Cooking Smart with Chef Dave Smart: Strawberry rhubarb crumble

Published on June 28, 2014
Chef Dave Smart is the chef at Front and Central restaurant in Wolfville and author of the Cooking Smart column in the Kings County Advertiser and Register.

I grew up eating crumble. Apple, pear, rhubarb…basically any seasonal fruit with my mother’s secret crumble topping, baked in an oven until golden brown, served with evaporated milk or fresh cream.

Last week on my drive home from the restaurant, I noticed that local strawberries are here; yet another important waypoint on our seasonal produce. As with everything else at its peak of freshness, my mind sets to work on the myriad of ideas that could highlight the magic contained within. With crumble in mind and a good stash of rhubarb still in the fridge, I thought a strawberry-rhubarb crumble would be a great way to make a simple dessert to bring these two ingredients together. And, of course, being a chef, I wanted to find a way to have the best tasting filling and an extra crispy topping.

Thinking back to our apple crumble from this past fall, we actually cooked the components separately and brought them together in the bowl for a perfectly cooked pot of stewed fruit, infused with vanilla bean, then topped with a delicious and crunchy crumble. And to finish it off, a scoop of sour cream ice cream; one of our favourites we make here in the restaurant.

The best part about this approach is that this base recipe can be used to highlight whatever fruit is in season and fresh at your local farm market and with a complimentary spice/herb infusion (peaches and star anise, summer berries and cardamom, apples and ginger, just to name a few), you can have a crumble repertoire to take you through the year.

As for the sour cream ice-cream; it never goes out of style. Once you’ve had it, I am sure it will be one of your favourites as well.

Strawberry rhubarb filling


2 pints fresh strawberries – hulled and coarsely copped

2 cups rhubarb - chopped

1 vanilla bean – split and seeds removed (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)

1 cup of sugar

½ tsp salt



Combine all the ingredients on a pot and heat over medium heat, stirring often until the fruit starts to release its juices. Cover and simmer for an additional five to 10 minutes, until the fruit has softened. Uncover and continue to cook until the desired consistency has been reached.

Remove from heat, remove the vanilla bean pod, and allow to cool fully. Store in a sealed container in the fridge for up to three days.

Crumble topping


2 cups oats

2 cups all purpose flour

2 cups brown sugar

½ tsp baking soda

½ tsp baking powder

1 cup butter, melted


Combine the ingredients in a large bowl. Spread evenly on a baking sheet and bake in a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.

To serve:

Gently warm the filling over medium heat. When warm, transfer to serving dishes (or individual bowls) and top with crumble. Serve with a scoop of sour cream ice cream (recipe below) or fresh whipped cream.


Sour cream ice cream


2 cups cream

1 cup sugar

8 yolks

2 cups sour cream





Combine egg yolks and 1/2 cup sugar in a bowl and whisk together until combined and smooth. Should be a pale, uniform yellow color.

Heat cream and remaining 1/2 cup of the sugar of medium heat until sugar is fully dissolved.

Add small amounts of the hot cream mixture to the eggs, gradually whisking after each addition to temper the eggs. When half the cream is incorporated, add the egg/cream/sugar mixture to the pot, with the remaining hot cream and return to heat.

Gently cook until the custard reaches 170 F.

Remove from heat and add sour cream.

Cool over ice bath to stop cooking.

Once fully cooled, churn in ice cream maker.