Spring=rhubarb in the Midwest. It grows in ditches and gardens in abundance. I wonder sometimes if we enjoy foods because of the memories they evoke of childhood pleasures. If you didn’t have rhubarb as a child, would this doom you to shun it forever? I have a friend who was raised in the south and he has no appreciation for rhubarb. Of course, this particular friend also detests ginger, so I think it’s a personality flaw in him. Sorry friend. Really! Who doesn’t love a good ginger cookie? or ginger bread? or ginger muffins? Ohhh, I digress. If I don’t stop myself I’ll have the oven on making ginger cupcakes and this is about rhubarb.
Rhubarb is the long skinny vegetable with the huge poisonous leaves. Yes, vegetable. Cut it off about one inch below the leaves. And then sweeten either by pairing it with a sweet fruit, such as strawberries, peaches or cherries, or by adding a boatload of sugar. Or a combination.
During my Weight Watchers years we made a rhubarb sauce by steaming it on top of the stove with a touch of water and some cancer-causing sweetners. After eating, it left a bitter taste and a sense that it stripped the enamel off my teeth. I tried to tell myself I liked it, but the love affair was brief.
Last year I modified the old recipe and made a strawberry rhubarb sauce that was simple and used real sugar. Easier on the enamel and the pallate.
When I was first married, I polled relatives for their favorite rhubarb recipes. I faithfully tried each one. From cobblers to crunches to coffee cakes they were all delicious, but this one has remained one of my hubby’s top two choices. My Aunt Kitty is my father’s little sister. And I do mean little. She’s a petite 5 feet tall and weighs nothing. Her secret after birthing five children: she allows herself one chocolate from a quality box of chocolates after lunch each day. That is a habit I can embrace.
I have blogged about several other rhubarb recipes in the past, such as the Apple Cranberry Rhubarb Crunch with the oatmeal topping.And the Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler – my hubby’s favorite.
Aunt Kitty’s dessert has two layers – but don’t let that stop you. It goes together quickly with little clean up. (Just keeping it simple.) The bottom layer is a shortbread, which you bake first. The top layer is a custard, which tames the sharp rhubarb flavor, but doesn’t hide it.
You pour on the custard topping onto the bottom layer while it is hot and continue baking. It swells up and then deflates after it comes out of the oven which creates a crunchy, sweet topping, so it feels as if you have three layers. Let me explain.
Ingredients for Crust
1 cup flour of choice
5 Tbs powdered sugar
1/2 cup butter
Ingredients for Topping
2 eggs – beaten with a fork
1 1/2 cups sugar (or a bit less)
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 cups rhubarb cut into 1″ pieces
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
Grease the bottom and sides of an 8″ (or 9″) square pan.
Use a fork or pastry cutter to cut the butter into the flour and sugar for the crust.
When it resembles crumbs, dump it into the greased pan.
Press the crumbs down until they are even. I use the bottom of a glass for this.
Bake the crust for 15 minutes. It will be very light in color.
While it is baking, mix the ingredients for the topping together in the same bowl.
Stir in the rhubarb last.
Pour the mixture over the hot crust and bake another 25 minutes.
This time the color will be golden and bubbly.
Serve warm with a bit of ice cream or whipped cream.
It will still be wonderful served cold, but warm is best.