When I was at a crossroads in my career in my late twenties, my mentor Diane Von Furstenberg encouraged me to strike out on my own, saying to me, “Every woman needs to be known for something, even if its for making the best apple pie.” I don’t think either one of us thought I would eventually take that idea so literally, but it seems that I have (if you switch the apple for rhubarb and pie for crumble). Yes, rhubarb crumble. That is my thing.
It began when Christopher planted rhubarb in the orchard beside our house. I was so excited to see those gorgeous pink and green stalks emerge from the ground, but I had no idea what to do with them. I have always been sort of bummed out when someone serves stewed rhubarb – or any kind of stewed fruit – for dessert. If I’m going to send my glucose levels soaring, it’s going to have to include butter and flour to be worth it.
I first tried a few rhubarb crumble recipes I found on the internet – finding them too fruity, or too sweet (if rhubarb can ever be called that), or too mushy. And then I discovered Rose Elliot’s version in The Guardian. I halved the sugar that is stirred into the fruit and skipped the wholemeal flour in favor of good old plain flour. My version has been a hit again and again – the tanginess of the rhubarb softened by the crispy, buttery, just sweet enough crumble top. My family demands it at nearly every festive summer meal and my friends sometimes call before joining us for a dinner party to make sure it’s on the menu.
For the fruit: 2 lbs rhubarb, 3 tbsp caster sugar
For the crumble: 1 ¾ cups flour, 2 tsp baking powder, 1 ⅓ cups soft butter or margarine (I use Lurpak “spreadable” butter), 1 ⅓ cups demerara sugar
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit. Trim the rhubarb and cut it into 1 ½ inch pieces. Please them in an shallow oval baking dish (see the photo of the one I use). Sprinkle over the caster sugar.
For the crumble, sift the flour and baking soda into a mixing bowl. Add the butter and massage it in with your fingers until the mixture looks like bread crumbs. Mis in the demerara sugar. Pour the crumble over the rhubarb, making sure it covers the fruit mixture completely.
Bake for 25-30 mins until the top is crisp and golden brown and the rhubarb tender.
Serve with heavy cream or creme fraiche. Or nothing. I like it on its own.