Rhubarb Strudel

If you don’t live in Vancouver you probably can’t get rhubarb any more. That first stalk that sprouts in the Spring and paves the way for the strawberries and raspberries that you’re probably eating now. The sign of Summer that hasn’t had time to ripen in the sun so it’s so tart you can’t even imagine eating without heaps of sugar?

But us Vancouverites can. Heck, the way this weather is going we’re going to be eating rhubarb in August. 

It’s the coldest June on record here. I can’t keep the windows open in my apartment and I start to shiver without my slippers on. I have yet to go outside without a sweater on this year. 

So I’ve retired to the kitchen, where the oven is nearly always on and that keeps the water in the kettle warm for when I need a cuppa. And I bake. I bake with rhubarb. 

Rhubarb Strudel

Adapted from this recipe

Dough

1 1/3 cups unbleached flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons water, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar

Filling

5-6 Stalks of Rhubarb, cut into 2 inch pieces.

3 cups of Sugar

1 cup Breadcrumbs

2 tbsp Butter, melted

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook- or in a regular bowl if you want to knead by hand) mix all the ingredients together and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic. When in doubt keep kneading. You can’t really over knead this dough, 

Wrap with cling film and let it sit for about 30- 60 minutes. 

Preheat your oven to 400F and line a cookie tray with parchment or a silpat. 

Once the dough has rested take a linen dish cloth and sprinkle it with flour. Get some flour on your rolling pin as well. Cut the dough in half, put one half on the cloth and start rolling. You want the dough to be as thin as you can possible get it. It should be see through, if it tears a bit don’t worry.  I didn’t roll my dough out enough so don’t look at mine as an example. It was delicious but it wasn’t quite as light as it should have been. 

Carefully move the dough onto the pan (folding it over your rolling pin helps for this) and in a thin line spread half of the rhubarb, sugar, and breadcrumbs out.

Carefull bring the dough up on 1 side and then roll it gently so that the rhubarb mixture has been wrapped several times with the dough. 

Repeat with the other half of the dough. Brush with the melted butter.

Bake until the rhubarb is cooked, about 45 minutes. 

Let it cook for at least 10 minutes before slicing into it, dust with icing sugar and serve!

Rhubarb Breakfast Cake with White Chocolate Yoghurt Ganache

I am about to write the most pretentious thing I can think of. Are you ready? Are you sure? I just happened to have some white chocolate yoghurt ganache in my fridge. I know. Who am I?

In my defence it was there because I had failed miserably at making some macarons that I had been planning on filling with said ganache, but none the less. I happened to have some white chocolate yoghurt ganache in my fridge. Oy.
I have never been a huge white chocolate fan, unless your buying the really pricey stuff that is way out of my league, it’s just very sweet. Too sweet I think, but the yoghurt really mellows it out and brings in enough acid that makes you want to lick the spoon. It’s sort of like grown-up cream cheese icing.

So with this glorious stuff in my fridge, I made a very simple rhubarb cake, a buttermilk breakfast cake not to sweet with a wonderful crumb and slathered this ganache on top. Just enough to make you want to eat the top first and be a little spiteful of the bites that didn’t get any.

Rhubarb Breakfast Cake with White Chocolate Yoghurt Ganache

1/2 cup Butter

11/2 cup Sugar

1 egg

1 tbsp Vanilla Extract

Zest of 1 lemon

2 cup AP Flour

2 tsp Baking Soda

1 tsp Salt

1/2 cup Buttermilk

3 cup Rhubarb cut into 1 inch pieces

1/2 cup Yoghurt

4 oz White Chocolate

Preheat oven to 350F

Butter and flour a bundt pan or a 9 inch square pan.

Put the rhubarb half a cup of sugar and 1 cup of water into a small pot and simmer it until it is soft, about 10 minutes. Strain out rhubarb. The syrup will make fabulous drinks if you wish.

Meanwhile in a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Add in the egg slowly and mix until totally combined. Scrape down the edges of the bowl.

Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl.

Alternate adding the dry and wet ingredients starting and finishing with the dry. When the last batch of dry ingredients has almost been combined add in the rhubarb and gently mix by hand. Do not overmix it or it will get tough.

Pour the batter into prepared pan and bake until an inserted skewer comes out clean, about 30 minutes.

While the cake is in the oven you can make the ganache:

Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Place the bowl over a pot filled with about an inch of simmering water. Melt the chocolate, stir it regularly because white chocolate has a tendancy of burning.

Once the chocolate is fully incorporated add in the yoghurt and stir to combine.

Once the cake is cooled you can pour the ganache on top or spread it on with a spatula. And c’est finis.

Rhubarb Lavender Tart

I’ve been watching rhubarb recipes go up on blogs that I follow for several weeks now. Some of them I pinned to make later, some of them I wrote down flavour combinations for, but most of them I jsut glowered at. I’ve been glaring and frowning and giving the stink eye to every blog written by everyone outside of Vancouver because it seems that everyone else has had a month of Spring already, and we are just starting (knock on wood) to get out of the clouds. It was a slow, cold April.

So last weekend when I noticed a neighbours rhubarb patch looking healthy I started to get excited and I full blown squealed (to the great alarm of an elderly man passing by me) when I found some at my local green grocer a couple days ago. I love rhubarb I really do.

This tart is not as complicated as most tarts, it’s downright easy if you have a food processor, but still totally possible to do without. You don’t need to blind bake the shortbread the way you do with most tarts, and curd comes together in just a few minutes. The lavender is optional if you can’t find it at your local shop although it really does make this extra special. The only hard part is letting it cool before you cut into it.

Rhubarb Lavender Tart

Lavender Shortbread Crust

1/2 cup Butter, room temperature. (It really has to be soft for this so melt it slightly if you have to it should have the consistency of mayo)

1/4 cup Sugar

1 cup AP Flour

1/4 tsp Dried lavender flowers (that are edible and you bought at a grocery store)

Pinch of salt

Rhubarb Curd

400g Rhubarb (about 7 thickish stalks)

1 cup sugar

6 egg yolks

Zest of 1 lemon

2 tbsp Unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 350

Lightly grease a 10inch-4 inch tart pan. If you don’t have one of those you can use a 6 inch round tart pan.

In a food processor combine the sugar, flour, lavender and salt. Pulse until you can barely see the lavender flowers. Alternately, you could crush the lavender in a morter and pestal and then add that to the dry ingredients.

Add in the butter. In a food processor you can just pulse it until it becomes a crumbly dough, or you can do this in a standing mixer or by hand. It’s not a big batch.

Press this into your tart pan

bake it for about 20 minutes, or until it has become a slight golden browncolor.

Meanwhile make the curd- Mix half the sugar, the rhubarb and 1/4 cup of water in a pot and simmer on medium heat until the rhubarb falls apart, about 10 minutes.

Transfer the liquid into your food processor. Blitz it until it’s quite smooth, then add the sugar. Once that’s combined add in the egg yolks and mix them right away. Next add in the butter.

It should be a smooth pale color. If you don’t have a food processor don’t worry, this will be beautiful if it’s not pureed, it will just be a little fibrous. You can whisk in the rest of the ingredients by hand easily too, not a worry.

Pour the curd into the tart shell and smooth with a spatula. Bake for about 10 minutes until the top has set. And c’est finis. 

Rhubarb Pavlova

I reguarly am told by friends that I am an intimidating person to cook for. That I’m picky, (only true when I’m making it, if someone else cooks for me I’m over the moon happy!) that my food is always pretty (well I’m flattered really, but honest my non blog food is pretty non pretty) and that I don’t screw things up. Well the last one is a terribly terribly misconception.

Let the records show that I, Claire Lassam, have made some terrible meals. Terrible!

A great/tragic example of this was on Valentines Day. I came home to an amazing meal. Jordan had braised lamb, and made a wild mushroom risotto, and sauteed brocollini (my favourite!) and had put an excessive amount of love into the meal.

For my part I had found fresh passionfruit at a local market that deffinately does not usually sell fresh passionfruit and thought, perfect! Passionfruit curd on a pavlova. Simple, light, perfect.

Only my pavlova was hard as a rock, and with my terrible oven starting to brown, and the curd was overwhelmingly sweet. It was, absolutely, inedible.

So last weekend, when I was at Jordan’s parents place to make them an early Father’s Day dinner, (which is to say that I was in the presence of a properly working oven) and I couldn’t find the flour (of course it was there but I found it too late) and I had loads of rhubarb (pleasantly acidic) I decided to try a round two.

This time, I had a couple tricks up my sleeve. Mostly, instead of getting it off Martha, which does normally have good recipes, I got it off Smitten Kitchen, because she said she had tried two recipes and had made a master recipe that was perfect. And also because I love Smitten Kitchen and nearly everything she makes is brilliant. Also, an Australian friend told me that, when in doubt, keep whipping, and I did and it turned out very well.

And it is brilliant. It’s a light crisp exterior that leads the way to a marshmallowy centre. Marshmallowy. I don’t think I need to say any thing else except that with whipped cream and rhoasted rhubarb, this is not only a showy and incredibly good dessert, but also a very simple dessert, and those are the best kind in my books.

Meringue:

4 large (120 grams) egg whites
Pinch of salt
1 cup (200 grams) superfine (castor) or regular sugar
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch, potato starch or arrowroot powder

Rhubarb:

6 stalks of rhubarb

1/2 cup Sugar

1 cup whipping cream, whipped with one teaspoon of vanilla extract.

Preheat oven to 225F

Whisk together your egg whites and your salt until soft peaks, using an electric mixer, unless you have incredibly strong arms and a great amount of determination, in which case, do it by hand.

Slowly add in the sugar and cornstarch, tablespoon by tablespoon until all of it is incorporated. Then keep whipping. Aren’t sure if it’s glossy enough? Keep whipping. Does is hold stiff enough peaks? Keep whipping. Basically keep whipping and whipping for a long time, until it is very glossy, and very stiff.

On a parchment lined pan spread the meringue out into a circle with an inverted spatula, i made mine about 10 inches wide.

Put it in the oven for about 45 minutes. If it starts to get brown turn the oven down, if it starts to crack turn the oven off. Once it feels firm to the touch but still has some give inside of it crack the oven open, turn the oven off and let it cool completely inside.

In the meantime, take your rhubarb and cut it into one inch pieces. Lay it on a parchment lined baking sheet and pour sugar over top. Once your pavlova has cooled, crank the oven up to 400F and put the rhubarb in until it is soft but still holds it’s shape, about 15-20 minutes.

To Assemble:

Transfer the meringue onto your serving tray.

Blob heaps of the whipped cream on top, and then dollop the rhubarb on top of that. Don’t be shy with the rhubarb, you need lots to balance it out.  

And if you’ve done everything right you get marshmallowy goodness.And you get happiness.

Wanting to Travel...

I love going to cafes and little breakfast and lunch restaurants.

I love sweet little spots with great coffee, wonderful little baked goods, and maybe a sandwich or a salad that tastes fresh and like it was made with love.

I love the places that you don’t feel strange having a bite to eat alone, and that you can sit for an hour with a book and be very content just like that.

Which is to say that when I was in London last fall I fell madly, deeply, overwhelmingly in love with Ottolenghi.

Oh it’s just… just perfect.

It’s clean and crisp, it’s mostly white with some bright read details. It has a large counter filled with the most perfect salads. Ones like Brocolini with Chilis and Almonds, or Braised Globe Artichokes, with Broad Beans, Pink Peppercorns and Preserved Lemons. And then just past the heavenly salads are the baked goods.

The most beautiful Pistachio Cakes, dripping with rosewater icing, and Blackberry Friands, and dense and wonderful Chocolate cake you’ve ever had.

It’s the sort of place you could go everyday for a month and not try the same thing twice.

It’s the sort of place that’s hard not to fall in love with.

And fortunately for those of us not living in London there are cookbooks and a weekly column in The |Guardian for us to steal his recipes and try to replicate it at home.

Which is what I did the other day when I was in dire need of some sweets.

The recipe for these came from the Guardian and it called for blackberries but it’s to early for them here so I went with rhubarb, and then because I love rose so much I put some of that in the icing which really was wonderful.

These cakes are very moist and very rich, thanks largely to the addition of ground almonds in them. Because of that they will stay very moist for several days, so it’s a great cake to make in advance of something, or just to keep in a jar for a week and eat one a day. But they are so pretty, they would also be perfect for an afternoon tea.

Rose Scented Rhubarb Almond Cakes

4 big stalks of Rhubarb, washed and cut into 1centimeter (about 1/2 inch) pieces.

1/2 cup sugar

Cakes:

10 egg whites
100g plain flour
300g icing sugar
180g ground almonds
1tbsp Vanilla extract
⅓ tsp salt
Grated zest of ½ lemon
1 cup unsalted butter, melted and left to cool, plus extra for greasing

Icing:

1 cup Icing sugar

1 tbsp Rose water

1 tsp Lemon Juice

Preheat oven to 400F

On a parchment lined baking sheet spread cut rhubarb out in a single layer and then sprinkle sugar on top. Bake for about 20 minutes or until rhubarb is just beginning to get soft. Take out of the oven and let cool.

Turn heat down to 350F.

Butter mini bundt pans, mini loaf pans, or mini cupcake pans.

Whisk up the egg whites until they’re frothy, but not full whipped.

Add in the lemon zest, melted butter and vanilla.

Sift in all the dry ingredients and fold gently together.

Then fold in the roasted rhubarb and spoon into the prepared trays and bake until an inserted skewer comes outs with only a few moist crumbs, about 15-25 minutes. Allow to cool completely.

To make the icing mix all the ingredients together until smooth. If it looks a little thick, add in some water or more lemon, if it looks thin add in some more icing sugar.

And then drizzle them on the very tops of each, the icing will run down and leave lovely little drips around each of them.

More Rhubarb

 

Are you sick of rhubarb recipes yet friends. I’m not! I know I know, I’ve posted about it 2 times already this month but rhubarb season is so fleeting and I think it will still be a couple more weeks before we start seeing local strawberries and blueberries and other kinds of fruit that, when I first see them, make me start dancing in the aisles of my local green grocers.

Which is all to say that there are another couple weeks, if we’re being optimistic, it would probably be more realistic to say a month or so but I am nothing if not an optimist, before we have any other fruit and so I feel a huge need to make the most of rhubarb season.

This is a tart that I`ve been making for a long time. My first ever restaurant job introduced me to both brown butter, butter that`s been cooked until the milk solids turn a pretty walnut colour and it starts to smell like hazelnuts, and brown butter pastry, when you mix that wonderous stuff with eggs and sugar and vanilla and a tiny bit of flour to hold it all together .

Some of you may be intimidated by the short crust pastry, or pie dough, but I really encourage you to try it. It is way easier then you think, and I made sure to take pictures at every step so you have a visual.

Tart Dough

1 cup (half a pound) of Cold Unsalted Butter, cut into chunks

2 cups of AP Flour

about 1/4 cup ice cold water

Cut the butter into the flour. That means break it up into pieces. Your not trying to mix the butter and flour, your simply trying to get chunks of butter throughout. If your worried about it, err on the side of making it to big.

Add in the water, just a tablespoon at a time until it is just barely barely combined. It’s best to have it on the dry side, but if you add a little to much just add a little more flour.

Now flour your counter space and carefully press it into a rectangle. The fold it in half and do it again.

And again, and again, until it starts to feel firm. Your adding layers at this point, making your tart almost in between a pie dough and a puff pastry, which is to saw your making your dough delicious.

Now get it in the fridge for at least an hour, or until it really sets up.

In the mean time:

Roasted Rhubarb

4 cups of chopped rhubarb, about 10 stalks

1 1/2 cups sugar

Preheat the oven to 400F

Lay the rhubarb on a parchment lined tray.

Sprinkle the sugar ontop.

Get it in the oven! Roast it until it starts to get soft but before it breaks down, anywhere between 12-25 minutes depending on the size of your rhubarb

Now make the brown butter pastry

1/2 cup Sugar

2 Large Eggs

1/4 cup AP Flour

1/2 cup Butter

1 tbsp Vanilla

Get your butter in a pot, not a frying pan, it will sizzle up, and cook it on medium heat.

It will get all foamy, then it will get clear again. The it gets foamy again, and you won’t be able to see the bottom well but swirl the pan around and smell it lots. The smell will be like hazelnuts and the bottom will start to get a pretty brown. As soon as this happens get it out of the pot and into a bowl, or it will burn

In another bowl get the eggs and the sugar combined. Add in the vanilla.

Add in the butter and then the flour

And now your ready to assemble!

Roll out the dough and cut it out. I didn’t have a round cutter that was big enough so I used a bowl

Put about a tablespoon of brown butter mix in the center of the circles. The fill up the space with rhubarb. Make sure you leave space to fold the edges over.

Now fold up the edges

And then finish and put them back in the fridge for another twenty minutes

Beat an egg and brush it on the tops of the pastry, then sprinkle some sugar on top.

and bake it up! The pastry will get a lovely brown the rhubarb will caramelize and you will be in pastry heaven!

Spring Time!

In Italy they have festivals celebrating asparagus. In the land of slow food and local food, its arrival in the spring means the end to root vegetables. It means soon there will be lettuce and then berries and then fruit. It means good things for the kitchen my friends. We can eat asparagus year round now, it comes from Peru, or Mexico or sometimes Argentina. If I`m lucky I can find some from California but thats as good as it gets here I`m afraid. There aren’t of winter farmers markets here so I don’t get the change to dance about asparagus but let me tell you, what I miss out on with asparagus I make up for with rhubarb.

Rhubarb is glorious. Its one of the first things to pop out of the ground in the spring time and it is the most amazing vibrant pink. It is so sour you can hardly eat it but it is wonderful mounded with sugar. And, perhaps most importantly, it’s not a root vegetable. It hasn’t been sitting in a cellar since October, it doesn’t taste like the rich fall vegetables that met their sweetness from months ripening in the sun. No, it tastes like spring. It tastes like it’s fighting it’s way into the garden eager to be the first. It tastes like new beginnings and it tastes wonderful.

Friends, you are going to get so sick of this blog if you don’t like rhubarb because man oh man am I that rhubarb is around. I wanted to bake with it, and I will, very soon, but first I wanted rhubarb jam.

I love rhubarb jam and it is painfully simple to make, so simple I almost feel bad giving a recipe to it. I didn’t have any pectin so I used half an apple. Apples are chalk full of pectin so it’s an easy way to add a little extra sweetness and get your jam to thicken up. I do to spice it up a little by add the tiniest bit of rose water to it. You want just the tiniest bit because to much will start to taste perfume-y. You just a hint of floral. I had some in my cupboard but you can find it at middle eastern stores, and if you can’t find it, then just go without. I promise, no one will complain.

Rhubarb and Rose Jam

Wash the rhubarb very carefully

Put in in a thick bottom pot with the apple on medium-low heat

Let it slowly simmer

It will start to fall apart

Keep going, it will fall apart more

Once its totally fallen apart add in the sugar.

Turn the heat down to low and stir regularly until the the apple is comlete mush and the jam becomes quite thick.

Add in the rose water. Just a couple drops, taste it, then you can add in more. The rose should be very subtle.

Pour into a jar and think of spring!