Jump into Spring with Both Feet, by Cooking a Rhubarb Recipe You've Never Tried Before.
I am a great believer in exploring and trying something new. The freshness of spring rhubarb is a great opportunity for doing that in your cooking life, and so I encourage you to try this rhubarb cinnamon polenta cake recipe, from Nigel Slater's "Ripe, A cook in the orchard."
Look at the photo above, and see if this spring rhubarb cake doesn't remind you of two things: 1) A cloud painting by Georgia O'Keefe; and 2) the lines "clouds in my coffee," from a Carly Simon song. Can you guess which song? Click on the link to find out if you are right.
Have you ever grown you own rhubarb? I never have done so, but the leaves are quite awesome. Here is a photo from a gardening blog, "A Way to Garden," by Margaret Roach. In talking about her open gardening days, she says that the rhubarb plants are one of the plants that gets the most questions by visitors to her garden.
I only wish I had the room in my garden for such an awesome display. But here is what is happening in my own spring garden.
And isn't if lovely that rhubarb for such things as this rhubarb cinnamon polenta cake, is available for us at our farmers' markets and grocery stores. Here is a shout-out to our farmers!
Rhubarb Cinnamon Polenta Cake
- for the filling:
- rhubarb - about 1 pound
- golden baker's sugar - ¼ cup
- water - 4 tablespoons
- for the crust:
- coarse polenta - ¾ cup
- all-purpose flour - 1-½ cups plus 1 tablespoon
- baking powder - a teaspoon
- ground cinnamon - a pinch
- golden baker's sugar - ¾ cup
- grated zest of a small orange
- butter - 10 tablespoons
- a large egg
- milk - 2 to 4 tablespoons
- demerara sugar - a tablespoon
Lightly oil or butter an 8-inch springform cake pan. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and put a baking sheet in it to get hot. Trim the rhubarb, cut each stem into short pieces, and put them in a baking dish. Scatter over the sugar and water and bake for thirty to forty minutes, until the rhubarb is soft but still retains its shape. Remove the pieces of fruit from the dish and put them in a colander or large sieve to drain. Reserve the rhubarb juice to serve with the cake.
Put the polenta flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and bakers' sugar in a food processor. Add the grated orange zest and the butter, cut into smallish pieces, then blitz for a few seconds until you have something that resembles breadcrumbs. I sometimes prefer to do this by hand, rubbing the butter into the polenta with my fingertips as if I were making pastry. An extraordinarily peaceful thing to do if one has the time. Break the egg into a small bowl and mix with 2 tablespoons of milk, then blend into the crumble mix, either in the food processor or by hand. Take care not to overtax; stop as soon as the dry ingredients and liquid have come together to form a soft, slightly sticky dough. If it isn't a little sticky, then adda a touch more milk.
Press about two-thirds of the mixture into the cake pan, pushing it ¾ inch up the sides with a floured spoon. Make sure there are no holes or large cracks. Place the drained rhubarb on top, leaving a small rim around the edge. Crumble lumps of the remaining polenta mixture over the fruit with your fingertips, and don't worry if the rhubarb isn't all covered. Scatter over the demerara sugar.
Place on the hot baking sheet and bake for forty-five to fifty minutes, then cool a little before attempting to remove from the pan. Serve in slices with the reserved rhubarb juice.