Recipes | By Margaret M. Johnson
If rhubarb hasn’t made its official appearance yet where you live, you can expect this early spring vegetable — yes, it’s a perennial vegetable — to be in markets in the next few weeks. Because of its tart, bitter flavor, it’s generally paired with a sweet fruit, especially berries, to balance the flavor. Rhubarb wasn’t a popular ingredient until the eighteenth century, when sugar became a more common ingredient in baking, and now you find it in baked goods like pies, crumbles and tray bakes, as well as in jams, syrups and sauces.
POUND CAKE WITH ROASTED RHUBARB
SERVES 10 TO 12
Pound cake is one of those reliable cakes that every culture seems to embrace because it goes well with everything. The name “pound cake” comes from the rather precise recipe for a cake that originally called for one pound each of sugar, butter, flour and eggs (about six medium). Some additional flavoring, such as nutmeg, lemon juice or vanilla is often added, along with substitutions for the shortening like oil, yogurt and mascarpone cheese as in this recipe. The results, however, are usually the same — a beautiful, moist cake that pleases everyone. A lovely springtime topping for this cake is roasted rhubarb and a dollop of whipped cream. For best result, have eggs, yogurt and mascarpone cheese at room temperature.
For the cake
2 cups sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Grated zest of 1 orange
1 1/3 cups canola oil
3/4 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
3 cups flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
For the roasted rhubarb
3 to 4 stalks rhubarb, cut into 1-inch pieces
Grated zest and juice of 1 orange
1/2 cup sugar
Whipped cream or crème fraiche, for serving
1. Make cake. Preheat oven to 375º F. Coat a 10-inch Bundt pan with nonstick baking spray with flour.
2. In a large bowl, combine sugar, salt, lemon and orange zest. With your fingers, rub the zests into the sugar to release citrus oils. Whisk in oil, yogurt and mascarpone until blended. Whisk in eggs and vanilla bean paste until smooth.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and baking powder. Fold into batter just until smooth.
4. Transfer batter to prepared pan; smooth top. Tap pan on a kitchen towel-lined counter several times to release any air bubbles.
5. Bake for about 55 minutes (rotate pan after 30 minutes), or until a skewer inserted into center comes out clean. Remove from oven; let cool on wire rack for 10 minutes. Invert cake onto rack; let cool completely.
6. Make rhubarb. Mix rhubarb, orange zest and juice, and sugar in an ovenproof dish. Cover with aluminum foil; bake alongside cake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until tender. Let cool completely.
5. To serve, cut cake into slices and spoon rhubarb on top. Serve with whipped cream, if desired.
MAKES 12 MUFFINS
Buttermilk gives these muffins a light and delicate texture. If you like additional flavor, add a pinch of cinnamon or a tablespoon of candied ginger.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
2 ounces butter, at room temperature
1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1 large egg
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 cups chopped rhubarb
1. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Spray a standard 12-well muffin pan with cooking spray.
2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer. Beat in the egg and buttermilk until smooth. Stir flour mixture into butter mixture; fold in rhubarb. Divide batter evenly into the prepared muffin cups.
4. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Remove from oven; cool in pan on a wire rack for about 15 minutes. Turn out and cool completely.
TOASTED OATMEAL CRÈME BRULEE WITH RHUBARB COMPOTE
This version of the traditional French dessert takes on an Irish touch with the addition of toasted oatmeal and Irish whiskey.
For the crème brûlée
2 tablespoons. steel-cut Irish oats
2 tablespoons Irish whiskey
5 large egg yolks
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
2 cups heavy (whipping) cream
For the rhubarb compote
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 to 4 stalks rhubarb, cut into 1-inch pieces
1. Make crème brûlée. Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter six 6-ounce ramekins.
2. Place oats into a shallow ovenproof dish; toast for 10 to 12 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove from oven; pour on whiskey (it will evaporate from heat of pan). Reduce temperature to 325°F.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together egg yolks and sugar until sugar dissolves. Add cream and oats; stir to blend. Spoon mixture into prepared ramekins. Place ramekins in a large baking pan; add hot water to come halfway up sides of dishes.
4. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until custard is set.
5. Remove from oven; let cool completely on a wire rack. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours and up to 24 hours.
6. Make compote. In a small saucepan, bring water and sugar to boil; boil for 2 minutes. Reduce heat. Add rhubarb; cook for about 10 minutes, or until tender.
7. To serve, preheat broiler. Sprinkle each custard with remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar. Place dishes under broiler 4 inches from heat source; broil 1 to 2 minutes, or until sugar melts, bubbles, and tops are lightly browned (or use a kitchen blowtorch and move the flame constantly over surface). Serve immediately with compote.
Margaret Johnson’s “Recipes” page now includes “Ireland Hopping: Adventures in Food, Drink, and Travel.” For further details on her work, including how to order her cookbooks, visit irishcook.com