Sunday, July 1, 2012

What to do with pilfered rhubarb

UPDATED 7/25/12 - OK, people.  I shouldn't have to write this but because we live in a society where we apparently have to be told not to use hairdryers in the bathtub or pour hot coffee on our crotches, and that peanut butter contains nuts, let me be clear: do not steal from your neighbors or anyone else.  We're friends with our neighbors and have an open invitation to take rhubarb, apples, berries, peas, lettuce, or anything else from their yard whenever we want.  I rarely take anything.  But the once or twice per year I do, they don't mind, and I usually send them something in thanks for having shared their bounty.
The Smitten Kitchen is one of my favorite blogs.  Her recipes are approachable, the results reliably delicious, the photos simple but appealing.  She makes foods that are seasonable in a tiny kitchen in NYC.  I love that about her!  I am excited to see her book this fall for these reasons and more.

One of her most recent recipes was for a triple berry bundt cake.  It makes you want to dive into the computer screen for a slice.
photo: smitten kitchen
I've been... um.. borrowing rhubarb from my neighbors' yard lately.  My own is really skimpy as it's in its first year.  Don't worry, I've been taking treats to the unsuspecting neighbors in repayment for my early morning raids of their garden.

Last weekend I made the big crumb coffee cake from Smitten Kitchen's blog.  And yes, it's every bit as good as it looks in the pictures.  It's moist.  It's crumb-y.  It's tart from the rhubarb and sweet from the sugar.  It also requires that you dirty about 4 bowls, so be prepared should you make it.

If you're looking for rhubarb recipes (as I know you are, Sigrid), here are some recipes from some of my favorite bloggers:
Big crumb coffee cake (this is one of my husband's favorites)

Roasted rhubarb jam (this rice pudding looks so good I am making it for breakfast while writing this post)

Rhubarb scones (gotta try these!)

Lavender panna cotta with poached rhubarb

On Fathers Day my dad was on a plane to Massachusetts to be with his family after my grandfather's passing.  June was a chaotic month around here.  As a belated Father's Day gift to my dad, I made brunch for my favorite men yesterday.  The menu included a spinach & ham quiche, whole wheat bagels, fresh fruit, and minature bundt cakes with rhubarb, vanilla, and raspberries.

I changed Smitten Kitchen's recipe slightly to make these mini-bundt cakes.  First, I halved the recipe.  That was perfect for the mini-cake mold and made exactly 6 cakes.  I used the smallest eggs my girls produce.  Their smallest are still considered large, however.  If you have jumbo eggs, I'd only use 1.  My substitutions:
  • blueberries & blackberries became rhubarb
  • lemon zest became the guts of one whole vanilla bean
  • buttermilk became sour cream
  • lemon juice became lime juice

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1 1/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt or table salt
1/2 cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cups granulated sugar
1 whole vanilla bean
2 eggs, at room temperature
3 ounces buttermilk
1 cup finely diced rhubarb
1 cup raspberries

1 cups powdered or confections’ sugar
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, very, very soft

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Generously greasethe mini-Bundt pan, either with butter or a nonstick spray. Set aside. (see original recipe for notes on sticking)

In a medium bowl, whisk or sift 1 1/4 cups flour (leaving 1 tablespoons back), baking powder and salt together and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer or large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, sugar and lemon zest until light and impossibly fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Then, with the mixer on a low speed, add your eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl between each addition. Add 1/3 flour mixture to batter, beating until just combined, followed by half the sour cream, another 1/3 of the flour mixture, the remaining sour cream and remaining flour mixture. Scrape down from time to time and don’t mix any more than you need to. In the bowl where you’d mixed your dry ingredients, toss the berries with the remaining tablespoon of flour. With a silicon spatula, gently fold the rhubarb and berries into the cake batter.
My mad cap countertop

Spoon cake batter — you might find it easier to pipe, because it’s so thick — into the prepared baking pan and spread the top smooth. Bake for 30-35 minutes

Set cake pan on a wire rack to cool for 30 minutes, before inverting the cake onto a serving platter to cool the rest of the way. Cool completely.

Once the cake is cool, whisk together the powdered sugar, lime juice and butter until smooth and very, very thick. Spread carefully over top of cake.


  1. These little cakes look delicious! And I just read you're vintage post on PW, thank you, I feel the same way.

  2. That's not "borrowing," that's theft. I'm rather disturbed that you justify stealing from your "unsuspecting neighbors" so easily.

    But thank you for letting a glimpse of what sort of person you are show through. I just stumbled upon your blog today, and thought I might find it interesting...until this post. I won't waste any more time here.

    1. Wow! Do you live in a strange world! Your neighbors aren't good friends that share with you? If we all lived such an insular life what a sad world this would be!
      To have neighbors as friens is a true gift. My neighbors back in N H were welcome to pick my pears and help themselves in my garden anytime. Payback was the help of their kids with weeding etc.....
      Anon- you have my profound sympathy! :-(

  3. I'm sad that you describe this as "theft" without having a full understanding of the situation. My neighbors are good friends and we have shared produce, eggs, and jams across our property lines many times over the last 9 years. We have an agreement, which is restated regularly, that we're welcome in one another's yards any time. And, as I stated, after taking some rhubarb that morning I sent them some coffee cake as a thank you for the use of their plant. The use of the word "pilfer" was in jest, "unsuspecting" because it was 7:00 in the morning.

    If this had been different neighbors, then you would be correct. But then again, I wouldn't be in the yard of people who hadn't welcomed me to enter it any time I wanted.

    Be careful not to judge so quickly. I do hope that you'll be more thoughtful in the future in your assessments of people you don't know.

  4. Personally, if anyone to "take" something from my yard and make something out of it and then proceed to give it to me, well I'm down with that. Jenn I would gladly have you as my neighbor. I would get eggs too right? ;-)

  5. Definitely! I've got about 3 dozen right now. You want some when you come into town... please?