubarb and put in pan. Bake for 35 minutes at 350 degrees. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

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