Apple pie, crumble, slice, turnover…. basically pastry and stewed apple in all its glorious forms is my kryptonite. Left alone with any of them? They don’t stand a chance. Suffice to say, this slab of stewed apple with pops of tart rhubarb sitting on a base as thick as fence posts won’t see out the day. It’s properly old school. Comforting and dependable. The sort of slice you might feed slightly fancy grandmothers or friends from out of town when they come to stay. It’s frills-free baking that harks back to the basics and leaves you wondering why you ever left them. You’ll eat the whole batch alone without the tiniest bit of remorse; as dessert piping hot with ice cream melting at its sides, cold standing at the fridge while you work out what you might want to eat, or just warmed with a cup of tea as we succumb to the impending change in season.
Makes about 25 bars
¾ cup caster sugar
3 cups plain flour
Pinch of salt
6 tbsp butter
½ cup brown sugar
1 bunch rhubarb, washed, trimmed, chopped
6-8 Granny smith apples, peeled, cored, thinly sliced
1 tbsp cinnamon
Freshly grated nutmeg to taste
Water as necessary
1 cup nuts (walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, almonds) toasted, coarsely chopped
1 ½ cups quick cooking oats
1 cup plain flour
¾ cup brown sugar
pinch baking soda
100g butter, cubed
Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a large high-sided baking tray (at least 30cm x 40cm) with baking paper and set aside. Make the crust by beating the butter and sugar in a mixer fitted with the paddle hook until light and fluffy. Usually about 2 minutes. Turn the speed to low and gradually beat in the flour and salt until a soft dough forms. Press the dough over the bottom of the baking tray and a few cm’s up the side. You want it to be nice and thick and solid, something dependable that won’t buckle under the weight of the filling. Bake in the centre of the oven for 20 minutes, until it looks golden.
To make the filling, add the butter, sugar and sliced apple to a large saucepan or frying pan and cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, adding water if necessary to prevent burning. The liquid needs to be completely evaporated and make sure you scrape up any of the caramelized bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Stir through the spices and set aside to cool.
Add the rhubarb to another pan and cook over low heat with a tablespoon or two of water. If your rhubarb is particularly tart, add a tablespoon of sugar, but go slowly, you want this to be quite punchy in comparison to the apple mixture. Once stewed, set aside to cool.
Make the crumble topping by combining all ingredients in a large bowl and use your hands to combine until it looks lumpy and the butter is just incorporated, you want it to have clumps.
Spread the apple filling over the cooked crust. Top with blobs of stewed rhubarb. Scatter over the crumble topping, in clumps. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes up to an hour until the topping is golden. Let cool before you slice into nice big slabs of goodness.
If you have a will stronger than mine you can store these in an airtight container at toom temperature for three days or they can be frozen for a month.