Rhubarb Crumb Cake

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This past Sunday, I had my first Mother’s Day. It was a good one…I mean, this cute little guy was involved…though not exactly what I had imagined Mother’s Days to be. Instead of brunching leisurely, sipping mimosas, and kicking back, I woke up early and was at Home Depot just before 7am to rent a contraption called a “plate compactor.” Then, I moved a literal ton and a half of bricks and sand into my backyard from the driveway. FUN TIMES. I kept telling myself that in a few short weekends it would be all worth it because we will have a lovely, herringbone-patterned brick patio to lounge on for sunshine-y, summer days now and into the future. Luckily, I didn’t do all of this alone. Sean did a ton of the work and his brother also came over to help out. Plus, there was a big square of rhubarb coffee cake and a delicious breakfast sandwich in there, both from Grand Central, between the Home Depot trip and the manual labor stuff.

The cake was a total dream and I just couldn’t stop thinking about it, so I decided to recreate something similar at home. A lot of the recipes I found had a thinner batter that results in a cake with chunks of rhubarb mixed into the cake itself. I really wanted the rhubarb to sit atop the batter between the cake layer and the crumble layer. This cake, an adaptation of the New York-Style Crumb Cake from the famous Baked NYC, was pretty much perfect. A solid ratio of buttery boulders of crumb topping to tender-yet-sturdy cake base–perfect for holding up plenty of tart rhubarb. I didn’t do anything to the rhubarb because I knew that the sweet crumbs would offset the sourness of the rhubarb. I also held back on adding any sort of cinnamon or spice–which is normally my instinct with coffee-cake-like things, but I really wanted it to be all butter and vanilla with punches of rhubarb. The only thing I would do differently next time is to double the rhubarb. I totally think this cake could handle it. I could see this cake being made all times of the year with various seasonal or frozen fruits. I’d avoid anything too wet, like strawberries, but apples, cranberries, pretty much any berry, or even stone fruits (cherries!) would all be lovely.

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Rhubarb Crumb Cake

Adapted from Baked Explorations

Aside from adding rhubarb, I  used a vanilla bean in the batter and added some extract to the crumb, omitted the cinnamon, subbed in more dark brown sugar, subbed in some oats for flour, and browned the butter for the crumb. To ensure large chunks of crumb, I put the mixture in the refrigerator to rest while I made the cake batter.

Makes 1, 9×13 inch, cake.

For the crumb topping:

1 1/2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, browned

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup rolled oats

For the batter:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1 vanilla bean, split and scraped (or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract)

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 1/4 cups sour cream

1 1/2 heaping cups rhubarb cut into 1/2 inch pieces (I would do as much as 3 cups in the future)

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line a 9×13 inch baking pan with parchment, leaving an overhang on 2 sides, and grease well.

Make the crumb in a mixing bowl by stirring together the sugars, salt, and flour. Fold in the browned butter and press the crumb firmly into the bowl before placing in the refrigerator to rest while you prepare the batter.

In another bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt for the batter. Place the rhubarb pieces in another bowl and toss with about 1 tablespoon of the dry mix, just to coat lightly. Set aside.

In the bowl of a mixer, beat the butter until smooth. Add the sugars and the scrapings from the vanilla bean. Beat until the mixture begins to lighten in color and become a bit fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well and scraping the bowl after each addition. Add the sour cream and beat until just combined. Add the dry ingredients in 3 parts, scraping down the bowl after each addition and beating until just combined. Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan and smooth the top. Scatter the rhubarb over the top of the batter. Grab handfuls of the crumb topping, squishing it in your fist to make large chunks of crumb, and cover the entire cake. Bake the cake for 45-60 minutes (mine took the full 60) or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack for at least 30 minutes before cutting and serving. Leftover cake can be wrapped well in plastic and stored at room temperature, though I opted to refrigerate the wrapped leftovers. Serve any leftover cake at room temperature.

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Meyer Lemon Curd

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This past summer, right after Casper was born, my mom bought me a couple of plants for the yard–a squat, red Japanese maple, a lilac, and two jasmine plants. It was our first trip out of the house and Casper was only a few days old. I wore him in my Solly wrap and wandered Portland Nursery in what I can only describe as a new-mom-haze–a mixture of emotions running from sentimental, to overwhelmed, to smitten. While we were there I spotted a wee Meyer lemon tree and always the giver, my mom bought it,  potted it, and popped in my house by our back door. It’s a glass slider door that gets a ton of afternoon light and my little citrus has been growing pretty well, I think. It sprouted a few little lemons, to our surprise, but it really won’t bear much fruit for a couple of years. Until then, I will prune the waxy leaves, try to keep Casper from eating the potting soil, and buy my Meyer lemons from the store and turn them into lemon curd until my home-grown citrus dreams come true.

Lemon curd is one if my favorite sweet-tart condiments. Meyer lemons have the faintest flavor of tangerine that balances the tartness, making this curd just a touch sweeter than traditional lemon curds. It’s amazing smeared onto a cream scone or biscuit, prefect In a pastry shell, and delicious with shortbread cookies. Next week I’ll be posting a frozen treat I swirled with this curd, so stay tuned!!

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Meyer Lemon Curd

about 2 cups curd

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

6 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces

6 egg yolks

3/4 cup fresh meyer lemon juice (about 5 lemons)

zest of 1 meyer lemon

In a saucepan combine all of the ingredients, whisk to break up the eggs. Set the pan over medium-low heat, whisking constantly until the mixture thickens. The curd is thick enough when it coats a spoon so when you run a finger over the back of the spoon the curd doesn’t run back together. Remove from the heat and scrape the curd into a fine mesh sieve set over a bowl and press it through to sieve out the zest. Pour the curd into a heatproof jar to cool. Cover and store the cooled curd in the refrigerator for 1 week.

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Pizza Grilled Cheese

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Pizza + Grilled Cheese = Pizza Grilled CHEESE!!!!!!

I mean, what can I say?

It’s basically a cheesy, melty, amazing, marriage of two of the best food items in all the lands. It’s really a thing of beauty and I can barely believe it never occurred to me to smash these two things together before. But, forgive me. Please.

This gooey sandwich baby has all the things we love about pizza–carbs, cheese, toppings–plus a buttery, crunchy, parmesan cheese crust that gets golden and crispy in a hot skillet.You could do a million and one pizza inspired fillings for this grilled cheese. I went with easy roasted mushrooms, spicy Italian sausage, lots of melty mozzarella, fresh basil, and some of my quick marinara–which I keep in frozen little ice cubes in my freezer. Which means as long as I have bread and cheese and cubes of frozen marinara in my freezer, I can have this. Danger. I made this for lunch and then dinner the same day and made googly-heart-emoji-eyes at it the whole time.

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Pizza Grilled Cheese with Roasted Mushrooms and Italian Sausage

Serves 2

I’ve included my go-to recipe for quick marinara below, but you can totally use a prepared, jarred sauce. No probs.

8 ounces cremini mushrooms, cleaned

2 teaspoons olive oil

pinch of salt and pepper

4 slices rustic bread

2 tablespoons softened butter

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

6 slices fresh mozzarella cheese

1 cooked spicy Italian sausage link, sliced

1/4 cup marinara sauce, plus more for dipping

torn or shredded basil leaves

Start by roasting the mushrooms. Preheat the oven to 425ºF and lightly coat a baking sheet with olive oil. Slice the mushrooms and toss with the olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread the mushrooms onto the baking sheet and roast 15-20 minutes or until the mushrooms release all of their liquid and begin to brown. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool slightly.

Heat a cast iron or non-stick skillet over medium heat. Spread the butter onto one side of each of the 4 slices of bread. Divide the parmesan into 4 equal-ish amounts and sprinkle over each buttered piece of bread, pressing the parm into the butter so it adheres nicely. Place 2 slices of bread, butter and parmesan side down (naked side up), in the warm skillet. Layer 2 slices of mozzarella onto each slice of bread, followed by a layer of sausage, mushrooms, a few spoonfuls of sauce, and a sprinkle of the basil. Tear the remaining slices of mozzarella into pieces and sprinkle over the top of the layers, then top with the remaining slice of bread, butter and parmesan side up. Cook the grilled cheeses over medium heat on one side until golden, crisp and the cheese is starting to melt.* Carefully flip over the sandwiches and cook on the other side until golden, crisp, and the cheese is very melty. Serve the sandwiches hot with additional marinara for dipping.

*to encourage melting, add a few teaspoons of water to the hot skillet and cover with a lid (if you don’t have a lid a sheet pan (the one you used to roast the mushrooms) works excellently in a pinch).

Quick Marinara

To freeze, I just spoon the cooled marinara into an ice cube tray or two, freeze until solid, and pop the frozen cubes into a freezer bag for using as needed.

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion, diced fine

1-2 minced cloves garlic

2 teaspoons oregano

1/2-1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1, 28-ounce, can crushed tomatoes

salt to taste

In a saucepan heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and a pinch of salt, cook for a few minutes until the onions become transluscent. Add the garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes, cook an additional minute before stirring in the tomato paste. Continue to cook until the tomato paste becomes deep red. Stir in the crushed tomatoes and season with a pinch of salt. Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes, until some of the liquid has evaporated. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if you like. Remove from the heat and use however you want–for pasta sauces, pizza, meatballs, whatever! Store any leftover sauce in an lidded container in the refrigerator for a few days or freeze as noted above.

 

 

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