Rhubarb Apple Crisp
With Orange Zest and Cinnamon
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I love a fancy dessert, full of technique and artistry – but this is not that dessert. This is simplicity. It’s also a great example of bright and joyous bounty of spring cooking. The first crisp rhubarb of spring combines with the apples, oranges and oats carried over from winter. It empties out the pantry while embracing the first fruit of the year (yes, yes, rhubarb isn’t technically fruit – but eggplant is, so who cares?).
This dessert is perfect for all sorts of reasons. Not a big fan of baking, but you want something sweet? This is ultra-easy and really forgiving. Perhaps you’ve wanted to try using rhubarb to do something for some time, but you didn’t want to get into more complex dishes? The rhubarb itself is wonderful, but in combination with apple and orange zest its part of a sweet fruity trinity. Or maybe you’ve just got a massive rhubarb patch, and you just can’t imagine what you’re going to do with it all (again). No matter what the case, this is the dessert for you. This is the dessert equivalent of Monday night cooking; it comes together in a snap and leaves you satisfied. In fact, go ahead and do it on Monday night. We need more dessert on Mondays.
Alright, I’ve convinced you it’s easy. Now here’s why you should really make this dish: it’s amazing. To be honest, I built this around the fact that I had a little less rhubarb than I thought, but now I wouldn’t have it any other way. The sourness of the rhubarb shines against the sweet and familiar apple, and the orange zest adds incredible depth and fragrance without overpowering. Another key to a crisp is, obviously, the crispy upper layer. In my opinion, you want the earthiness of the oats to stand out a little, which is why this crisp calls for much less sugar than some recipes out there. After all, if you’re looking to drown rhubarb in sweetness, you might as well not be using it.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering (I know I was) this is a crisp because the topping contains oats. Take the oats out and it’s a crumble. Replace the topping with biscuit dough and it’s a cobbler.
This is eeeeeeeasy, so don’t stress about it too much. The fruit amounts are ballpark, so don’t be afraid to go a little over or under depending on what you have available. You could also experiment with other fruits to compliment the rhubarb – berries would work very well (though you might want omit the orange zest or switch to lemon).
I will say one thing about the sugar – you could really use anything between 3/4 cup and 1 cup depending on the sweetness of the apple, the tartness of the rhubarb, and your own personal tastes. I think that a rhubarb crisp should still have some of the tangy tartness of the rhubarb intact, so I err on the lower end.
You can eat this hot or cold, on its own or with cream, ice cream, whipped cream… you get the picture.
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A good rhubarb and apple crisp has a lot of the charm and flavour you'd find in a good pie, but none of the hard work. But don't be fooled by its simple preparation - it's nuanced and amazingly tasty.
- 3.5 cups rhubarb chopped (~450g/1 lb)
- 3/4 cup sugar (see note)
- 3 tbsp all purpose flour
- 1 medium fuji apple or similar firm but sweet apple, peeled and chopped
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp Orange zest
- 1 cup flour
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup oats (steel cut or rolled, preferably)
- 1/2 cup butter melted
Preheat oven to 375 F.
Combine all of the filling ingredients together in a large bowl and mix thoroughly. Pour into a 7 x 11 (or 9 x 9) glass or enamel baking dish and set aside.
Combine the topping ingredients (you can use the same bowl as before without cleaning it) and mix thoroughly. Crumble evenly over the filling.
(Optional) Sprinkle a little extra brown sugar (as finely as you can manage) on top to help it brown a little.
Bake for 35 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Serve with ice cream of fresh whipped cream.
You could actually go anywhere between 3/4 cup and 1 cup on this dessert, so adjust to your own personal preference for sweetness, and based on the size and sweetness of the apple you use. Personally, I think it's important to let the taste of the rhubarb shine a little, so I don't like this overly sweet.