“I have some rhubarb we used in the lab today that you can cook with if you want,” he said – and so began this post, with the offer of post-school-experiment rhubarb from my schoolteacher boyfriend. Understandably, I was initially a little hesitant to take this off his hands, with visions of all the terrible things one might do to rhubarb under laboratory conditions floating through my head. However, further investigations revealed that only one stick of rhubarb had met its end at the hands of Greg’s class of budding teenage chemists and, thankfully, the rhubarb that was being offered was untouched by bunsen burner, hydrochloric acid or radiation (as you might tell, I have very little idea as to what goes on in a school laboratory these days).
After some debate as to what I might do with this unexpected gift of rhubarb, I realised that there’s only really one thing that one does make with rhubarb: crumble. However, I’ve been slightly skittish about crumble for years, due to my mother force-feeding it to us continually for most of our childhood. We got so. sick. of. crumble. For years afterwards, I believed that I didn’t like fruit crumble.
And yet, after dubiously trying some years later, I experienced the earth shattering realisation that crumble is nice. Not only that, but crumble is really nice. Delicious, sugary topping and tart, tangy fruit, topped, usually, with refreshing natural yogurt or lovely warm custard. It’s delightful. Mum really did do some damage. However, the problem is that Greg and I are unlikely to be able to make it through a whole crumble pudding between us. Consequently, my next thought was of rhubarb crumble bars, ones that I could freeze and let Greg get out when he felt like taking one into work with him. I had a Google for fruit crumble bar recipes online, and found so many great ideas. This final version posted below was inspired by a couple of different recipes I found (particularly this one for rhubarb and strawberry bars by the Minimalist Baker and this one for raspberry bars by ilovevegan.com), which I combined and adapted to my own purposes. 😏
The end result is a delicious rhubarb bar that’s vegan, naturally sweetened and, of course, gluten free – a guilt-free little snack that’s full of flavour without being heavy on any of the bad stuff. Using a different recipe for the base and topping lends it different textures, while I also made some adaptations to use unrefined sweeteners: dates in the base as a natural sweetener, and maple syrup in the top. There’s less sugar in the rhubarb than appeared in some recipes as, with the base and topping, I just don’t think you need it. Plus there’s a little bit of ginger, which always goes so beautifully with rhubarb.
This recipe is for crumble snack bars, but you could also just slice it into bigger pieces for a proper dessert or dig in there with a serving spoon like a regular crumble. Throw in some cream, custard, or natural yogurt (or dairy-free alternatives, if you like), and it would be delicious served warm!
Rhubarb crumble bars [gluten free, refined-sugar free and vegan]
Makes 10 bars
For the base:
- 100g gluten-free oats
- 100g almonds (I used a mixture of whole and flaked)
- 75g coconut oil, melted
- 35g pitted dates
For the rhubarb:
- 400g rhubarb, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
- 60ml water
- 1 tbsp coconut sugar
- 1 tbsp cornflour
For the topping:
- 100g gluten-free granola
- 40ml maple syrup
- ¼ cup Coconut oil
- 40g gluten-free plain flour
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- Preheat the oven to 175C and line an 8×8 inch sandwich tin with baking paper. Blitz the oats and almonds in a food processor until fine. Add in the melted coconut oil and the dates, and then blitz again until it comes together into a dough.
- Tip the dough into the sandwich tin and press it down into an even layer. Bake in the oven for ten minutes until golden and even. Remove from the oven and set aside.
- While the base is baking, add the rhubarb, water, sugar and cornflour to a saucepan and cook over a low-medium heat for seven to eight minutes. Keep an eye on it and stir as necessary to keep it from sticking. When it is nice and softened, take it off the heat and then put aside.
- For the crumble topping, add the granola to the food processor and blitz until there are no large lumps of granola left and the texture is nice and even. In a separate bowl, beat together the coconut oil and the maple syrup until combined, before adding in the granola, flour and ground ginger.
- Next, it’s time to assemble everything! Spread the rhubarb over the cooked base, making sure you have a nice, even layer. Use your hands to top this with the granola mixture, sprinkling it over the rhubarb from above until you again have an even coverage and no granola mixture left.
- Return the dish to the oven and bake for 15 minutes, or until the granola topping is nice and golden brown. Allow the crumble to cool for 1–2 hours, so that it firms up before you slice it. When it’s fully cool, slice it into ten bars and serve.
Notes: These are best kept in the fridge, where the cold can keep them nice and firm.