Saturday, June 09, 2007

Please forgive me . . . with a slice of rhubarb coffeecake on top.

Dear loving readers,

Please forgive me for my absence of the past six months. I have no excuse, except for the fact that my life became insanely crazy last semester and I lived off of pb & j, grilled cheese, hummus & vegetables, pasta, trail mix, toast, cereal, pizza, and take out. I have started to cook again, and I feel confident that I will continue as I have in the past. I vow today to inform you in the future if, blog-god forbid, I need to take another extended leave of absence.

With loving apology,

p.s. the puppy pic is just a ploy to win back your hearts

Okay, now that that's taken care of, let's move onto this coffeecake. In Wednesday's Dining In section of the NY Times, Melissa Clark included her recipe for Rhubarb 'Big Crumb' Coffeecake, which she designed as a lower-sugar alternative to baked goods with rhubarb that contain copious amounts of sugar to offset rhubarb's tart bite. The bright red stalks at the grocery store have been flirting with me lately, so I decided this would be an excellent way to get them back to my place.

My only substitution to the recipe was the use of whole wheat pastry flour (in both the cake and the crumb topping) instead of cake flour. This certainly makes a difference in the final product, but I think it worked out well, considering I hoped to eat this with my morning coffee and not as a dessert. I was pleased in general with the results (except for the fact that I think I over-baked it by a minute or two), although I think I would make just a couple of changes for the future:

1. I hesitantly purchased only one large stalk of rhubarb that weighed in at just over half a pound, so after trimming, I had just the amount that the recipe called for. I think the cake could stand for almost double the amount of rhubarb, or even better, a half pound of apples, strawberries, or raspberries in addition to the rhubarb. Next time I will try it with apples, as I think this would work perfectly with the hint of cinnamon and ground ginger in the cake.

2. The recipe calls for the crumb topping to be shaped into large crumbs that are 1/2-3/4" in diameter. Although I really enjoyed shaping the crumbs and sculpting my cake into a rocky landscape with towering peaks and deep crevasses (just like the ones I have been watching on Planet Earth), in the end, I don't know if they needed to be so big. I kind of enjoyed the bites with the smaller, dustier, crumbly topping, and I think I will take that route next time. Of course, my opinion might be different here if I had used cake flour.

This recipe, although a tad more labor intensive than simpler crumb cake recipes I have used in the past, was well worth the effort. I was very pleased with the results, which made an excellent companion to my coffee this morning (and my wine last night). This time of year, we all need a little rhubarb in our lives, even if it is not in a pie.

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