Yet another rhubarb crumble

Pick me, pick me!

Pick my rhubarb recipe! Ever since many North American bloggers got their hands on the first crop of the year, it’s officially been rhubarb season in the blogosphere. Us, we’ve had it for months. In March we start to get the ‘forced’ variety, which is grown indoors, but now we’re into the garden variety, which is really piled high in the shops. When Edward saw local rhubarb at the farmers’ market last weekend, he asked if I would make him a crumble. Or as he pronounces it, a ‘croomble’.

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First, I think we should talk crumbles v crisps. This might get controversial, but here’s my take. In Canada (and the US) we eat crisps. In the UK we eat crumbles. Some people think there’s no difference; that it’s a baked fruit dessert with a sugar/butter/flour topping and we happen to have a different name for it on each side of the pond.

But I think they’re slightly different puddings, based on a slightly different topping. If you look a bit closer, crumble toppings tend to consist of just butter, flour and sugar with a bit of leavener. This dessert is found almost exclusively in the UK; I’m not sure I have ever eaten a crumble in Canada. On the other hand, crisp toppings always have oats in them, and sometimes extra ‘stuff’, too – coconut, for example. They’re, well, crispier. My mum’s go-to winter dessert was apple crisp, yet I have never encountered a crisp in the UK. These are different desserts, eaten on different sides of the Atlantic.

While I generally prefer the crisp to the crumble (it’s a more delicious topping), Edward wanted a ‘croomble’ and so a proper English ‘croomble’ he got. And who better to turn to than the woman who first introduced me to the crumble concept many years ago – Nigella.

Her recipe is very basic; no additional flavouring beyond a bit of vanilla. I happen to love both orange zest and fresh ginger with rhubarb, so I added a grating of both to the filling. You could also add some cinnamon to the topping, though none of these additions are strictly necessary. This is a simple pudding for rhubarb lovers. No frills needed apart from some ice cream, creme fraiche, or our favourite, warm vanilla bean custard.

Rhubarb Crumble
Adapted from Feast by Nigella Lawson

Serves 4 to 6

1 kg (2 lbs) rhubarb, to give 750 g (1 1/2 lbs) when trimmed and chopped into 1-inch pieces
50 g (1/4 cup) sugar
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
1 Tbsp cornflour/starch
1 tsp grated ginger (optional)
grated zest of an orange

150 g (1 1/3 cups) plain or all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
110 g (scant 1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cold and diced
3 Tbsp sugar
3 Tbsp brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 190C/375F.

Combine the rhubarb, sugar, butter, vanilla, cornflour and zests (if using) in a saucepan and cook for about five minutes, until the rhubarb is slightly soft.

Pour mixture into an ovenproof dish. The filling should cover the bottom of the dish.

Combine the flour and baking powder in a bowl and rub in the butter using your fingers. The dough will be quite sticky; don’t worry if the mixture is not uniform and there are some large bits of butter in the dough. Quickly and lightly rub in the sugars.

Scatter the topping over the fruit. Bake in the oven 35 to 45 minutes, until the filling is bubbling and the top is browned. Cool slightly and serve with custard, ice cream, creme fraiche, cream or yogurt.