The apple uses two ingredients that are indispensable when making vegan desserts: agar-agar and kudzu. Agar-agar is a sea vegetable used as a gelling agent. Kudzu is a starch similar to arrowroot, which is used as a thickener for sauces and gravies. Combining the agar and kudzu yields a pudding thats firm, yet creamy.
- Pour 1 1/2 cups apple juice into a small saucepan, add agar flakes and set aside. (The pectin in the juice helps to break down the agar.) After 10 minutes, place over medium heat and bring to a boil. Immediately lower heat and cook 10 minutes to dissolve agar flakes.
- In small bowl, dissolve kudzu in remaining 1/2 cup apple juice. Add rice syrup, vanilla and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Mix vigorously with a wire whisk until all ingredients are blended well. Add this to hot apple juice-agar mixture and stir often to keep it from lumping or scorching. Cook, stirring often, 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Reserve 1/4 cup for topping.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Core and cut apples into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Peel rhubarb and cut diagonally into 1/4-inch-thick slices.
- In an 11 1/2- by 7 1/2-inch baking dish, layer half the apples. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg. Layer with half the rhubarb and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Pour half of agar-kudzu mixture over fruit. Repeat layers once.
- In medium bowl, combine oats, rice flour, pecans if using, oil, maple syrup, 1/2 teaspoon salt and reserved agar-kudzu liquid. Spoon mixture over apples and rhubarb. Bake until fruit is bubbling and top is lightly browned, about 40 minutes.
- To serve, scoop out with large serving spoon, top each serving with a dollop of almond cream and garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.