Rhubarb season is upon us here in England. I know this because it seems like it’s everywhere right now. Bright stalks that look like celery dyed scarlet poke out from produce stalls, begging me to take them home. There’s just one problem — what do I do with all of this rhubarb?
After messing around with my cookbooks one day, I stumbled across a slew of rhubarb crumble recipes. I was hooked immediately. I’ve always thought of crumble desserts as summer dishes, the kind that you make after blueberry picking or when the peaches are ripe and you want the perfect topping for a really silky bowl of vanilla ice cream. To mix things up, I also added a few pears to make a rhubarb and pear crumble. As an added bonus, it’s also gluten free.
Rhubarb is really easy to work with. Cutting it feels just like celery. When I made my rhubarb and pear crumble, I chopped my stalks of rhubarb into large, 2 inch chunks. I figured that cooking the rhubarb down just a little before topping it with my crumble topping would soften it up, and I didn’t want the rhubarb to be completely lost among my pear chunks.
I added some lemon juice and zest along with some orange zest to brighten up my rhubarb and pear crumble. I liked the citrus acidity to balance out some of the tartness of the rhubarb. The pears were also key — there’s not much sugar in this recipe, so the sweetness really comes from the pears.
When the rhubarb and pear crumble came out of my oven, I saw the red-pink edges of rhubarb juice peeking out from the edges of the crumble crust, and my heart skipped a beat. It looked so cheerful, especially on the many gray days we’ve been having here in London.
To mellow out the tartness of my rhubarb and pear crumble, I poured a little heavy cream over the top (called double cream here in England). I suppose I could’ve made it into a whipped cream, but I liked the idea of the heavy cream mixing and mingling with the crumble juices to form an almost custardy filling.
When I served this as our sweet treat after dinner, the kids shrieked. “Mom, I LOVE crumble!” exclaimed Ge Ge. He, too, was just as delighted that a crumble had made it to our table in winter (shh…I haven’t reminded him that apples are also available in winter, and that apples are great in a crumble). I waited until I’d served individual portions to everyone before pouring the cream over, like so:
So, what say you? Do you think you’d give this rhubarb and pear crumble a go? Let’s just put it this way: I loved this crumble so much that later on, after the kids were in bed and the dirty dishes were piled up in the sink, I scooped more rhubarb and pear crumble into a dish and ate it standing up in the kitchen, eyes half-closed, humming to myself.
Hey, I needed more energy food before tackling those dirty dishes.
- For the filling:
- 1 pound rhubarb (about 3-4 long stalks)
- 3 Bosc or conference pears, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
- 2 tbsp soft light brown sugar
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- zest of 1 orange
- juice and zest of half of a lemon
- 2 tbsp butter
- For the crumble topping:
- ¼ cup hazelnuts (alternatively, use walnuts)
- 4 tbsp cold butter, diced
- ¼ cup self-rising gluten free flour (or use regular self-rising flour)
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 4 tbsp light brown sugar
- Optional: ice cream or heavy whipping cream, for serving
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a deep pie dish with butter and set aside.
- Melt the 2 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Mix together the rhubarb, pears, brown sugar, cinnamon, orange and lemon zest and lemon juice. Add the mixture to the saucepan with the butter and cook on low heat until the rhubarb is tender, about 10-12 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Add the hazelnuts, butter, flour, cinnamon and brown sugar into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until clumps form.
- Pour the rhubarb and pear mixture into the pie dish and spread the crumble topping over it. Bake for 30-40 minutes until the top is brown and the juices are bubbly. Serve with ice cream or heavy whipping cream.