Sour and tart, yet sweet and smooth at the same time, rhubarb is a real treat for the tastebuds. Bang in season, now’s the time to embrace rhubarb in all its glory by bringing it to the table in a delicious crumble – April Carter from Rhubarb & Rose shows you how.
The classic crumble has always been a favourite of mine, but since I grew up with a cooking apple tree in the garden, childhood crumbles rarely featured rhubarb. Since then, rhubarb has been a seasonal fascination to me, especially the intensely sour and vibrantly pink forced variety from Yorkshire. I even named my blog after it.
From poaching to pickling, there are plenty of ways to celebrate the British rhubarb season, but this classic and simple pudding is one of the easiest and most satisfying. The sharpness of the rhubarb is tempered with golden caster sugar and flecks of vanilla, and the crumble brings texture and the taste of shortbread and pastry without the effort of making it. As with pastry and shortbread though, it’s important not to overwork the flour and butter so that your crumble is crispy rather than greasy.
A greasy topping isn’t the only thing that can make for a bad crumble. Too sweet, too sour, too high a ratio of fruit to crumble, as well as a soggy topping can all make for a disappointing end to your Sunday roast – so I’ve developed a few tips and a recipe to ensure rhubarb crumble success.
RULES FOR THE PERFECT RHUBARB CRUMBLE
Rhubarb tends to shrink down when cooked, so don’t be afraid to pile it high in your baking dish. For the perfect crunchy texture, keep your butter nice and cold and keep the crumble loose when covering the filling rather than pressing it down onto the rhubarb. You can make the crumble in advance and keep it in the fridge or freezer, if you like. Serve with vanilla custard or even cold with Greek yoghurt the next day.
HOW TO MAKE RHUBARB CRUMBLE
1 vanilla pod or ½ teaspoon vanilla paste
75g golden caster sugar
2 teaspoons cornflour
100g cold unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
150g plain flour
50g golden caster sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/gas 6. Grease an ovenproof dish with a little butter.
2. Chop the rhubarb into 3cm pieces, halving any thicker pieces lengthways. Halve the vanilla pod lengthways, scrape out the seeds and toss with the rhubarb, sugar and cornflour. Add the rhubarb to the prepared dish.
3. To make the crumble, cube the butter, then toss with the flour. Cut into the flour with a cutlery knife until the butter is in small pieces. Use your fingertips to rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs with a few larger pieces of butter. Stir in the sugar and 1 pinch of sea salt.
4. Tip the crumble mixture over the rhubarb without pressing down. Place on a baking tray to catch any drips, and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until golden and bubbling. Serve with hot vanilla custard or cold cream.
For more great ways to embrace this versatile veggie, check out our pick of the best rhubarb recipes.