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VPR Cafe: Sweet Ways With Rhubarb

Rhubarb is Spring's zucchini.  It grows in abundance, is shared generously among neighbors, and can be used in a hundred ways.  This week, Candace Page raves about her favorite fruit.  Candy writes for the Savorevore Section of the Burlington Free Press and keeps copious amounts of rhubarb in her yard and freezer. 

You'll find the recipes mentioned in today's program below, and you can read more Rhubarb love stories here.  Candy also shares expert advice on starting, growing and harvesting Rhubarb in this article.

The VPR Cafe is produced in collaboration with The Burlington Free Press and supported on VPR by The Vermont Community Foundation Food & Farm Initiative.

Rhubarb Maple Toasted Bread Pudding

Candace Page note: This is delicious warm and even better in the morning for breakfast.

4 slices good white bread
3/4 cup milk?
3 tablespoons butter?
2 eggs?
1/4 cup maple syrup
?1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
?pinch of salt?
1 cup of chopped rhubarb ?
whipped cream flavored with maple syrup?
?Remove the crusts from the bread and toast the slices.  Cut or tear into small cubes and place in a bowl. Heat the milk with 2 tablespoons of the butter and pour over the bread cubes. Use the remaining butter to coat a 1-quart casserole. ?
After the toast has soaked for 10 minutes, beat together the eggs, maple syrup, 1/4 cup sugar and salt. Stir in the rhubarb and combine with the bread mixture. Pour into the buttered casserole, sprinkle remaining sugar on top and bake for 40 minutes in a preheated 325-degree oven. ?Serve warm with maple-flavored whipped cream.?
?*from the L.L. Bean Book of New New England Cookery, by Judith and Evan Jones, Random House, 1989

Rhubarb Blackberry Buttermilk Cake

Candace Page Note:  I have made this with blackberries and without, increasing the rhubarb to 1½ cups. It was delicious both ways.
1 cup all-purpose flour?
1/2 teaspoon baking powder?
1/2 teaspoon baking soda?
1/4 teaspoon salt?
1/2 stick unsalted butter,  softened
?2/3 cup sugar
?1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract?
1 large egg
?1 teaspoon lemon zest?
1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk?
3/4 cup fresh blackberries
?1/2 cup rhubarb, chopped?
2 tablespoons turbinado (or brown) sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees with rack in middle. Coat a 9-inch round cake pan with cooking spray. 

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl. Set aside. 

Beat butter and 2/3 cup sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until batter is smooth, about 2 minutes. Beat in the vanilla, egg, and lemon zest. Mix until well combined.

At low speed, mix in the flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with buttermilk. Start with the flour and end with the flour. Mix until just combined. Don't over mix.

Spoon batter into cake pan, smoothing the top with a spatula. Scatter blackberries and rhubarb evenly over the top of the batter. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of turbinado sugar.

Bake until cake is golden brown and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, 20-25 minutes. Let the cake cool in pan for about 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack and cool completely. Serve the cake upside down to show off the pretty berries and rhubarb. Cut into slices.

Serves 8  Adapted from Gourmet magazine by bakers at the website Two Peas and Their Pod

Granny’s Rhubarb Cake

Candace Page note: This is an old Texas hill country recipe, the kind of cake a farm wife could whip up in a few minutes before dinner. The center has a tendency to stay too moist. At the suggestion of Jessica Gaudette of Fairfield, I plan to try putting the rhubarb in the pan first, not last, so its moisture stays at the bottom on the pan.

1 cup sugar
½ cup shortening
1¾ cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 eggs
2 cups rhubarb
¾ cup brown sugar

Cream sugar and shortening. Add remaining dry ingredients and beat briefly with an electric mixer. Beat two eggs in a measuring cup, then fill to the one cup mark with milk. Add the egg-milk mixture and the vanilla to the dry ingredients and combine.  Pour into a two-quart casserole. Scatter rhubarb and brown sugar on top. Bake at 350 degrees until done, 35-45 minutes.

Franny was VPR's Director of Programming & Production.
Ric was a producer for Vermont Edition and host of the VPR Cafe.
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