"Perhaps the most impressive of all the cookbook blogs are the three devoted to the 2004 edition of Gourmet magazine's "The Gourmet Cookbook" -- all 5¼ pounds and 1,300-odd recipes of it. Befitting this culinary Everest, all three writers are overachievers in their professional lives."

--Lee Gomes, The Wall Street Journal, May 28, 2008
"I should have told you before how much I've been enjoying reading your thoughts. You seem like such a great cook."

--Ruth Reichl, Editor-in-Chief of Gourmet Magazine, June 8 2008, comment on "Chocolate Velvet Ice Cream".

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Two Rhubarb Desserts

I think Adam and I must be connected on some sort of psychic gourmet ethernet--I had just started a post about Rhubarb Roulade and Roasted Rhubarb Tarts with Strawberry Sauce, when up popped Rhubarb Roulade on Adam's blog! OK, it IS rhubarb season, but still there are over 1300 recipes in this book! I think it's kind of interesting that we often cook and write about the same things.

So yes, it's rhubarb season and since I love to cook seasonally I of course have been all over this plant--my friend Elizabeth has a MASSIVE rhubarb plant in her garden and I got all of my rhubarb for these recipes (which ended up being about five pounds) from her. Thanks, Elizabeth!

By the way, if you have never seen a rhubarb plant they look like this:

Elizabeth wondered, as I was cutting, if there was any taste difference between the green stalks and the red stalks, and I told her I didn't think so...but then I tasted them and at least in the two I sampled the red one seemed to be more watery. I'm not sure why this would be--it might bear further experimentation!

The Rhubarb Roulade starts you off making a thin sponge cake, made by combining an egg yolk/sugar/vanilla base with whipped egg whites and flour. I've made a few cakes this way, and there has to be a better way.

My main problem is with sifting the flour in thirds over the egg yolk base and then folding it in. Flour just doesn't fold that well--it kind of clumps up. I found myself wanting to use a whisk with the flour...but that would have defeated the purpose of folding in the egg whites that I folded in on the previous round!

Next time I try a cake like this I'll just whisk the flour right into the base first, then fold in the whites.

The batter goes in a jelly roll pan,

and bakes for not-too-long.

While it was baking and cooling, I made the filling. Oh by the way, I doubled this recipe because I made it as a birthday cake for my mom, who gave me carte blanche to bake whatever I wanted! I didn't double it because she loves rhubarb, I doubled it because there were going to be about 14 folks at the party and I wanted to feed them all. Poor kids. No chocolate cake!! And, my mom does love rhubarb. Just thought you'd like to know. I'm not THAT mean.

OK, filling. Couldn't be simpler. Cut up your rhubarb and put it in a pot with sugar.

in less than 15 minutes, you've got it.

I ended up cutting the two roulades in half and making kind of a cross out of them on the cake platter--I filled in the gaps and corners with fresh strawberries and sprinkled the whole thing with confectioner's sugar. Pretty, and no photo--sorry! You'll have to use your vivid imagination.

Happy birthday to my mom, whose birthday was actually in March, but clearly we don't pay much attention to those silly little details!


I'd been intrigued by Roasted Rhubarb Tarts with Strawberry Sauce from the get-go, all because of that word "roasted". I've roasted carrots, parsips, mushrooms, tomatoes, potatoes--what on earth would happen to rhubarb when it was roasted? Would it shrivel, intensify in flavor? Very interesting to think about!

Also, this recipe falls into the category of "Recipes for Busy, Busy People" because the store-bought components seem to make it quick and easy to put together. What components, you ask? Frozen puff pastry, and frozen strawberry in heavy syrup, along with rhubarb, conf. sugar and creme fraiche or sour cream (I used sour cream because I'm cheap).

Does it seem odd to used frozen strawberries at the time of year when strawberries are in season (like rhubarb)? Yes! Very, very odd, but I played along anyway because THAT'S HOW I ROLL.

For a recipe that seems to simple, it was kind of a pain. Rolling out puff pastry is a pain--why not use puff pastry shells, which have a hole in the middle already? Because this is what you do--you're supposed to bake the squares that you cut:

and (this is when you're ready to eat them) knock a "trough" into the rectangle, into which you spoon the sweetened sour cream, roasted rhubarb, and strawberry sauce. It was kind of like...a strawberry-rhubarb tostada.

But I'm getting ahead of myself!

The strawberry sauce. You puree the thawed frozen strawberries in a blender and force it through a sieve to remove any unpleasant seeds. I realized too late that my strawberries were not thawed.

but once they were I blended them and dutifully strained them, and strained out...nothing. A waste of time. Strawberry seeds are so small, who cares?

On to the next step-the roasted rhubarb! I was looking forward to this part. I cut up the rhubarb and sifted confectioner's sugar over it,

and popped them in the oven (425 for 15-25 minutes). I couldn't wait to see how they would be transformed. Are you curious too? Oh, the suspense!


Let's see!

If you are thinking that it just looks like plain old rhubarb sitting there, you're right! All it does is make the rhubarb tender. And, it's a little bit sweet from the dusting of sugar.

And if you're thinking, "what's the point of roasting it, then?" you are PSYCHIC because that's what I want to know too! Why not just throw it in a pot with some sugar like the good old rhubarb roulade up there--less time consuming, anyway and also I hate washing cookie sheets for some reason, probably because I always end up getting water on me. Bah humbug.

And here is where I stopped taking pictures and just finished it up, because I had to be at the cookout in mere minutes.

I skipped the sifting of confectioner's sugar over the creme fraice/sour cream step because frankly I had had it with stupid directives--I just dumped it in and whisked the hell out of it. Then I packed the whole thing up and trotted off to Elizabeth's cookout. Oh by the way I tripled this recipe, which could have something to do with my crankiness--stupid directions times 3 make me three times as cranky!

I have nice friends. Elizabeth has nice friends. Everybody said they loved loved LURVED this dessert, but I didn't, and I think it's because I've finally owned up to the fact that I just don't like puff pastry that much. I also found the rectangular puff pastry with a troughhoffillingandtwotoppings tostada effect unwieldy and messy.

How could this recipe be better (oh so many ways)?

1. Puff baskets, or whatever those things are called.
2. Fresh strawberries, with sugar of any kind. Maybe a little booze, like chambourd. No silly straining of seeds.
3. Roasting rhubarb the way I'm envisioning it would be time-consuming (since rhubarb has a lot of water), so ditch that conceit and just cook the damn stuff on the stove top in a pot.
4. If I were so inclined, I might put a little lemon zest in the sweetened sour cream, but this recipe isn't stupid because of the lack of lemon zest. That's just me thinking of how it might be better.

There! I'm done being mean. Ruth Reichl, I don't call many of these recipes stupid (I think this makes 6 out of, oh...over 700 so far) and I hope this isn't one of your cherished family recipes! So don't be insulted! Or any other of you Gourmet staffers, if you even read these blogs.

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