Jams & Fruit Compotes in Desserts (Rhubarb Crisp w/ Blackberry & Prune Jams)

fruit compote rhubarb crisp prepMy rhubarb is pushing up through the earth in my garden which means it’s high time to use up last year’s frozen rhubarb. It’s also time to work through the remaining jams and compotes I put up each year. My jams are really more like compotes–not very sweet and a bit looser than regular jams. I have long used these fruit preserves to sweeten, thicken and flavor desserts, from crisps and crumbles to pies, cobblers and tarts and coffee cakes. This weekend I added 1/4 pint each blackberry lime jam and Italian prune compote to frozen rhubarb for a simple crisp. I reduce the sugar I would have added to the fruit a little and I get more flavor, color and lovely syrupy fruit.

You could use most any kind of fruit, frozen or fresh and any kind of fruit preserve. I still have frozen peaches and may make a cobbler with those and some raspberry jam. Use what you have. I don’t think you can go wrong!

fruit compote rhubarb crisp

Rhubarb Crisp with Blackberry and Italian Prune Preserves

For the fruit:

1 tablespoon cornstarch (if you’re using really juicy fruit like rhubarb, berries or peaches–apples, pears, and the like certainly don’t need cornstarch)

1/2 cup sugar or brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional but lovely with these fruits)

About 5-6 cups rhubarb, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces (fresh or frozen–thawed if frozen)

1/2 cup fruit preserves/compote (I used blackberry and prune)

For the topping:

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (or all purpose or a combination)

1/2 – 3/4 cup walnuts or almonds, lightly toasted and chopped or ground (optional)

Generous 1/2 cup rolled oats

1/2 -2/3 cup sugar (more if you like your desserts on the sweeter side–this will be quite tart if using rhubarb). And the amount of sugar will also depend on how sweet your jams are–if quite sweet reduce the sugar a bit.

1/2 teaspoon salt

7 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 375F.

In a medium bowl combine all the dry ingredients well and then stir in the melted butter and press everything together with your fingers to get varied size crumbs and then set aside.

In another bowl mix the cornstarch and sugar and cardamom, if using, and preserves (s) together and add to the fruit. Toss well to evenly mix.

Put the fruit mixture in a 9 x 13 pan and top evenly with crumble mixture.  Bake for 35 – 40 minutes, or until the topping is nicely browned and the fruit juices are bubbling and syrupy. Cool for about 20 – 30 minutes before serving.

Sugar

I grew up in a family where dessert was mandated (by my father) every night. I also grew up in Germany so fresh or cooked fruit with whipped cream or lightly sweetened quark was considered–and is–a wonderful dessert. We also had puddings, tarts, pies, and all sorts of wonderful German baked goods my American mother perfected to my German father’s delight. So there was always a little something sweet after dinner. We all loved it. I started making desserts at an early age and went through a long period of making Joy of Cooking layered cakes with things like orange cream filling and Devil’s Food Cake Cockaigne (what  does that word mean and where does it come from?).

I still love dessert  in all its wonderful forms but my palate has evolved a bit and I like things less sweet than I used to. I still love the occasional layer cake but am more drawn to fruit desserts, tarts, cookies, and quick breads these days. And I have to admit that I don’t feel so good after eating a lot of sugar. So I tend to reduce the amount of sugar in most recipes and make my jams with a quarter of the sugar I used to and think the result is often more flavorful. And besides the often-improved-flavor-factor I also know that refined sugars aren’t so good for us so, once again, moderation is here to save us!

I love David Lebovitz’s blog and implicitly trust every one of his recipes. However, I have become a bit of a pathological recipe tinkerer.  In part it’s because in order to properly use, e.g. adapt other published recipes you need to make them you’re own before you post them and because I’m just curious and I am Miss Cook With What You Have after all, so if I don’t have sour cream I’ll use yogurt or if I don’t have a scallions I’ll use a chunk of regular onion, etc. In any case one of David Lebovitz’s recent posts was about a zucchini cake. I tried hard not to tinker much so I only made two changes. I reduced the amount of sugar by a generous 1/4 cup and squeezed the grated zucchini out in a tea towel, removing some of the moisture and enabling me to pack more zucchini (but still adhere to his weight prescription) into this amazing cake. So instead of rewriting his recipe in my own words I’ll leave you with the link. Do be sure to use lemon zest, as he suggests in the body of the post but not in the recipe itself. And if you care to decrease the sugar, I do recommend it. Oh and I use my Zyliss cheese grater to grind nuts (almonds in this case) since it results in a much fluffier texture. I think food processor’s tend to turn them a bit oily and chunkier but either way will be fine I’m sure.

This cake instantly made my top-five dessert list. I think it’s that good. And since my summer squash plants are still producing we may have less ratatouille this year and more zucchini cake. Oh and I made the glaze exactly like he describes though mine soaked into the cake more and didn’t leave much of a visible coating. It did not seem to compromise the flavor and I definitely wouldn’t skip the glaze. So, go put those zucchini to use!

Ellis wishing I would actually let him eat that big of a slice of cake