Sunday, June 26, 2011

Chocolate Whoopie Pies With Salted Caramel Buttercream


"Of all the wonders of nature, a tree in summer is perhaps the most remarkable; with the possible exception of a moose singing "Embraceable You" in spats."

- Woody Allen




Hey everybody! It's summer!  I enjoy the sun so much more when it isn't around all the time. When I lived in Southern California where it's sunny everyday, I took it for granted. I was always longing for a climate that had different seasons. Now I've got that here in Washington, and I do enjoy that difference. Summer is a season I particularly enjoy.

I've been spending my days out in the garden. I grow vegetables and herbs. We also have roses and fruit trees. I'm growing nasturtiums as well since they are easy to grow and edible. Heck we have so many things growing it's hard to keep track. We live on 10 acres, which is great, but also, work.

The pies call for buttermilk, I like to use this Bulgarian Buttermilk in mine. It's higher in fat than most buttermilk, so it makes for a rich end result.

Yes, I've been busy, but never too busy for baking. These whoopie pies are one of my favorite things in the world. A sure thing. A dessert I bring to parties when I want to please everyone. They are fun and tasty enough for children, but with a slight sophistication from the hint of salt in the buttercream, for the adults. I just love them. The cakes are soft and full of rich chocolate flavor, and the salted caramel buttercream is absolutely divine. A go to frosting of mine.


They are simple to make as well. The cake portion is quite straight forward.

The caramel buttercream also simple. A standard American buttercream essentially, with caramel mixed in.  I know, I know, most people don't consider making caramel of any kind, simple. But trust me. I've taken pictures of all the steps the caramel goes through, to make it as easy as well, pie. It doesn't even require a thermometer.



The secret to making caramel is the secret to most everything in life.

 Which is really paying attention and being present.




Some Dont's when making the caramel.

Don't walk away while it's on the stove.
Don't try to rush it.
Don't do other things while making it. (It only takes 10 minutes or so.)

If you follow these simple steps when making this recipe, you will be richly rewarded, my friend.









Chocolate Whoopie Pies with Salted Caramel Buttercream

makes 24 pies

Recipe for pies inspired by this recipe on Epicurious

Salted Caramel Buttercream recipe is my own.


Start the buttercream first. (Recipe for pies is after the buttercream recipe, below.)


Salted Caramel Buttercream

makes enough to fill 24 pies, or frost about 24 cupcakes


Ingredients

1 cup (200 g.) granulated sugar
2/3 cup (160 ml) water
1 cup (240 ml) heavy cream
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 sticks (339 g.) unsalted butter- or if you use salted, just cut back on the salt, (below)
1-2 tsp. fine sea salt
2 cups (230 g.) powdered sugar

Instructions

First, get your mise en place ready for the caramel, it will go fast. Measure the cream in a slightly larger vessel than needed. Add the vanilla to it, and place it next to the stove.

In a saucepan where you can see the bottom, like stainless steel, (I used an off white color Le Cruset pan.)
This is important because you will make decisions based on it's color. So if you use a black pan for example, it will be harder to see the color. (I've done it, it is possible, but I don't recommend it.)

Over medium high heat, stir together the granulated sugar and the water. Stop stirring after the sugar has dissolved. Bring to a boil over medium high heat.


This is just the sugar and the water boiling at the start. It's clear now.

Pull up a chair, you're going to sit and watch this for about 6-8 minutes, till it turns light golden, (below.)
During this time, don't stir it. Right when it gets to this point, remove it from the heat. You can swirl the pan a little if you feel like you can't see the color well. You must, I repeat, you must catch it right at this point. If you let it go any longer, it will turn to black in what feels like an instant.



This is the color you want. Remove it from the heat now.



I took this picture about 5 seconds after the picture above, after I removed it from the heat, to illustrate how much darker it turned in such a short time.



As soon as you remove it from the heat, add the cream/vanilla mixture and stir. It will boil and sputter up. (is that a word?) The sugar will turn to a hard rock, basically. You will feel like you have done something wrong. You haven't.

After adding the cream and vanilla, the sugar turns into a hard ball. It's o.k. it will dissolve.

Continue stirring until the sugar dissolves and becomes homogeneous with the cream. If you feel like it's not happening fast enough, go ahead and put the pan on low heat to help it along.


After stirring for a few moments, it's on it's way to becoming homogeneous.



Here it is when it's finished, it just need to cool.



But wait, it's not quite done. Strain it first to make sure you don't have any bits of sugar that didn't dissolve.

Using a fine mesh strainer placed over a heat proof bowl, pour in the caramel to remove any bits of sugar remaining.

Set it aside to cool while you start on the pies.

Set the caramel aside until it's cool to the touch. About 1 1/2- 2 hours. You can also make this part the night before, and let it cool overnight.

While it's cooling, start making the pies. (recipe below.)



In the bowl of a stand mixer, (or a large bowl with a handheld) mix the butter and salt (start with 1 tsp., add more later when finished to taste) on medium high speed until very light and fluffy. About 4 minutes.

Add the caramel. Beat well. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Then mix again. Add the powdered sugar and mix very well, until very light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Taste it and see if it needs more salt for your taste. 

At this point it should be a good consistency for the whoopie pies. If you are piping the buttercream onto cupcakes, you may want it a bit firmer. If you do, just refrigerate it for 30 minutes to an hour and proceed.


For The Pies

Ingredients

4 cups (601 g.) all-purpose flour
1 cup (114 g.) Dutch-process or natural cocoa powder (my favorite cocoa is natural high fat cocoa from Penzeys, it gives these cakes a rich chocolate flavor)
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoon salt
2 cups (480 ml) well-shaken buttermilk
3 teaspoons vanilla
2 sticks (1 cup) (227 g.) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups (300 g.) packed brown sugar
2 large eggs

Directions

 Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, 180 degrees Celsius, or Gas Mark 4.

Whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt in a bowl until combined. Stir together buttermilk and vanilla in a small bowl.

Beat together butter and brown sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes in a standing mixer or 5 minutes with a handheld, then add eggs, beating until combined well. Reduce speed to low and alternately mix in flour mixture and buttermilk in batches, beginning and ending with flour, scraping down side of bowl occasionally, and mixing until smooth.

With a 2 Tablespoon size disher, scoop batter onto parchment lined or Silpat lined baking sheets, leaving 2 inches of space between each cookie. Put your clean hand under the faucet and get it wet. Gently pat the mounds down a little to prevent them from being too round on top.


Bake in upper and lower thirds of oven, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, for about 10 minutes. They are done when tops are puffed and cakes spring back when touched. Don't overbake.


Transfer with a metal spatula to a rack to cool completely.

When cool add about a Tablespoon of buttercream to the middle of one of the cookies, and place another on top to make a sandwich. If not serving them right away, place them in an airtight container.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Orange Juli-ish





"Old as she was, she still missed her daddy sometimes."

 ~Gloria Naylor



I grew up drinking Orange Julius. There was a location in every mall in Orange County it seemed like, (this is before they joined DQ) and I grew up at the mall. I thought every body did. Now that I live in rural Western Washington where the nearest mall is about 45 minutes away, (and it's not even a good mall)  I see how naive and ignorant I was in my thinking.


 
Orange County, California does have the best malls around I must say. South Coast Plaza being the best, still after all these years. As a child I rode that Merry Go Round. As a teen I shopped for school clothes in it's stores, and as a young adult I drank in it's bars.


 
And why not spend time at the mall? Especially in the Summer when school is out and it's 95 degrees outside. There is the movie theater, shopping, restaurants. In fact something my dad and I frequently did on weekends was eat at a restaurant in a mall, and then walk around the shops. Sometimes an inside mall, sometimes an outdoor mall, like Fashion Island or Irvine Spectrum. And like a good dad he would go with me in the stores and act interested in whatever I showed him. That is in fact one of the things I miss most about living in Orange County, the mall times with my dad. On this Fathers Day, I wish I was spending time with him doing something he wants to do! Happy Fathers Day, Dad. I hope to see you soon!





 
This drink is a spin off of an Orange Julius, but it's much creamier, and I think much better. It reminds me more of a 50/50 bar, or a creamsicle. A delicious and refreshing Summer drink, whatever you call it.

Make it an adult drink by adding a few shots of rum or vodka. Vanilla Absolut would be divine.


A little birdie snacking on my lettuce





Orange Juli-ish

makes 2 drinks

inspired by
this recipe from Food.com


Ingredients

6 ounces (177 ml.) frozen orange juice concentrate
1 cup (250 ml.) milk
1/2 cup (125 ml.) water
1/3 cup (67 g.) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (125 ml) whipped cream, or cool whip
1 cup (138 g.) ice, (if you don't have a strong blender like a Vita Mix, you may need to crush the ice first.)

2 shots of alcohol, vodka, rum, or vanilla Absolut. -optional


Instructions

Add everything to the blender except ice. Blend well. Then add the ice and blend until smooth.

Monday, June 13, 2011

S'mores Bars


"The campfire burns. It’s 9:08.
I feel so good cuz I just ate
Two graham crackers, and chocolate, too,
With marshmallow turned to warm, white goo.
A treat indeed, a dripping mess.
A touch of melty joy -- oh yes!
It’s bedtime soon, but I’m not done.
I simply cannot stop at one.
Because, you see, it takes three s’mores
To make a night of happy s’nores."

-Gregory K.




I've always loved S'mores. I guess it's because I was a Girl Scout. I really enjoyed my tenure as one. The camaraderie, the team spirit. There was the time we all went on a field trip to Catalina Island where I got third degree burns from laying on the beach for days with no one to tell me to wear sunscreen. Good times. I don't even remember being sad about the burn. I just remember I had such a good time it was worth it. There were the times at camp, the fun and games. Great friends and greater memories.



Girl Scouts invented S'mores, didn't you know? In 1927 a woman named Loretta Scott Crew wrote in a publication called, "Tramping and Trailing With the Girl Scouts," the first recipe for a S'more. We did indeed make many s'mores during my days as a girl scout. We did not however, do any tramping, I'm happy to report.




These S'more's bars are so delicious. I can't stop eating them. I mean it. If you like S'mores, you will love these bars. They are the perfect treat to bring to a summer party or picnic. Kids and adults will love them. I'm telling you, you will be wanting some more.










S'more's Bars

inspired by this recipe

Ingredients

18 graham crackers (2 packages) (two thirds of a 14.4 oz box) (280 g.) or 2 cups crumbs
2 sticks (1 cup) (230 g.) butter- melted
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
3 cups milk chocolate chips (420 g.) (about 15 oz.)
3 1/2 cups (174 g.) (6 oz.) mini marshmallows

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, 180 degrees Celsius, Gas Mark 4.

Line a 9x13 pan with heavy duty foil with 4 inches overhang off the sides to create a sling to lift the bars out when they are finished. Don't use parchment like I did, the sides burned under the broiler. Grease the foil.

In a food processor, grind the graham crackers into crumbs. Pour the crumbs into a large bowl and add the salt and melted butter. Mix together, it will resemble wet sand. Add the egg and mix well. Set aside 1/2 cup of the crumb mixture for topping.

Press the rest of the crumb mixture into the prepared pan. Bake for about 15 minutes, until golden brown.

Let the crust cool for a bit while you melt the chocolate.

Put the chocolate chips in a pan on the stove on medium heat stirring until completely melted. Or microwave the chips on medium power stirring after 2 minutes.

Preheat the broiler.

Spread the melted chocolate chips evenly onto the crust. Sprinkle the marshmallows onto the chocolate pressing them in a bit. Sprinkle the reserved crumbs onto the marshmallows, getting the crumbs in the spaces around the marshmallows.

Place pan 6 inches under the broiler for 1-2 minutes until the marshmallows are golden brown. Seriously don't walk away. They will burn in no time.

Refrigerate them until the chocolate hardens slightly, about an hour. Remove the bars with the foil, cut into squares. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Rhubarb Nut Bread



"The first gatherings of the garden in May of salads, radishes and herbs made me feel
like a mother about her baby - how could anything so beautiful be mine. And this emotion
of wonder filled me for each vegetable as it was gathered every year. There is
nothing that is comparable to it, as satisfactory or as thrilling,
as gathering the vegetables one has grown."

- Alice B. Toklas





I feel lucky to have a friend who provides me with fresh rhubarb. He grows it because it's one of the few vegetables that comes back every year. He only grows things that are easy. He includes rhubarb as one of them. (I won't tell him I actually have some growing, but my green thumb isn't as good as his, apparently, because mine doesn't grow as well.)



Rhubarb is one of those things I think of when I think of a homegrown vegetable. My husband told me his parents grew it and he would eat it straight up, like eating a stalk of celery. I asked, just to be clear, "you ate it plain? Without dipping it in sugar, even?" "Yup. Straight up." Was his reply. I asked him to take a bite again, today to see if he could still eat it without puckering unbearably. He bit into that rhubarb, and sure enough, he looked at me and said, "what? It's good." He likes tart things. I've never understood that man's palette.


I've always liked to keep a vegetable garden. My first one started when I was living with my father in my late teens. One day I had the idea I wanted to grow some vegetables in his back yard. I grew zucchini, and it worked! I made zucchini. It was quite a thrill. I also planted cantaloupe seeds. My father and I both like the fruit, so I thought it would be a good idea. Well, I was a teenager, remember, so I didn't actually learn how to garden. I just planted some seeds and hoped for the best. Every day I would come home and look at my cantaloupe plant. My dad and I would stare at it, and one of us would say, "no fruit yet?" "No",  said the other.  This went on for days, perhaps weeks. Till one day I came home and looked at that melon plant, and lo and behold, there was a full size cantaloupe! For a split second I thought it had grown overnight. But alas, my father had purchased a cantaloupe at the store and placed it there near the vine. My dad has such an inventive sense of humor. I'll never forget that day. I secretly giggle when I think of it.



Speaking of my father, he's a wonderful gardener himself. Only he grows flowers. He's a photographer, (a really great one), he takes pictures of them. You can see his Flickr page here. Many of his works adorn my walls.



I've been making rhubarb bread quite a bit lately to get it right. This recipe is the sweet result of all the trial and error. I'm serious about my quick breads. I'm known for my Famous Banana Bread, for goodness sake. A quick bread from my kitchen needs to be really moist with lots of flavor. This bread is loaded with flavors of brown sugar, walnuts and rhubarb of course. The sweet, nutty topping is my favorite part.






Rhubarb Nut Bread

makes 2 loaves


Ingredients for bread

1 1/2 cups (265 g.) brown sugar, packed
1 cup (8 oz, 237 ml.) neutral oil (I used light olive oil, but you could use vegetable oil)
2 eggs
1 cup (8 oz.or 227 g.) sour cream or yogurt
1 Tablespoon Vanilla
2 1/2 cups (375 g.) flour
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking soda
2 1/2 cups (340 g. or about 12 oz.) diced rhubarb- small pieces if you don't want it very tart, chop it in slightly larger pieces if you want the rhubarb to be more prominent

1/2 cup (70 g.) chopped walnuts


Ingredients for topping

1/2 cup (55 g.) brown sugar
3 Tablespoons flour
1/2 cup (70 g.) walnuts- half of them chopped, half of them left in bigger pieces (divided)
3 Tablespoons soft butter

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, 180 degrees Celsius, Gas Mark 4. Grease 2- 8x4 inch loaf pans, set aside.

In  the bowl of a stand mixer, or a large bowl with a hand mixer, blend together the brown sugar, oil, and eggs. Add the sour cream, (or yogurt) and the vanilla, and mix well again. Add the flour, baking soda and salt and blend well until all is incorporated. Add the rhubarb and nuts and mix well.

Pour batter into the greased pans.

Make the topping. In a medium bowl with a fork, blend the soft butter, brown sugar and the chopped nuts until crumbs form. Divide the mixture between the two loaves. Then sprinkle the larger walnut pieces over the topping.

Bake for 50 minutes to an hour. Bread is done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Mexican Horchata


"If a June night could talk, it would probably boast it invented romance."

- Bern Williams





The weather right now in Western Washington is just perfect. Sunny with a slight breeze. Heaven. In the warm weather you need more refreshing, delicious things to drink, in my opinion. I enjoyed my watermelon cocktail last weekend so much, I wanted to make something else special to drink.




Since my watermelon cocktail was similar to an agua fresca with some booze added, I had Mexico on my mind. So here's another hispanic drink. Mexican Horchata is a creamy, sweet, rice drink flavored with cinnamon.


Wiki tells me  it's made different ways in different countries. Sesame seeds in Puerto Rico, for instance. In El Salvador it's made with Morro seeds, not rice.



Another interesting tidbit from Wiki is, some Hispanic bars in Southern California use horchata as a mixer in a cocktail known as a "Rice Rocket." The drink is made of two parts horchata, one part coconut-flavored rum, and a dash of Goldschl├Ąger over ice. I grew up in Southern Cal, went to plenty of bars, and I never knew that. Sounds delicious. You learn something new everyday.




Seattle from the freeway
For today's totally off topic photo, is a picture of Seattle I took from the freeway, while driving (bad, I know) home from seeing the documentary I AM. Such a great movie. That was the second time I had seen it. If it's playing in your area, and it speaks to you, go see it. You won't be disappointed.
(Just don't go alone and take pictures through your car window while driving.)




Mexican Horchata

this makes about 4 tall glasses

Ingredients

1 cup (185 g.) uncooked white rice

3 sticks cinnamon (mine were about 4 inches long) (make sure they are fresh) plus longer ones for garnishing, if desired

8 1/2 cups (2 liters) water

1/2 to 1 cup (100 g.to 200 g.) sugar (depending on how sweet you want it)

2 tsp vanilla

Instructions

Rinse the rice under a fine mesh strainer. Place the rice, cinnamon sticks, and 2 cups (473 ml) of the water into a large bowl or large measuring cup with a spout (4 cup size or more) and cover.

Place in fridge and let sit for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Remove the cinnamon sticks and pour the rice/water mixture into a blender. (I used a Vitamix.) Blend well, for 3-5 minutes or so.

Strain it into a pitcher. Then put the rice/water mixture back into the blender container and add the remaining 6 1/2 cups of water. Add the vanilla then add the sugar. If you don't like things too sweet, add 1/2 cup (100 g.) of the sugar first,  then taste it and see if you want more. If you want it sweeter, add the remaining sugar and blend well again.

Chill, stir, and serve. Over ice is nice too.

Garnish with a cinnamon stick if you want.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Any Fruit Crisp

individual blackberry crisps



"Apples in the orchard


Mellowing one by one;

Strawberries upturning

Soft cheeks to the sun;

Roses faint with sweetness,

Lilies fair of face,

Drowsy scents and murmurs

Haunting every place;

Lengths of golden sunshine,

Moonlight bright as day,—

Don't you think that summer's

Pleasanter than May?"

- Thomas Bailey Aldrich, Marjorie's Almanac





Many years ago, I worked as a nanny. One of my jobs in this field was working for a couple. This couple had a chef. They also had 3 housekeepers. The Mrs. didn't work. She spent time going to the gym, and to the salon. Having lunch and shopping. Three times a week a masseuse came to the house for her, because she was stressed. We vacationed in 5 star hotels, I, the nanny, always had my own large suite. One might say they were rich. But they always assured me, "I know you think we're rich, but we're not. We have friends who own their own planes, and we only fly first class. We have friends who own their own vacation homes in every city they vacation in, instead we have to stay in hotels."

So they weren't rich.

It's all a matter of perspective. Or a state of mind, I guess.



The point of me telling this story, is because this chef that worked for them, became a friend of mine in that lonely house. I only had one well behaved baby to watch, so I had time on my hands. I would watch this chef, and he would teach me things. His last job was as an executive chef in a large successful restaurant. He didn't want restaurant hours any more. The pay wasn't much different, he told me. I was fortunate enough to eat those meals he prepared, and wow, that food opened my eyes. I didn't know you could make food taste that good out of someones kitchen.

Prepping the apricots

Something he would make often is a fruit crisp. The couple liked them, so there was always one in the fridge. He taught me how to make it, this recipe is his recipe, if you could call it a recipe. He didn't use measurements. He would make them with any type of fruit. Most of the time it was made with berries, sometimes a combination of them. This was in California, so most fruit was readily available. And if money is not an issue, you have the entire produce section at whole foods at your fingertips.

California Apricot Crisp

Since I haven't been feeling well, I've been making things that are easy. A crisp is what I think of when I don't want to work and I have fruit on hand. I grew up calling them cobblers, actually. This site goes into the difference between cobblers, crisps, slumps etc. I learned that what I make is really a crisp. The chef called it a crisp, I always referred to them as cobblers.

individual blackberry crisps, unbaked

In the past few weeks, I've been making many different crisps. First I made a strawberry rhubarb one. That was so delicious, I made another. This time it was California apricot. I was driving past a store in an area where I don't usually go, and I saw a sign, "fresh California apricots" so I had to purchase some. This one was my favorite. Maybe because I really love apricots. This variety is a little tart. So when added to a crisp the sweet/tart combo is just divine.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp, unbaked

And I made even more. There was a bing cherry crisp. I just used the last of my bing cherries in the freezer. Last summer I purchased 30 pounds of cherries from an orchard in Oregon.

Then I made some individual blackberry crisps. Another favorite fruit of mine.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp, baked

This dish is really versatile. The above strawberry rhubarb crisp, I used half oats and half flour in the topping. For the others I used all flour. I used white sugar in these, but sometimes I use brown. Most fruit would work. My favorite is fresh peaches. I cannot wait until the summer is here for fresh peaches. I just drooled thinking about it.


bing cherry crisp

Plums, apricots, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, even apples all good choices for a crisp.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp



A deer that lives in our backyard






Any Fruit Crisp

This crisp recipe makes enough topping to generously top a deep dish pie plate, or a 8 inch square pan size of fruit. Or about 4 individual crisps.

This is really just a guide, an idea. You can add spice to the crumb topping for instance, or citrus zest to the fruit. Brown sugar, or white sugar etc. You get the idea.

Ingredients for the fruit

fresh fruit. like apricots, berries, plums, peaches etc cut into bite sized pieces.-The way I do this is I put enough fruit in a deep dish pie plate to fill it to half, or 3/4 of the pan. The apricot one I made didn't make it to half the pan, but I made it anyway, I just had less fruit, more topping. That doesn't bother me. The strawberry/rhubarb one I made I filled a little more than 3/4's and as you can see in the picture, it oozed a bit. That was o.k. with me too.

(*If you want to make strawberry rhubarb see my note below.)

(*for an apple crisp, see note below also.)

2 Tablespoons flour

1/2 cup (100 g) sugar- adjust this to your fruit, if you have more tart fruit, use 1 cup

Topping

1 1/2 cups (225 g.) flour, or use half oats and half flour
3/4 cup  (125 g.) sugar or use brown sugar
1 1/2 sticks, 3/4 cup  (174 g.) butter - softened - see notes in recipe
1/4 tsp. salt

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, 200 degrees Celsius, or Gas Mark 6.

Remove the fruit from the pie plate and place it in a large bowl. Add the flour and sugar and combine. Put it back in the pie plate or square pan, or use individual ramekins.

Make the topping. Add the flour, sugar and salt to a bowl. Cut the butter into chunks and cut the butter into the flour mixture using a pastry cutter, or I've also done this using a fork, (if you use a fork, bring the butter to room temperature first, it will be easier, or you can use your hands and rub the butter into the flour mixture) until pea size crumbs appear. You can also make the topping in the food processor, if using the food processor make sure the butter is cold. Just add dry ingredients, then add butter in pieces and pulse until butter is in pea size crumbs.

Add the topping to the fruit and bake it for about 40 minutes, until it's golden brown and delicious.

Serve warm with ice cream. Yum.

*Strawberry Rhubarb- To make a strawberry rhubarb crisp, use half strawberries and half rhubarb. Set the strawberries aside. Place the rhubarb in a saucepan and add sugar. I used about 2 cups of rhubarb and used 1 cup sugar. I also added the zest of an orange. I loved this, but it's optional. Cook the rhubarb with the sugar (and zest-optional) for a few minutes till it's soft. Taste it, make sure it tastes good, and if it's sweet enough, if not add more sugar to taste.
Toss the strawberries in 1/2 cup sugar, then add the rhubarb mixture, stir then add to your pie plate, square dish, or individual ramekins. Then continue with the recipe as instructed above.

*Apple- Slice apples, peeled or unpeeled, about 1/4 inch thick. Add flour and sugar and toss, add a little cinnamon too if you wish. Add fruit mixture to pie plate, or square dish. Then add topping as instructed above. The main difference with apple is the fruit needs to cook more than say, berries. So cook it at 350 degrees Fahrenheit, 180 degrees Celsius, Gas Mark 4. For about an hour. Until the tops browns nicely.