Maybe it’s just the season, but it seems like everyone is cooking with rhubarb these days. Not that I am complaining. I love the distinct tartness it brings to desserts, making them feel suitable for breakfast, somehow. It is great in combination with berries or stone fruits, but also makes a refreshing foil to fish dishes. I bet it would make a decent tamarind substitute, and would add a seasonal zing to barbecue sauce. Foie gras with caramelized rhubarb? Camembert with rhubarb compote? It is one of the ingredients that inspires me the most right now, and I expect to see more of it on restaurant menus in sweet, savory, and palate-cleansing applications.
At any rate, the increasing proliferation of rhubarb at the market has been tempting me, and I’ve been trying to wait until the stalks were good and rosy before buying a bunch to play around with. When I mentioned to Nick to be on the lookout for good rhubarb, his first reaction was, “So you can make me a crumble?” How could I let him down? Besides, I love a good crumble myself.
Searching the internet in an attempt to figure out the approximate proportion of rhubarb to sugar to flour or cornstarch was ultimately an exercise in frustration. Trying to reconcile grams (my scale) and cups (the recipes) can be, well, trying. I ended up just winging it, as I so often do these days. But I think it’s making me a better cook in the long run.
The apricots were a last-minute addition, as I noticed that the ones I had bought a few days before were ripening swiftly, so into the mix they went. It turned out to be a good flavor combination – less expected than strawberries with rhubarb, the apricots gave the filling a subtle, musky sweetness which married nicely with the bright tartness of the rhubarb. If I’d had any cream in the house, I might have done something wacky like infusing it with the apricot kernels to make crème anglaise, but then I just would have been frustrated that I don’t have an ice cream maker here.
Recipe after the jump. (Yes, it’s done by weight.)
For the filling:
500 g/1lb. 1 oz. rhubarb, cut into ½” thick pieces
200 g/7 oz. apricot (about 4), cut into 6 or 8 wedges each
120 g/4 oz. sugar (1/2 cup)
60 g/2 oz. casonnade or turbinado sugar (1/4 cup)
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
Pinch sea salt
For the topping:
125 g/5 oz. all-purpose flour
75 g/3 oz. brown sugar
75 g/3 oz. unsalted butter, cold, cubed
Pinch sea salt
75 g/3 oz. rolled oats (more if you like your topping really oat-y)
- Preheat oven to 175 C/350 F.
- Combine filling ingredients in a bowl. Toss well to make sure the fruit is evenly coated. Pour into glass or ceramic baking dish (20 x 25 cm or similar – 8 x 8 inches should work).
- For the topping, combine all ingredients except the oats in a bowl. (This can even be the same bowl as the fruit was in, if it’s not too juicy.) Rub butter into dry ingredients with your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse meal and clumps together when you squeeze it in your hand. (You can also use a stand mixer with a paddle attachment – look for the mixture to start clumping.)
- Add oats and mix until evenly distributed. Sprinkle topping over fruit in baking dish. Bake 45 minutes to an hour, rotating the pan partway through baking time. When the top is golden brown and the filling is bubbling up around the sides, it’s ready.
- Let cool 15-20 minutes until warm. Serve with vanilla ice cream or a dollop of crème fraîche.
I went the crème fraîche route, and it was luscious. Its smooth tang balanced the sweet-tart fruit without dulling the intensity. We ate the crumble for breakfast, too, with a big scoop of plain yogurt. Delicious and nutritious.