Rhubarb is the rebel of the vegetable world. It looks like celery, tastes like sour candy, its leaves are poisonous and unlike most spring and summer produce, its barely edible raw. With such a feisty personality, its no wonder some are intimidated to cook it.
More than any other fruit or vegetable, rhubarb to me is the sign of the changing season. It is the signal that summer is arriving in those ruby red or speckled green & pink stalks. I snap up what I can in the garden and when I see it at the supermarket. I take all I can and more, slicing and freezing the excess for rhubarb cravings that come in winter.
Year-round, I save rhubarb recipe ideas I hope to make once I get my hands on the first stalks of the season. No summer would be complete without cinnamon rhubarb bread …. still warm from the oven and the heavenly smell of cinnamon in the air!
Cinnamon Roll Rhubarb Bread
In a saucepan, combine all ingredients except vanilla & food color. Heat to medium high & stir occasionally until rhubarb begins to break down completely. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla & food coloring; allow to cool to room temperature.
In a small dish, combine yeast with lukewarm water & 1 teaspoon of the sugar. Allow to sit for a few minutes until frothy.
In a large bowl, slightly melt butter; cool a couple of minutes then whisk in egg. In another bowl, whisk together flour, salt & remaining sugar. Add yeast mixture to butter mixture, whisking together. Add flour mixture, combine then turn on a floured work surface & knead for about 5 minutes. Dough will be very soft but not sticky.
Lightly grease bowl, place dough ball in it & cover with a towel. Place in a draft-free place & allow to rise for about 20 minutes. Butter a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan; set aside
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface & press down to deflate it. Fold in the two opposite sides to meet in the middle, then fold in the remaining two sides to meet, so that you've formed the dough into a square. Press down to flatten it slightly, then cover loosely and let stand for 10 minutes
With a floured rolling pin, rolling the dough to form a rectangle that's 12 by 22 inches. Make the corners as square as possible. If you're having trouble with the dough shrinking back, pause briefly before trying again.
Spread rhubarb/cinnamon filling over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border around the edges. Now fold the two long sides of the dough in one at a time, so that the meet each other in the middle. Pinch them together gently to seal the seam. Gently roll over the surface with a rolling pin to flatten the folded dough to about 7 by 25 inches.
Starting at the narrow end, roll up the dough, making a thick spiral. When you get to the end, brush a little egg wash on the loaf at the spot where the end will hit. Pinch the end a bit to seal it.
Carefully & gently place the roll, seam side-down in the buttered pan. The roll of dough should nearly fill it. Cover it loosely with plastic wrap & place in a warm, draft-free place to rise for about 25-30 minutes, until almost doubled & about 2 inches above the top of the pan. Meanwhile, adjust the oven racks so that you have one rack one-third up from the bottom of the oven.
Lightly brush remaining egg wash over loaf & bake for about 20 minutes. You may need to cover the top loosely with aluminum foil towards the end of baking to prevent over-browning. Bake until the loaf, when removed from the pan, sounds hollow when tapped with your fingertips. Cool on a rack.
Make glaze by whisking together 2 Tbsp rhubarb filling, 1 cup powdered sugar, and enough lemon juice to make the glaze pourable (1-2 tbsp should do it). When bread has slightly cooled, drizzle with glaze if desired.
HAPPY VALENTINES DAY!
Chocolate & strawberries not only add a touch of decadence but are the quintessential Valentine treat. These little chocolate lava cakes not only look and taste great, but they’re pretty quick and easy to make. You don’t need any special equipment, just a couple of bowls and a whisk and the recipe only makes two.
As always, I wondered about where the idea had originated. It seems the first known cake with a deliberately runny center is the ‘Tunnel of Fudge Cake’… the second place winner of a Pillsbury bake-off contest in 1966. Invented by Texan homemaker, Ella Helfrich, the cake is a walnut-flecked Bundt cake with a wet fudge center, which Ella achieved by the pretty ingenious inclusion of powdered frosting. The original recipe called for Pillsbury’s Double Dutch Dry Frosting Mix, which would, in the oven, cook into a runny, pudding like tunnel. The cake recipe became a cultural icon and put Bundt pans, (which had been created in the ’50s but were never particularly popular) in mass demand.
In 1987, a chef in New York city, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, was credited with ‘inventing’ the lava cake but this has been disputed as Jacques Torres, a French chef & chocolatier, says that the lava cake already existed in France before that time. As time has passed there have been many versions adapted to the original idea which mostly include the variations on the fillings. Instead of the chocolate fillings, other flavors like lemon, caramel, strawberry and orange can be found.
I think these White Chocolate Strawberry Lava Cakes will make the perfect ending for our Valentines supper.
White Chocolate Strawberry Lava Cakes
In a blender, process strawberries then press mixture through a fine mesh sieve over a bowl; discard seeds. In a saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Pour in strained strawberry puree. Allow mixture to come to a boil & bubble until slightly thickened, about 6 minutes.
Melt white chocolate with butter. You can do it in the microwave with 30 second breaks or over a double boiler. Blend well.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Butter & flour 2 - 6 oz ramekins; set aside.
In a bowl, whisk together eggs, egg white, sugar, salt, vanilla, lemon juice & zest.
Add chocolate/butter mixture then flour; combine. Add strawberry puree & coloring (if using); blend.
Divide batter between the 2 ramekins & bake for about 15-20 minutes. Make sure not to OVERBAKE or you won't have the lava effect.
Sprinkle with powdered sugar & serve with any extra puree if you wish. For an extra treat, top with some dipped strawberries.