I don’t really enjoy baking. As with most things, it takes practice. And with most things, if I don’t get it on the first try, I throw a hissy fit and walk away.
I do enjoy cooking – which is more forgiving for customization (sometimes on purpose and sometimes not so on purpose). I do not do well with anything that requires precision hand-eye coordination or hand movements. So pretty decoration and icing are pretty much out. I can make a decent cooking, but squares, crumbles, and coffee cakes are more suited to my particular style of “close enough” baking.
I do like sweet things too, and so on this snow day in March with no good snacks left in the house, I went for the crumble.
I am a big fan of a local company called The Silk Road Spice Merchant. There’s a few competitors honing in on their territory, which consists of high end and hard to find spices, customized spice blends, and specialty bitters. Initially I was really only about their custom blends – after all, cinnamon is cinnamon, is it not? Apparently not. I sent a custom kit to my Mom and she raved about their Vietnamese Saigon Cinnamon. I guess like all things plant based, where it is grown and how it is processed makes a world of difference. I started with a few barbecue rub blends and am a huge fan of their Mayan Chili Powder – darker than the supermarket variety, it adds a rich deep flavour to slow cooked beef chili.
My favourite, though, is their Vanilla Sugar. Quite possibly the easiest thing on the planet for someone to make themselves, and yet – well, I’m just plain lazy. And just smelling it makes me feel like I’m nose deep in the Pillsbury Doughboy’s butthole.
I had a small bag of frozen rhubarb in the freezer that I picked up at The Calgary Farmer’s Market (not the only one in town, despite what the name implies. It is a year-round market, open on weekends, and sells a pretty broad variety of veggies, meats, beverages, and secondary food and craft products). The Innisfail Growers Cooperative keeps a freezer of products from area farms. I took a closer look on one particular Saturday in the winter and spotted pristine, vacuum pouched, frozen baby peas and had to try them. The rhubarb, similarly well packaged and looking like it just came out of the ground, was an afterthought. Also, prechopped – perfect for the lazy cook.
To add just a little bit more Canadiana (because, why the hell not), I pulled out my old copy of Margo Oliver’s Classical Canadian Recipes and found the perfect simple rhubarb crisp recipe. This may, in fact, be a cookbook swiped from my mother’s collection when I left home. Most of us have one of these and never look at it because they’re never as flashy and exciting as the newest “Simple Cooking with Celebrity Chef” book where every recipe has 16 ingredients, 15 of which you’ve never heard of.
Of course, I couldn’t let well enough alone, and had to play with the recipe a little bit. To balance the use of real, Dairyland butter, I tossed a couple of tablespoons of ground flax into the crumble mix. And then, to counter act any taste issues, I added a scoop of Silk Road’s Chai Baking Blend. And because 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon struck me as not nearly enough flavour, I substituted a quarter of the cup of the white sugar with my beloved Vanilla Sugar. Rounded out with a sprinkle of Vanilla Powder and more of the Chai Baking Blend on top.
Here’s the non-effed with version of the recipe:
The final outcome: