Tag Archives: rhubarb

Aunt Cherry’s Rhubarb Cake

This has been a week for appliances and household items to take a shit.  Our air conditioning broke during a heat wave (of course). Now we find out we need a new furnace and heat pump.  Our new washing machine began to leak and created a nice little flood in our laundry room (on the upside, the floor has never been cleaner!).  Our way too expensive, professional quality steam iron decided to leak water through the cord (that seems a bit unsafe).  Our clock stopped working.  Our thermostat broke.  After turning on the outdoor hose bibs for gardening, we realized that this is the year for them to start leaking incessantly (they’ll need to be replaced).

Oh, and now that I think of it …  one of our window blinds broke the other day.  On the same day that my daughter fell off a swing and broke her arm.  WTF?  I’m starting to scare myself.

So, when I recently saw a puddle of murky water in the refrigerator, I was pretty sure that it was the next thing to go. But alas, it was just a puddle from some decomposing rhubarb that I hadn’t used up — because I never use up my rhubarb.  I guess I just don’t see the point of eating something that requires five cups of sugar just to make it palatable.  I cook it down, make rhubarb applesauce or the occasional strawberry-rhubarb pie or crisp, but there’s always a never ending supply.  And then even more in the freezer from last summer.

I decided to take a tried and true, delicious recipe, Aunt Cherry’s Oatmeal Cake, and see what some rhubarb would do to it.  It was very good, but not surprisingly, because nothing could really mess up Aunt Cherry’s cake.  It is a sticky, oozy mess of a dessert that you can eat for breakfast.  And the rhubarb version makes a delicious dessert with some whipped cream or ice cream, but I also served it as rhubarb coffee cake for breakfast with guests.

I’d like nothing more than to bake one right now, but I must go down a rabbit hole into customer service and extended warranty and “we’ll be there between 2 and midnight” hell.  Oh, just a moment.  This is shocking.  I just went to enter a warranty claim for my washing machine and guess what?  The system is down.

Aunt Cherry’s Rhubarb Cake

Makes one 9 inch by 13 inch cake

Cake:
1 cup oats (I used old fashioned)
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/3 cups of whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 t salt
1 t baking soda
1 t cinnamon
1 t nutmeg
1/2 t ginger
1/2 cup butter, softened (1 stick)
1 1/2 cups boiling water
2 eggs
2-3 cups of diced rhubarb

Topping:
1 cup pumpkin seeds (or other chopped nuts), toasted
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup of milk
6 T butter, melted
1 t vanilla
1 cup shredded coconut (not sweetened)

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Grease a 9 inch by 13 inch glass baking pan.

2.  In a large bowl, mix together dry cake ingredients: oats, white sugar, brown sugar, whole wheat pastry flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger.  Make sure to break up any lumps of brown sugar.

3.  Add boiling water to dry ingredients.  Using an electric mixer, beat in softened butter (1 stick).  When incorporated, beat in eggs one at a time.  The batter will be thin.  Pour into greased 9 inch by 13 inch glass baking pan.  Stir in diced rhubarb.

4.  In a small bowl, mix together topping ingredients:  pumpkin seeds, brown sugar, white sugar, milk, melted butter, vanilla, and coconut.  Drop in small dollops all over the unbaked cake batter.

5.  Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 minutes.  Remove and cool on a rack.

 

 

Newtons Two Ways: Rhubarb Ginger and Fig Lavender

I am not a fussy cook.  I have great respect for those who are, but I just seem to lack the patience and precision to do fine, detailed work.  So, pastry chefs have my ultimate admiration.  If I make cookies, they are usually drop-style rather than rolled and cut out.  Any cake I make usually tastes great, but looks a little suspect.  (Especially if you were able to see it before I serve it.  I generally fly by the seat of my pants and figure out a way to make it look decent with a pastry tip and some shaved chocolate.  Garnishes are my friend.)  And my favorite desserts to make are crisps, cobblers, and anything “rustic.”  Rustic is my friend too.

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So, these cookies are definitely more fussy than I would like.  But I have wanted to make homemade fig newtons for some time.  Not sure why, but I am thinking it involved a dream with a fig tree and someone I went to high school with.  I’ll spare you the details, because we all know that there is nothing more boring than listening to someone describe their dreams.

I decided the time was right the other day when the grocery store had fresh figs (unfortunately, we can’t go local with figs).  My mind started to wander though … I definitely wanted to make a whole grain version, I wanted to use honey (and not too much), I wanted to dress the fillings up a little bit, and I wanted to make them seem summery.  So, I settled on two fillings:  one with figs and fresh lavender and one with rhubarb and ginger.  It ended up that I liked the rhubarb filling better than the figs.  And in my last batch, I actually combined the fig filling and the rhubarb filling to create “Rhubarb Fig Newtons” and that was great.  The tang of the rhubarb really balances the sweetness of the figs.

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Getting back to the fussiness factor… I made these on a very hot and humid day which made the job a lot harder.  The cookie dough must be thoroughly chilled to keep it firm, but just slightly softened to wrap around the fillings.  I’d suggest making them on a cooler day or turning the AC on.  Every time I’d take the dough out of the fridge it would warm so quickly that I couldn’t work with it.  Regardless of the weather, I think this is an easier job if you divide the work over two days — make the fillings and the dough the first day so they are nice and chilled, and then roll them out and bake them the next.  And I wouldn’t bake them way ahead of time because they seem to dry out easily.

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Because I am lazy, the next time I make these I am going to try them as a simple bar cookie — just roll out the dough, divide into two equal pieces and make a sandwich with the filling.  Then all you’d have to do is bake them and cut into bars.  If anyone tries going that route, please leave a comment with your experience.  And I also got thinking as I made these that a savory newton would make a great appetizer.  How about fig and goat cheese, or apple with a bit of camembert?  I am definitely going to figure that recipe out — because that is a cookie you could have with wine.

Rhubarb Ginger And Fig Lavender Newtons

Makes about 2-3 dozen, depending on how big you cut them

Rhubarb Filling:

2 1/2 cups of chopped rhubarb (about 3 long stalks)
Zest of one lemon
3/4 t fresh ginger, chopped
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 cup honey
Pinch Salt
2 t cornstarch mixed with 1 t water
1/2 t vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients, except vanilla extract, in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes until completely smooth and thickened.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract.  Let cool slightly and puree in a blender or food processor (or with an immersion blender).  Chill for at least an hour or two (or overnight).

Fig Filling:

2 1/2 cups of fresh figs, stemmed and chopped
2 t fresh lavender, chopped and divided into two equal piles
1/4 cup of honey
1/4 cup of orange juice
Pinch of salt
1 T lemon juice
1/2 t vanilla extract

Combine figs, one teaspoon of lavender (reserve other one), honey, orange juice, and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 30-40 minutes until smooth and thickened.  Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice, vanilla extract, and remaining teaspoon of lavender.  Let cool slightly and puree in a blender or food processor (or with an immersion blender).  Chill for at least an hour or two (or overnight).

The Cookie Dough:

1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened
1/2 cup of honey
Zest of one lemon
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 t vanilla extract
1/2 t salt
3 cups of whole wheat pastry flour

Cream butter with electric mixer until it is light and fluffy.  Add honey and lemon zest and  continue to mix for 2-3 minutes.  Add eggs, one a time and mix well to incorporate.  (I find that when baking with smaller amounts of honey, sometimes the eggs won’t emulsify with the butter – but just keeping mixing for a few minutes and it comes back together.  It helps if the eggs are at room temperature.)  Add salt and vanilla extract and mix.  Slowly add in the flour in three additions and mix until just coming together.  Finish mixing with a wooden spoon or spatula.  Place dough on one sheet of plastic wrap and cover with a second sheet of plastic wrap.  Pat the dough into a rectangular shape and wrap tightly with the plastic.  Chill for several hours or overnight.

The Assembly:

Preheat oven to 350 F.  In a cool place, roll out the cookie dough between the two sheets of plastic wrap until it is about 1/4 inch thick and the rectangle is about 13 inches by 15 inches.   Cut into four equal strips.  Slide onto a baking tray (with the plastic still on) and put in freezer for 5-10 minutes so it can firm back up.

Spoon a thin line of the filling down the center of each dough strip.  (If you have too much filling on it, it will ooze out like crazy — no big deal, just take some out.) Fold one side of the dough strip to the center, slightly covering filling.  Fold other side of the dough strip on top of that and gently pinch the dough together to seal it up.  (You will have one big “log”).  Repeat with remaining dough strips and filling.  Put all the logs in the freezer for another 5-10 minutes to firm up again.

Place the logs seam side down onto a parchment lined baking sheet and slice into individual cookies (about 1 inch each and don’t forget to remove the plastic wrap if it is still on!).  Space the cookies evenly for baking.   Bake for 15 minutes and if you have multiple trays in at once, rotate them half way through.  Remove from sheets and cool on racks.

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Rhubarb Applesauce

When I picked up our CSA share yesterday, I got another bunch of rhubarb to join two others in my fridge. We like rhubarb, so there is no good reason why we haven’t used it. I guess between weekend travel and having no time to make a dessert (which is how we prefer it, obviously), it has just started to pile up. I wanted to do something slightly more savory, which is tough with rhubarb because it is very tart and needs some sugar. I settled on the idea of something “applesaucey” and it was a hit with our grilled pork. It would be great with some strawberries added in (if you like the strawberry-rhubarb combo and are willing to part with your strawberries — but I’m not there yet.)

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I added fresh ginger because it marries with the rhubarb so nicely, but the kids probably would have enjoyed it more without it. There were yelps from my almost three year old son about it being a little “spicy” — but I have a hard time judging that because he thinks rosemary is spicy. His other beliefs include: 1) Don’t trust anything with a tongue (“lickers” as he calls them) based on a fear of dogs who lick him, 2) The best parts of being a grown up are being able to watch Harry Potter movies and touch the ceiling, and 3) The purest form of evil is the garbage disposal. So, take or leave his cooking advice.

I sweetened this with a bit of honey (not to be confused with a bit o’honey) and it worked well. If you are making this for a more mature audience (one not afraid of lickers), I think it would be wonderful with some freshly chopped chives or rosemary.

Rhubarb Applesauce

Serves 4

4-5 cups of rhubarb, cut into 1 inch pieces
3-4 cups of apples, peeled, cored, and roughly chopped
1/2 cup of honey
1/2 cup of water
1 T freshly chopped ginger
Pinch of salt
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of cardamom
Freshly chopped herbs (if desired)

Combine all ingredients (except herbs) in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Simmer for 20-30 minutes until completely softened and the rhubarb is falling apart.  If your apples are still too chunky, you can use a potato masher to break them up.  Serve as a side dish or with grilled meat.

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