Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Rhubarb Awakening

Back in my younger days, the Chef Mother grew rhubarb behind the house. The small patch of cherry-hued stalks and enormous ruffly umbrellas of leaves created a dense low-lying jungle outside the bedroom window and supplied the Chef Mother with plenty of fruit for her legendary rhubarb pies.

I'm not kidding about the "legendary" bit. At our church's annual bake sale, the minister and my high-school Sunday school teacher would regularly start a bidding war over this sugar-crusted, sweet-tart pastry. The only way to satisfy both men -- and to raise a scandalous amount of money to send kids to camp -- was for her to bake two pies, put one up for bidding, and then when the one had been sold, offer the other at an equivalent price.

My Dear Papa longed for this pie every year, knowing it would only get made in the spring -- though if he were lucky, the Chef Mother would tuck an extra into the freezer to be enjoyed later.

Me, though, I never liked it. Rhubarb was waaaaaay too tart for my sweet tooth, and I never developed the taste for it.

Until last year. The Cheerful Lady started bringing small rhubarb coffeecakes to the farmers' market, and these little streusel-topped confections made the perfect snack for the Renaissance Man and myself on our Saturday jaunts to the Farm.

Still, I figured I still didn't care for rhubarb pie. But a couple weeks ago, one of my cohorts in the Local Roots steering committee proved me wrong when she shared a pair of crumb-topped French rhubarb pies that knocked me off my seat. And when my dear Friend shared her rhubarb pie Friday night, I knew I was ready to venture into that long-mysterious territory for myself.

I mulled over a handful of recipes over the weekend but finally settled on a coffeecake variation from King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking. I sliced a few stalks of peeled rhubarb and set them aside while I whisked together local spelt flour, unbleached flour, candied ginger bits, and such before adding them to creamed butter, local maple sugar, local egg, and local milk.

To counter the tartness of the rhubarb -- since I'm still hesitant to eat it largely unadorned -- I added some thawed local black raspberries to the batter. The berries provided just the right amount of sweetness, as well as a lovely rosy-purple hue.

With a little streusel on top (VERY little; must note this in the recipe) and over half an hour in the oven, these local fruits turned into a soft, moist, sweet-tart, hunger-sating cake that could serve as dessert as easily as breakfast.

There's more rhubarb in the refrigerator, so I'll have to test another recipe or two later this week, but so far, so good.

I think I might just remove another food from my dislike list -- and get on with enjoying it!

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At 5/13/2009 7:27 PM, Blogger Ed Bruske said...

We're getting ready for our first full-on rhubarb harvest. Our plants are now in their third season. Last year, we made wonderful rhubarb tea cakes, after writing a piece on the pie plant for Martha Stewart.


At 5/14/2009 6:55 AM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

Sounds tasty, Ed -- thanks for sharing!

At 5/15/2009 11:35 PM, Blogger Green Bean said...

Sounds wonderful! I'll have to try it for my husband - the rhubarb addict.

At 5/16/2009 9:33 PM, Blogger Wayne said...

Yes its good stuff and I still love rhubarb pie and the only thing better is more pie.
Dear Papa

At 5/18/2009 7:43 AM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

Green Bean, it's definitely worth a try. I'd have used strawberries if I had any left from last year (or any fresh from this year) but suspect any berries would do.

Well, My Dear Papa, I hope you get more pie soon, then! Tell the Chef Mother I've still got rhubarb. :-)

(Y'all see where I get it from, this love of food???) ;-)


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