Monday, June 11, 2012

Rhubarb, rhubarb everywhere!

Nothing says "Spring" to me more than rhubarb.  Okay, that's kind of a lie.  Rhubarb, asparagus and strawberries all say spring to me.  And, yes, I realize it's summer.  Bear with me, please.  I'm new.

But this post is about rhubarb, so we'll put those other two on the back burner, mainly because it's hard to improve upon the natural tastes of strawberries and asparagus (not together, of course, gross).  If you are a Laura Ingalls Wilder fan(atic), you will be familiar with how, as a new bride, she made pies with rhubarb (also known at one time as "pie plant") and forgot to add sugar.  Her husband, Almonzo, and the hired hands were less than enthusiastic about eating it.  My point is this: rhubarb is great, but you have to do something to it, like bake it in a pie, because it's a little nasty just plain raw.

I, personally, am not much of a pie maker.  But what got me on the rhubarb kick this go around was that a friend of mine posted a recipe for rhubarb cake that sounded really good.  Her husband, like mine, is not partial to rhubarb, but she said he liked this cake, so thought I would try it.  This post will be a two-fer, since, not only did I made a rhubarb coffee cake, but I had some leftover rhubarb and streusel, so I thought I would also make a crisp.

I was fiddling around with different cake/streusel combinations, and the cake recipe I used was just too delicate for the heavy streusel, and the streusel sank a lot.   The taste was okay, but it just didn't look like a streusel coffee cake, so I'm going back to the original recipe from Martha Stewart, then tell you how I did the the rhubarb-peach crisp.

In my last post about experimentation, I had hinted that I had hit upon a great flavor combination.  At first I thought is was the innovative pairing of peaches and rhubarb, but a quick search shot that down.  Apparently, I was not the first (even the 100th) person do make that connection.  However, some folks haven't discovered the joy of cardamom paired with rhubarb and peaches, since the recipes I found did not include that spice. When you make this, people will ask what's in it, because it's just a hint, and not too many people are very familiar with the flavor.  I love cardamom, and it's used frequently in Scandinavian dishes, which is how I am most familiar with it. It lends a spicy, slightly floral flavor to both sweet and savory dishes, such as cardamom cookies, Julekage, and Swedish meatballs.  If you've never used it in baking, I highly recommend trying it out.  Maybe start with a small jar of it and work up.  I generally get a large-ish, 2.4 oz jar of it from Penzey's, which is a favorite place of mine to get spices and such.

Rhubarb-Peach Crisp                                                                              Rhubarb Coffee Cake

I coarsely chopped the rhubarb.

Martha Stewart's recipe makes a lot of crumble!

Here's the coffee cake I make using the more delicate cake.  See what I mean about the crumble sinking?

Here's the recipe for coffee cake from Martha Stewart:


  • For the crumb topping:
  • 3 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup packed dark-brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • Coarse salt
  • 2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
  • For the cake:
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
  • 2 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • Coarse salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs plus 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 1 cup store-bought blueberry jam (optional)
  • Confectioners' sugar, for dusting


  1. Make the crumb topping: Mix together flour, sugars, cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. Pour warm melted butter over mixture, and mix using your hands until medium to large clumps form.
  2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Make the cake: Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Whisk together flour, baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl.
  3. Beat butter and granulated sugar with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in eggs and yolks, 1 at a time, then vanilla. Beat in flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour. Continue to beat until well combined.
  4. Spoon batter into pan, and spread evenly using an offset spatula. Spread with jam, if using. Sprinkle crumb-topping mixture evenly over top.
  5. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Transfer pan to a wire rack. Let cake cool slightly, about 15 minutes. Dust with confectioners' sugar. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Cook's Note

Coffee cake can be stored at room temperature for up to 5 days.
For a rhubarb coffee cake, take two tablespoons of flour from the 2 1/2 cups you would add to the cake, and toss it with 2 cups chopped rhubarb.  Fold in the rhubarb at the end of step 3.
You can also play with the spices, if you like.  I only used 1 tsp. cinnamon and added 1/2 tsp. cardamom to the crumb topping.

Rhubarb Peach Crisp

Now, for the crisp. I ended up with extra crumb topping from the above recipe, so I used two cups of the crumb topping and added about 2/3 cup of oatmeal (not instant) and sort of smushed it around with my hands to integrate it into the crumbs.
TIP: You can make crumb topping and keep extras in the freezer.  That way, you have it as a quick topping for muffins, bars or coffee cake without having to do the extra step, which sometimes I feel too lazy to do.
Into a buttered 1 quart baking dish (8-inch diameter by 2-inches deep), I dumped 1 cup chopped fresh rhubarb and 2 cups sliced, thawed frozen peaches (I'm sure you can use fresh if you have them).
In a small saucepan, combine 1/2 cup water, 1 Tbsp cornstarch, 1/4 tsp cardamom and 1/3 cup sugar. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until thickened (it should coat the back of a wooden spoon). It should only take 3-5 minutes.  Pour this mixture over the fruit, then top with the crumble mixture.  Place in an oven that is pre-heated to 350 degrees and bake for about 45 minutes.  The crumble should be golden brown and be a litte crispy in places, and the sauce should be thick and bubbling up through the crumble in places.
Let it cool slightly before serving.  I love crisps served with ice cream, but this is good by itself, too.  Confession: I have also eaten it for breakfast (fruit and oats are good for you, right??), but not with ice cream.  I'm crazy, but not that crazy.  ;-)

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