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.

[recipe]

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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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Peanut Butter and Strawberry Cookies

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I feel like I haven’t posted a cookie round these parts for some time now, but truth be told…we went on a bit of a chocolate chip cookie bender for a bit and maybe had to slow it down in the ‘zerts department. I mean, when you freeze cookie dough into portions and have them stashed in the freezer, there’s not much stopping you from treating-yo-self nightly to a warm cookie or two. Cookie binge was followed by an ice cream binge…so, we had to take it a little easy on the sugar intake.

Then, I decided to make these cute little numbers because they’ve been knocking around in my brain for days and I just couldn’t ignore them any more. I’m gonna have to unload them on Sean’s office mates or something, because I cannot resist these guys.Even Sean, who claims to hate peanut butter cookies, couldn’t stop eating these. They’re thick and chewy and full of peanut butter flavor with little bits of intense strawberry throughout–like a pb&j in cookie form. These are best served with a tall glass of cold milk–the cow kind or the almond kind, or whatever kind you like. I even had one with horchata. GOOD STUFF. Cookie magic, cue the sparkle emoji!

[recipe]

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Peanut Butter & Strawberry Cookies

Makes about 30 cookies

Adapted from THIS recipe.

1 cup coarsely ground oatmeal, ground in a food processor so there are some large pieces and some powdery bits

1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (4 ounces) softened, unsalted butter

2/3 cup peanut butter

1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups freeze dried strawberries (plus more for topping)

1 cup peanut butter chips

1/2 cup coarsely chopped peanut

Preheat the oven to 350ºF and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a bowl, whisk together the oats, flour, baking powder and salt.

In the bowl of a mixer, beat the butter and peanut butter together until smooth. Beat in the dark brown sugar until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well and scraping the bowl after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. Add the oat and flour mixture, all at once, and beat on low speed until just combined. Fold in the freeze dried strawberries, peanut butter chips, and peanuts until distrubuted evenly throughout the dough.

Using a large cookie scoop (about 2 heaping tablespoons), scoop portions of dough onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing an inch or so apart. Pat down the tops of the cookies using your fingertips or the bottom of a flat glass as these cookies will not really spread. Bake the cookies in the center of the oven for 13-15 minutes or until the bottom of the cookies are golden brown when lifted from the baking sheet. While the cookies are still hot, carefully press a slice of freeze dried strawberry onto the top of each cookie. Cool about 5 minutes before transferring cookies to a cooling rack. Repeat with the remaining dough. [/recipe]

Easter 2015 and a Ricotta-Berry Cake

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Now that we have Casper, holidays have taken on a renewed sense of whimsy and excitement. It’s so fun to be able to share old traditions and create new ones with him. I know that he’s not really old enough to know what’s going on, but we had a ton of fun making him a basket and making Easter a special day for all of us. I made marshmallow-cereal treats for some of our neighbors–Casper didn’t get any, but he thought they looked pretty cool because, SPRINKLES! We did get him some non-sweets-treats and packed his basket with some cute board books and Sean’s favorite Dr. Seuss book, plus a few plushies, and a fresh pair of moccasins. Sean and I dyed a bunch of eggs after Casper went to sleep on Saturday night. I LOVE dyeing Easter eggs and making the colors super vibrant and mixing colors. We “hid” Casper’s Easter basket underneath his favorite side table–it has cross bars under it that he likes to climb over all-day-every-day like some sort of baby obstacle course. We also dressed him up–which made my mother extremely happy.

For dinner we invited Sean’s brother, Geoff, and his girlfriend, Kelly, over for dinner. On the menu were deviled eggs (DUH!), a smoked pork shoulder with quince and sherry vinegar sauce (an idea we borrowed from a recent date at Toro Bravo), garlic-butter and vermouth shrimp (for Kelly, who doesn’t eat meat), potato gratin, spice roasted carrots with mint and feta, and a brussels sprout and kale salad that Kelly and Geoff made. The guys tried Sean and his friends home-brew (a super hoppy IPA), and I made kir royale to drink, as well. I also made this super moist Ricotta-Berry Cake. It’s so good, tender, and a perfect sweet slice to end a springtime meal. It’s so easy to put together, just 2 bowls, and is the type of effortless cake I think we all need in our arsenals. It’s perfect with a little dusting of powdered sugar or if you want to go crazy, which I did, a some barely sweetened whipped cream is the perfect accompaniment. I could also totally see making this cake with little chunks of rhubarb or even cherries in the summer.

In all, it was a pretty good day. Casper had fun, he was confused by all the happenings but got the hang of the festivities, was delighted by the basket full of goodies–especially the cookie monster Sean got him–and enjoyed showing off his pterydactyl-squawking skills for his Uncle and Kelly.

[recipe]

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Ricotta-Berry Cake

Adapted from Bon Appetit

8 Servings

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 cup sugar

zest of 1 lemon

2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

3 large eggs

1 1/2 cups ricotta

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 cup (1 stick) melted, unsalted butter

1 cup frozen mixed berries

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line a 9-inch cake pan  (I used a spring form pan) with parchment and spray with cooking spray. Set aside.

In a large bowl rub the lemon zest into the sugar. Whisk in the flour, baking powder, and salt.

In another bowl, whisk together the ricotta, eggs, vanilla, and almond extract. Fold in the butter. Fold the ricotta mixture into the flour mixture until just combined. Gently fold in 2/3 of the berries. Spread the batter into the prepared cake pan and scatter the top with the remaining berries. Bake the cake until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 60 minutes. Cool at least 20 minutes before un-molding. [/recipe]