Behold, the humble crumble.
Not much to look at. Kinda slumpy, really.
But this rhubarb-rye dessert’s beauty—warming and comforting and rich and heady with the cool spring’s first harvest—can’t adequately be captured by the camera. For that, you need your nose. And a spoon.
Sized for two generous portions (with maybe a little leftover for tomorrow’s breakfast). Easily scales up for a crowd, though. You may certainly use 100% all-purpose flour (or sub whole-wheat flour for the spec’d rye here), but I encourage you to give the rye a shot. The tag-team tang of rye and rhubarb plays beautifully off the buttery crust.
for the filling
- 2 cups rhubarb, in half-inch slices (about a half pound)
- 1-2 tbsp granulated sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract (or scrapings from a quarter bean)
- 1 tsp cornstarch
- 2 tsp grated orange zest
for the topping
- 4 oz cold, unsalted butter, diced (that’s half a stick)
- 1/4 cup each all-purpose flour and rye flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tbsp each demerara sugar (or light brown sugar) and granulated sugar
- pinch of kosher salt
- +/- 1 tbsp ice water
Preheat oven to 375º.
In a bowl, combine all the filling ingredients. Give everything a good toss to evenly coat the fruit, and set it aside to macerate.
Put the flours, baking powder, and butter in another bowl. Using your fingers, pinch and mash the butter pieces together with the flour until you have a scruffy mixture that looks a bit like shaggy pebbles (this usually takes me 3-4 minutes). Add the sugars, and work those in for another minute or so.
Using a fork, incorporate just enough ice water to lightly moisten everything. You’re still shooting for sandy, discrete lumps, not a proper, uniform dough, so go easy on the liquid—about a tablespoon should be plenty.
Put that bowl in the freezer while you prep your baking dish(es).
Butter a small pie plate, baking dish, or a couple ramekins (I used two 10-ounce Weck bowls), and set them on a lined baking sheet to catch any drips that might otherwise volcano over onto your oven’s floor. Tip in the fruit mixture.
Rescue the topping from the freezer, and scatter a healthy handful (or three) across the top of the fruit. Too much topping? Bag any leftovers and stick them in the freezer so you have a head start the next time you have a small amount of crumble-worthy fruit.
Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the top is golden and bubbling. Cool for a few minutes before you dive in. Serve warm. If you want to up the richness, add a scoop of ice cream, a turn of heavy cream, or a spoonful of vanilla yogurt.