Rhubarb — love it or hate it — makes only a brief appearance each spring, but because of its tart, bitter flavor, it makes a big impression. Rarely eaten on its own, 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. You’ll find other springtime recipes in my cookbook Teatime in Ireland. To order signed copies, visit irishcook.com
RASPBERRY-RHUBARB CRUMBLE CAKE
SERVES 10 TO 12
This very moist, rich cake with a crispy crumble topping is delicious for breakfast, teatime, or dessert. Serve it plain or with whipped cream or crème fraîche.
For the topping
1 ounce unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
4 large eggs, beaten
For the cake
8 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs, beaten
3/4 cup self-rising flour
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup milk
1 cup ground almonds
1 cup chopped rhubarb
1 cup blackberries
Whipped cream or crème fraiche, for serving
1. Make topping. Preheat oven to 350° F. Coat a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick baking spray with flour.
2. In a small bowl, combine butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar and cinnamon; whisk in eggs.
3. Make cake. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or with a hand mixer), beat butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time; beat in flour, salt and milk. With a wooden spoon, stir until soft dough forms.
4. Transfer to prepared pan. Sprinkle almonds on top; sprinkle rhubarb and blackberries over nuts. Pour topping over fruit.
5. Bake 70 to 75 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into center comes out clean. Remove from oven; let cool on wire rack for 15 to 20 minutes before releasing sides of pan. Slice and serve with whipped cream or crème fraîche, if desired.
RASPBERRY-RHUBARB TRAY BAKE
This recipe, which yields 24 perfect squares for teatime, combines raspberries with rhubarb. Some of the bottom crust mix is reserved for a crunchy topping.
For the crust
2 1/4 cups flour
1 cup granulated sugar, divided
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 ounces unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 large egg yolk, beaten
For the filling
2 cups raspberries
2 cups chopped rhubarb
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 teaspoons cornstarch
1. Make crust. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9 x 13-inch pan with parchment paper; coat the paper with butter flavor baking spray.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, 3/4 cup of sugar, baking powder and salt. With a pastry cutter, two forks, or your fingertips, cut or work in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs; stir in egg to blend. Gently press half of the mixture into prepared pan.
3. Make filling. In a medium bowl, toss raspberries and rhubarb with lemon juice. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup sugar and cornstarch; toss again until well coated. Spread raspberries and rhubarb evenly over bottom crust. Sprinkle remaining crust mixture on top.
4. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until filling is bubbling and crumble is brown. Remove from oven; let cool on wire rack for 20 minutes. Refrigerate for 1 hour before cutting into 6 rows by 4 rows.
SERVES 6 TO 8
A crumble, perhaps the world’s easiest dessert, is made with little more than fresh fruit sweetened with a little sugar, thickened with a little flour, and topped with a crumbly mixture of butter, oatmeal, flour and, sometimes, nuts. For another twist, you can use digestive biscuits such as McVitie’s or Carr’s brand in the topping instead of the more widely used bread crumbs or oatmeal.
For the filling
5 to 6 stalks rhubarb, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup sugar
For the topping
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 ounces unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup crumbled digestive biscuits
Vanilla ice cream, clotted cream or crème fraiche, for serving
1. Make filling. Preheat oven to 350° F. Coat a 9-inch square glass baking dish with butter flavor cooking spray.
2. Make filling. In a large bowl, combine rhubarb, strawberries and cornstarch; stir to coat fruit. Transfer to prepared pan; sprinkle with sugar.
3. Make topping. Combine flour, sugar and butter in a food processor. Pulse 3 to 4 times, or until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Transfer to a small bowl; stir in crumbled biscuits. Sprinkle over fruit.
5. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until top is browned and crisp and fruit is tender. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream, clotted cream, or crème fraîche.
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 www.irishcook.com