Rhubarb! It's my absolute favorite fruit, (I mean vegetable) that's harvested this time of year and there's simply no other taste like it! Strawberries too are seasonally delicious but there's something about the two paired together that seems to be the perfect match made on the palate!
Now when I mention fruit and vegetable, it might make you scratch your head! Many confuse it with being a fruit, but botanically, it's a vegetable that we find ourselves serving as a fruit, sweetened up as much as possible, as on it's own it's incredibly sour but oh so deliciously tart!
Over the years as a professional chef, I've made so many recipes featuring rhubarb including rhubarb pickles and rhubarb ketchup but I always seem to come back to the seasonal tried and true desserts! You just can't beat them! So with that in mind, this pudding cake below is wonderful! But before we get to that, here's a little more interesting rhubarb trivia. It's an incredibly hearty plant that can survive some incredibly harsh conditions!
First and surprisingly, there is no record of common culinary rhubarb consumption prior to the 1800s even though it's been used medicinally for over 5,000 years within Chinese medicine (as a laxative no less!). Widespread cookery began in Britain in the early 19th century with popular uses as an ingredient found mostly within desserts and wine making. Eventually it gained huge popularity to the point of mania in 1800’s Britain with culinary use dropping dramatically during WWII, possibly as a direct result of the deprivations of war, most notably the rationing of sugar! Directly, it's delicious enjoyment comes from the use of a tremendous amount of sugar to remove the tartness the vegetable is known for. I have to say though, I truly love it right out of the field! When I've harvested it myself, it's amazing to snack on the stalks fresh out of the ground. They are tart, crisp and very refreshing!
According to National Geographic Magazine, rhubarb grows huge in Alaska! "Rhubarb is a cold-weather plant, and it will grow back every year for a decade or so, when treated properly. While rhubarb is grown over much of the northern U.S. from Maine to Oregon, it has a special place in the hearts of Alaskans. That’s because the few long days of summer sun there help rhubarb grow to five feet or more. In the early 20th century, Henry Clark of Skagway, Alaska, was known as the Rhubarb King. His crop provided vitamins, fiber, and flavor to Klondike gold rush hopefuls who had few other options for fresh produce."
So if you're a fan of this delicious springtime vegetable like me, give this little recipe a go. It's super easy and bakes up in no time. It's wonderful with whipped cream, ice cream, or even just on it's own. You decide!
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 ½ t. cornstarch
- 1/3 c. plus ½ c. granulated sugar
- 2 ½ c. rhubarb, medium dice
- 1 c. sliced strawberries
- 1 c. all-purpose flour
- 1 ¾ t. baking powder
- ¼ salt
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 c. whole milk
- 1 stick (1/2 c.) salted butter, melted and cooled slightly
- 1 t. vanilla extract
- ½ t. cinnamon
Heat the oven to 400°F. Butter an 8-inch square glass or ceramic baking dish. Stir together the water, cornstarch, and 1/3 cup sugar in a small saucepan, then stir in the rhubarb. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the strawberries.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a bowl. In another small bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, butter, vanilla and cinnamon in a large bowl, then whisk in the flour mixture until just combined.
Reserve 1/2 cup or so of the fruit mixture, then pour the remainder to the baking dish, tilting to spread it out. Pour the batter over the fruit mixture, spreading as evenly as possible without disrupting the fruit too much. Drizzle the reserved fruit mixture over the batter. Bake in the middle of the oven until a wooden pick inserted into center of cake portion comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool in the pan and on a rack. Serve with sweetened whipped cream. Enjoy!
Adapted from: Ben&Birdy