Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Recipe: Camp Dutch Oven Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp (Gluten Free)

Strawberry Rhubarb crisp prepared over an open fire
This recipe is a slight variation of my camp dutch oven apple crisp recipe. In this recipe I've doubled the flour and oats since we all agreed that a thicker crisp was tasty. Accordingly, I added more butter, sugar and salt to ensure enough flavor in that extra crisp bulk.

This is a gluten free rendition, but you could easily just use wheat flour and regular oats.

This recipe serves 8-10 people, and takes about an hour to prepare. We used strawberries and rhubarb because that's what was in the garden, but you could use just about any fresh fruit. We used about 2 pounds of strawberries and maybe 18 foot-long stalks of rhubarb.

  • Roughly 12 cups of sliced fruit
  • Roughly 1 cup sugar
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 1 cup gluten free flour
  • 1 cup gluten free rolled oats
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • cinnamon

2 fire rings: one for dutch oven
baking & one for a steady supply of coals
As always with camp dutch oven cooking, begin by preparing your fire rings. You'll need two fire rings: one for your maintenance fire from which you'll pull fresh hot coals, and one for cooking food in your dutch oven (see image at right).

In one of your fire rings, make a large fire with small pieces of wood. You want a bunch of hot coals to put above and below your camp dutch oven... and a large fire made of sticks (as opposed to logs) is the quickest way to get there.

Once you begin cooking, of course, the story changes entirely. You'll keep a medium-sized "maintenance" fire in one fire ring to provide fresh coals. It's important that this fire stays small enough so as not to burn the food in the dutch oven nearby. You'll likely add logs to the maintenance fire at this point to sustain an even burn without throwing off too much heat. The camp dutch oven itself will cook your food in the second fire ring at relatively low heat (mimicking a 350 degree F conventional oven for this recipe). 

So, with your fire started, it's time to prepare your crisp. 

Wash your rhubarb in cold water and slice off the leaves (they're poisonous). Also cut off the bottom part of the stem that was underground. Then, slice the rhubarb stems into roughly 1/2 inch thick sections. For the strawberries, wash them in cold water, and then cut the tops off and cut them into roughly 1/4 inch slices. 

The fruit mixture
Toss all your fruit into the camp dutch oven. Add lemon juice, 3/4 cup sugar, and 1 stick of butter (sliced into 1/4 inch thick pieces).

Stir the fruit around, and then add roughly 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Taste it. You should be able to detect a general increase in fruit flavor because of the salt, but you don't want the fruit to actually taste salty. Add salt if you feel it isn't salty and more flavor might be nice. You may also feel it needs more sugar. The raw fruit mixture should taste quite sweet. The proportions provided in this recipe are good guides, but the sweetness of the fruit you are using will also play a role. When in doubt, taste it!

When you're satisfied with the flavor of the fruit, add a pinch or two of cinnamon, stir things around, and taste it again. You should detect a hint of cinnamon, but no more. As the crisp cooks, the fruit will cook down and concentrate the cinnamon flavor, so don't overdo it!

For the topping, combine the flour, oats, the rest of the sugar (roughly 1/4 cup), another dash or two of cinnamon, and the other 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Mix things around, and then taste a pinch of the dry flour/oat mixture. It should taste sweet, salty, and good. If you aren't tempted to eat more of the flour/oat mixture, you need to add more sugar and/or salt.

There's no such thing as too much butter
Sprinkle your flour/oat mixture on top of your fruit mixture, and then add the remaining stick of butter (sliced) on top of the crisp.

To begin cooking the crisp, grab a single layer of coals from your main fire, and sprinkle them into the second (empty) fire ring in a 1-inch thick disc that matches the diameter of your dutch oven.

You are effectively creating a "burner" for your dutch oven. Place the camp dutch oven on the disc of coals, and then pile glowing coals on top of the lid about 3 inches high.

It's important to check in on your crisp frequently. To check your crisp, lift the lid off (coals and all), and place it on a clean surface (so you don't end up with dirt or ashes in your crisp after replacing the lid).  Visually inspect the crisp for any signs of burning, and try to get your nose down there to smell for any burning-sugar-type odors. I usually also reach in there with a wooden spoon to push things around a bit to make sure nothing's burning on the bottom.

The crisp cooking under a pile of coals
When you're satisfied that nothing is burning (yet), rotate the base of the dutch oven by 90 degrees, and then place the lid back on top. When you place the lid back on top, rotate it by 90 degrees in relation to the base.

The idea here is to even out the heat from top and bottom in relation to the food inside the dutch oven. Just make sure you rotate in the same direction... and don't worry too much about it as long as everything looks and smells fine inside.

Your crisp should bake for 45 minutes to an hour. Keep checking it every 5-10 minutes (depending on how quickly it seems to be cooking), and always be on the lookout for burning. It can happen quickly. That said, you will almost certainly need to add coals above or below the dutch oven to maintain a constant temperature. Keep rotating base and lid every time you check.

After 35 minutes or so, grab a piece of fruit out of your crisp and taste it. Keep doing this from here on out every five minutes... and once your test fruit pieces are coming out sufficiently soft, pull the crisp from the fire, remove lid coals, and serve after 5 minutes of cool-down.

Crisps are pretty robust, so if you aren't yet ready for dessert, keep a few lid coals on top and set it next to the fire to stay warm. Rotate it every 5-10 minutes to provide even heat.

If you have the means, serve with ice cream or whipped cream. You can also just pour heavy cream over the crisp when serving. If you're particularly adventurous (or happen to be French), you can add a few dollops of goat cheese on top of your crisp. It is divine.



  1. Looks great. Havn't tried the outdoor cooking yet but have seen the technique using charcoal for the heat. Seems 350 is the universal cooking themp for cast iron indoors or out.

  2. I haven't made a lot of desserts in my Dutch oven, I think I was afraid of the acidic fruit etching away at my seasoning layer. I've got a pretty good layer down on them by now, so I should probably give your crumble a go. It looks wonderful.

  3. Hey Ron,

    Yeah, a lot of dutch oven baking recipes target 350 degrees F. That said, I'm a big fan of checking in with the food as it cooks, and pushing the envelope when needed! Let us know how it goes when you begin this adventure.

    Speaking of... Kirby, my camp dutch oven is fairly new, and doesn't have a ton of seasoning. But it does just fine. I strongly recommend trying it out. It's really exhilarating to whip up an awesome dessert over the campfire. Let me know if you have questions or if any of the recipes I've posted are unclear. Thanks!


  4. Derek,

    I kind of improvised your Apple Crisp recipe. I doubled the flour, oats of that recipe and used half the butter. Guessed on the number of apples. Turned out nice. I lined the dutch over with aluminum foil for those that might be concerned with acid of the fruit eating away the seasoning layer. Easy cleanup.

    My guess on the apples for 12 cups of fruit was on the low side. I doubled the apples from your apple crisp recipe which was not enough to cover the bottom of the dutch oven so the flour/rolled oat mix dropped through to the bottom of the dutch oven. Was nice and crispy but I had to flake it off the bottom. No big deal as the butter kept the crust from sticking but the presentation was not as nice as if it had been on top.

    1. Hi there,

      Thanks for stopping by!

      After reading your comment, I am curious about what size dutch oven were you using. If I am reading your comment right, you used 16 apples (double the 8 apples called for in my camp dutch oven apple crisp recipe). Is that right? I am a little surprised that 16 peeled and sliced apples still didn't cover the bottom of your dutch oven (and kind of jealous!). Or am I reading that wrong?

      I check in on my crisps a lot while they are cooking... and often end up mixing the crisp with the fruit. As you noted... it's usually no big deal and still tastes delicious.

      Glad it turned out nice!


  5. Hi there,sounds really delicious. How much weight is in a stick of butter? Not used to that terminology, sorry.

    1. Hah! Sorry about that. A "normal" American stick of butter contains 4 ounces (half a cup). So two sticks of butter equals 1 cup.

  6. I tried your recipe out this evening. The flavor was really good, the top browned well, but the texture wasn't perfect and my result was quite runny.

    I tried the same amount of Rhubarb stalks as what you used, but our Rhubarb was quite big; I'm thinking this was what caused the excess liquid. My Mom, Dad and I loved the flavor.

    I did have a few variations that I opted with. I used brown sugar instead of regular sugar. I cooked with charcoal instead of wood. I used a mixture of Coconut and Almond Flour.

    One question; I used slow cook Oatmeal, should I have used quick brand Oatmeal?

    Your recipe was my 1st try with a Dutch Oven. I was very happy to find a Gluten Free recipe for Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp.

    1. Hey Paul,

      Welcome to dutch oven cooking!

      Glad you liked it. You may indeed have had a lot more water in your rhubarb than I did. You might consider adding a little water mixed with corn starch to help gel up the excess liquid. I typically use slow-cook oatmeal as well.

      Thanks for stopping by!



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