Saturday, May 22, 2010

Springtime Rhubarb

One of the advantages of living in a northern climate is the ability to grow rhubarb in the garden. I put in a plant last summer but have meager results and now realize that having a lovely shaded lot, also means lack of sun for plants. I'm not much of a gardener, but rhubarb doesn't require much.

Fortunately a friend had rhubarb run amok and brought me a couple of pounds of stalks plus a Fresh Rhubarb Pie. A tart and tangy springtime treat!

I'm making Rhubarb Bread and will freeze any leftover stalks. After cutting off the leaves (they are poisonous!) and cutting the stalks into 1/2 inch pieces, place it in air-tight containers and freeze. When I use it, I can use it still frozen which is why it make sense to cut it up before freezing.

Rhubarb Bread

Although fresh rhubarb is available only in the spring, frozen rhubarb is available year round. Look for fresh rhubarb at farmers’ markets and supermarkets early in the spring. In this quick bread the tart flavor of the fruit contrasts with the spiciness of the nutmeg.

MAKES 1 LOAF (12 to 16 slices)

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh nutmeg, if desired
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup lowfat buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen chopped rhubarb

Heat oven to 350°F with oven rack in middle. Lightly spray bottom of a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray.
Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg in a large bowl. Make a well in center of the flour by pushing ingredients out toward sides of bowl.
Combine brown sugar, buttermilk, oil, and eggs in medium bowl, breaking up any small lumps in the brown sugar. Pour buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture, and stir only until the flour is evenly moistened even though batter is not smooth.
Stir rhubarb into the batter, pour into prepared pan, and smooth top. The pan will be about 3/4 full, but it won’t overflow.
Bake 55 to 70 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in center comes out dry. The bread may begin to pull away from pan sides.
Cool on wire cooling rack 10 minutes. Run a spatula around sides of pan to loosen bread. Place rack over the bread and invert so bread falls onto the rack. Remove pan and turn top side up. The bread must cool before it can be sliced.

BAKER’S NOTES: Like any quick bread, this bread is easier to slice the second day. After cooling completely, wrap in plastic wrap and store at room temperature overnight.
As a substitute for buttermilk, you can place 2 teaspoons lemon juice or distilled vinegar in a glass measuring cup and add milk to make 1 cup. Let the mixture stand a couple of minutes.
SECRET TO SUCCESS: Frozen rhubarb doesn’t need to be thawed before baking but does need to be chopped because the pieces are very large. Use a sharp knife, and chop it while it is still frozen. Do not use a food processor because it makes the rhubarb stringy.

From Baking Basics and Beyond by Pat Sinclair, 2006, Surrey Books

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