Rhubarb Tart with Orange Custard

I’m back!  Sorry for the delay, but I found myself quite wrapped up the exciting flurry of college graduation.  I’m looking forward to a summer filled with tasty treats and new cooking adventures.

And so, to kick of my summer of food, I am bringing you one of my favorite late-spring treats: rhubarb.  I have been known to pick up pounds upon pounds of this vegetable from the farmer’s market each year.  In fact, I just picked up another three pounds of the red and green stalks yesterday, making this year’s rhubarb tally reach a total of six pounds (and I’m definitely not finished yet!)  I still have strawberry-rhubarb-jam with lavender to make this summer.

I decided to forgo my traditional rhubarb cookies for a new recipe–a rhubarb tart with orange custard–from the lovely Deborah Madison.  I wouldn’t quite categorize the treat as a tart, for it reminds me more of a rhubarb pound cake, but, either way, it is a delicious way to showcase my favorite spring ingredient!

I’d also love to hear about any of your favorite ways to use rhubarb.  Please feel free to post any recipes/links in the comments.

Rhubarb Tart with Orange Custard
(Adapted from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone)
This dessert is best served the day it is made, as the center gets a bit mushy after sitting for a while.  However, it is perfect for an indulgent breakfast, a mid-afternoon snack, or an after-dinner treat with ice cream.
For the dough:
1/2 unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
1 cup flour
For the filling:
1 1/2 pounds rhubarb
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 egg
1/2 cup cream
Lightly grease an 11-inch tart pan. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees*.
Cut the rhubarb into 1/2 inch pieces. Toss it with the sugar, cloves, orange zest, and cinnamon.  Set aside for at least one hour.
To make the dough, cream the butter, sugar, and salt together until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until smooth after each addition. Add the vanilla and the orange zest, then stir in the flour. Smooth the batter into the prepared tart pan, pushing it up the sides to make a rim.
Beat the egg for the filling in a 2-cup measure. Add the juices from the rhubarb and enough cream to make 1 cup. Distribute the rhubarb over the batter, keeping it within the rim. Pour the egg and cream mixture over the fruit and bake until set and lightly browned, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven.
*Note: If you want to avoid a messy oven, place a layer of aluminum foil on the shelf below the tart while baking.

Morning Glory Muffins

Have I ever told you about my love for breakfast?  I’ve raved about granola and pear bread, and I’ve told you about my affection for avocado and whole wheat toast. But, I have to tell you a secret. There’s one breakfast treat that has never been on top of my favorite list: muffins.

I just really don’t like muffins.

Why, you ask?  Well, I’ve eaten a lot of muffins that are too gummy, too sweet, and, to be honest, not all that flavorful.  I want a muffin with substance, with pizzazz, with “oh my god, I just ate three of those muffins” power.  The morning glory is my muffin!

This muffin packs a big nutritional punch.  Carrots, apples, raisins, pears, and coconut all float in a sea of whole wheat and spelt flour.  Unlike your typical muffin, the morning glory will keep your stomach satisfied and your taste buds smiling.

Morning Glory Muffins
For some reason, I like these muffins even better the second day. I leave them on the counter for hungry hands to grab for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  Variation: Omit the almond garnish, and toss in 1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts with the raisins.  Makes 12 muffins.
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup spelt flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 medium carrots, grated
1 Granny Smith apple, grated (I kept the skin on for extra fiber)
1 ripe pear, peeled and grated
1 egg
1/4 cup plain yogurt (low-fat is fine)
1/2 cup melted butter or canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup shredded coconut
12 almonds, for a decorative kick! (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter or line a 12-cup muffin pan.
Place raisins in a small bowl and cover with hot water. Let the raisins sit in the water to plump for 15 minutes. Drain.
In a medium-sized bowl, combine the spelt flour, whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, mix together the carrots, apple, pear, egg, yogurt, melted butter/oil, vanilla, raisins and coconut.
Add the carrot mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until combined, being careful not to overmix.  Spoon the batter into the muffin cups, filling to the top (the batter will not rise very much). Top each muffin with an almond, if using.  Bake 40-45 minutes, until the muffins are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean.  Remove from the pan, and let cool on a wire rack.

Pear Bread

As you have probably been able to figure out, my true passion for food lies on the sweet side of the kitchen.  Although I am confident in my savory cooking abilities, an extra splurge of creativity and excitement arrives when I am baking.

One of my favorite things to make and to eat is banana bread.  Over the years, through much trial and error, I think I have (finally) created one of the tastiest banana bread recipes around.

I had at the huge pile of bananas on the kitchen counter for a while, assuming that my family could not possibly eat that many bananas, and that I would be able to make banana bread at the end of the week.  However, when I glanced at the pile yesterday, there was only one brown-speckled beauty ripe enough for baking.

Still having an itch to bake, and with four extremely ripe pears sitting in the fruit basket, I decided to try baking pear bread.  After all, the method has to be pretty similar to banana bread, doesn’t it?

Inspired, I remembered reading about pear bread on another one of my favorite food sites: Smitten Kitchen.  So, using her recipe as a starting point, I quickly whipped together the batter, poured it into a Bundt pan, and gently slid it into the oven.  One hour later the entire house smelled delightfully of spiced bread, and my craving for banana bread was quickly forgotten.  I promise that this bread will not disappoint!

Pear Bread
(Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)
If you look at Deb’s site, you’ll notice that I decreased the amount of sugar quite a bit.  I still found the bread to be plenty sweet, however, and the texture remained perfectly moist.  The key, I think, is to use overly ripe pears.  Also, I imagine the bread would make a lovely dessert for a party if slathered with cream cheese frosting.  Makes 10 generous servings.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 ripe pears, peeled and cored
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour a Bundt pan.  Set aside.
Combine all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, and salt in a large bowl.
Place the pears in a small bowl and mash.  Add the oil, eggs, brown sugar, granulated sugar and vanilla extract to the bowl and mix well.
Add the pear mixture to the flour mixture.  Fold the mixture until no specks of flour remain, being careful not to overmix.
Scrape the batter into the prepared Bundt pan and bake for approximately 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the bread comes out clean.  Cool the bread in the pan for 10 minutes.  Turn the bread out on a wire rack and cool completely.

Chocolate Cranberry Scones

It seems that scones are always hit-or-miss.  The good ones crumble when you try to tear off a piece, are moist without being gummy, and have a touch of sweetness, without being a cookie.  Although I have a favorite, go-to scone recipe (which I will post about in the upcoming month), I decided to try something new.

This chocolate scone recipe has been bookmarked for a while; I simply did not find the right occasion to make them…until last week that is.

The recipe is a breeze to make, and you probably have most (if not all) of the ingredients in your kitchen.  The utterly rich, chocolate-studded scone dough is balanced by the tart bite of the fresh cranberries.  These scones would make a great breakfast treat for holiday guests.

Chocolate Cranberry Scones
(Adapted from the Martha Stewart Baking Handbook)
These scones are quite rich, but make a wonderful treat in the morning with a nice big mug of coffee.  Makes 12
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
3 tablespoons high-quality cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces
5 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces
1 cup chopped cranberries
1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream (you can substitute milk, preferably whole)
Sanding sugar, for sprinkling (optional)
Line a baking sheet with parchment; set aside.  In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, cinnamon, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs with a few larger clumps remaining.  Fold in the chocolate and the cranberries.
Whisk together the whole egg and 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon cream.  Add egg mixture to the flour mixture; using a rubber spatula, fold in, working in all directions and incorporating crumbs at the bottom of the bowl, until dough just comes together.
Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface, and gently pat into a 12×9 inch rectangle about 1 inch thick.  Using a sharp knife or a pastry wheel, cut the rectangle into 12  3-inch squares.  Place squares about 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet.  Cover with plastic wrap and freeze until the dough is very firm, at least 1 hour or overnight. (At this point, you can freeze the unbaked scones in a resealable plastic bag until ready to bake, up to 3 weeks.)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg yolk with the remaining tablespoon heavy cream; brush over the tops of the scones and sprinkle generously with sanding sugar, if using.  Bake, rotating the sheet halfway through, until the sugar on top of the scones turns golden all over, or a cake tester inserted int th center of a scone comes out clean, 20-25 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool.  They are best eaten the day they are baked.