The rain has been coming every few days. Not just a little rain but strong downpours that soak the cold ground and create little puddles throughout our yard. We have started our spring routine of wiping our dogs' feet, one paw at a time, before we let them back inside. Our little patch of chives have grown without any assistance from me, growing five or six inches tall before I even noticed they had returned.
Spring is really here.
Tim got a phone call a few days ago about about the Mason Community Garden. The organizers are gearing up for this summer and were confirming that last year's participants would like to be a part of it again. On behalf of both of us, Tim definitely agreed. Thankfully, Mason has been planning ahead for a successful summer harvest. The city has been mulching leaves onto the garden plot and the soil will be tested before the garden is open for planting this spring. Just the thought of shopping for seedlings and mapping out our plot gets me excited. I'm practically tapping my toes impatiently for May to get here.
Until then, I have rhubarb. I've missed its long, ruby stalks and the way its tart flesh makes me purse my lips. This spring I'm taking full advantage of this vegetable starting with a Country Rhubarb Cake.
I can't recall eating rhubarb before last spring although I'm sure it was hiding in a pie or tart at some point in my past. I have a faint memory of my grandmother telling me she doesn't like rhubarb, but I can't exactly put my finger on when that memory took place. Remembering details is not really a strength of mine, but I think I'd remember rhubarb.
Last spring I read Barbara Kingsolver's book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and food started fitting into categories according to seasons. Rhubarb and asparagas in the spring; tomatoes in July; winter squash in early fall. I suppose I knew that vegetables don't grow in Ohio all year round, but supermarkets really alter the way I saw food. If I want--I can get.
I did my best last year to appreciate seasonal foods, but this year is going to be even better. I hope you think of this cake when you pass by a bunch of unassuming stalks of rhubarb at the market. It will make you want spring to stick around a little longer.
Before I give you the recipe, there's a little housekeeping to address. I want to acknowledge that I'm trying something new with my photos. Instead of editing for sharpness or other filtering, I shot these pics on my iPhone and edited them using the instagr.am app. I recently decided to take David Lebovitz's advice (a great read for food bloggers) and try to better define my blog. I don't want this to be a "recipe" blog. While that format is works for many bloggers, I am a writer instead of a cook. This is my place to write--about food.
So, like the pics Hate them? Feel free to let me know. I'm still feeling it out.
Country Rhubarb Cake
recipe adapted from Gourmet, March 2004
The recipe suggests making this in a glass pie plate but I don't have one. I used an oven-safe ceramic dish that my mother-in-law gifted us two years ago and I don't think a pie plate is necessary. The bottom layer of the crust and top layer did come together as it baked so that it is much more like a cake than a pie. My suggestion is a 9 or 10 inch ceramic round or oval dish if you don't have a glass pie plate.
Next time I make this recipe I will add salt to the crust so I am adjusting the recipe accordingly. I felt that was the only thing missing from the cake.
3 cups fresh rhubarb, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 cups cake flour, sifted
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup very cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/3 cup 2% milk
2 large eggs (1 separated)
With the oven rack in the middle, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Butter a glass pie plate or a 9 inch round ceramic dish with 3 to 4 inch sides and chill.
In a medium bowl, combine rhubarb and brown sugar. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine cake flour, baking powder,1/2 cup sugar, and salt and whisk together. Using your fingertips, blend in the butter until the flour mixture resembles a coarse meal (lumps the size of small peas). In another small bowl, whisk together milk, one whole egg, and one egg yolk. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add milk mixture. Using a wooden spoon, stir to combine until a sticky dough is formed. The dough will be slightly lumpy and resemble a biscuit batter.
With your fingers well coated with non-stick spray or flour, scoop half of the dough into the bottom of the dish and spread around with your fingertips. Make sure the dough is pressed halfway up the side of the dish. Then add the rhubarb mixture. Drop large spoonfuls of the remaining dough around the top. Some of the rhubarb mixture may be exposed before baking.
Add a few drops of tap water to the remaining egg white and stir. Brush the egg white over the spoonfuls of dough and then sprinkle the remaining 1 tbsp sugar over the dough.
Bake for 35-40 minutes until the dough is golden brown and cooked through. Cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes before serving. If you are making in advance, rewarm individual servings or the entire dish before serving.
Vanilla ice cream or fresh whipped cream are an excellent accompaniment to this cake.