It’s been a long, rainy spring here. But true to form, we’ve gone directly from complaining about the cold to exclaiming about the heat. It hit the 90s this week which is way too hot, way too early. Our garden, however, has never looked better and we’re ready to celebrate the end of what seemed like an endless winter. And if anything says let a new chapter begin, it’s Rhubarb and Strawberries. Sad to say, our local crops aren’t yet ready. But we were. And so last weekend, Andrew combined the two to create a wonderful dessert.
Melissa Clark gets all the credit for the cake recipe. It was a recent entry in her “Good Appetite” column from The New York Times. Melissa did all the heavy lifting in researching whether or not to cook the rhubarb before making an Upside Down cake. In her testing, she first sautéed the stalks but ended up with ‘a mushy, mealy glaze’. Then she went raw and the results were wonderful. The soft cake paired beautifully with the tangy, slightly crunchy rhubarb. Make this gorgeous cake and you’ll see.
But Andrew didn’t stop there. Strawberries from points south and west are all over the markets and what better way to use them but in one of David Lebowitz ’s Ice Creams. David’s blog title says it all “Living the Sweet Life in Paris” (the link is right here on Chewing the Fat). This former pastry chef at Chez Panisse, among other stops, chucked it all in and went off to France to pursue his bliss. The rest of us are all in his debt for doing so. His “Perfect Scoop” is the bible of ice cream. It will convince you that you just have to make the stuff part of your repertoire. This particular flavor is a perfect counterpoint to the cake. Its tangy sour cream base is luscious and rich, its strawberry flavor is pure delight.
Making ice cream is now child’s play. Really. Our good friends Tracy and Blaze’s darling daughter Alex, is an avid ice cream maker with her Dad. This is all thanks to the remarkably efficient Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker, widely available for about $60.00 new. It’s simple as pie to use. You just put the freezing mechanism in your freezer and haul it out to make gorgeous home made ice creams of every description. And knowing exactly what’s in your ice cream is an added bonus. No guar gum here, just pure ingredients like whole milk and fresh fruit. In this instance, there’s not even a custard to make. You go straight from the Cuisinart food processor to the Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker. Get one. It will transform your summer. Here now are the recipes.
Recipe for Melissa Clark’s Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake
1 1/2 pounds rhubarb, rinsed and sliced into 1/2-inch cubes (about 4 cups)
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar 1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 cups cake flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
Zest of 1 lemon, grated
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs
1/3 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons lemon juice.
1. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper. Butter the paper and sides of the pan. Wrap two layers of foil under the pan, and place it on a buttered baking sheet.
2. In a medium bowl, mix rhubarb, cornstarch and 1/2 cup granulated sugar.
3. Mix the brown sugar and 1/2 stick butter in a pan over medium heat. Whisk until smooth and bubbling, about 2 minutes. Sift together the cake flour, baking powder and salt.
4. Whip 2 sticks butter in a mixer with a paddle attachment for 2 minutes. With your fingers, blend the remaining 1 cup sugar with lemon zest until the mixture is uniform in color. Cream together with the butter at medium-high speed until it is light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, stopping to scrape down the bowl halfway through. Add the vanilla and mix well. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix in the sour cream, then the lemon juice. (It’s O.K. if the mixture looks curdled.) With the mixer set to low speed, add the flour mixture, 1/4 cup at a time, until well combined. Scrape down the mixer bowl in between the additions.
5. Pour the brown-sugar mixture into the cake pan, then spoon in the rhubarb and its juices. Spoon in the batter so it covers all of the rhubarb. Smooth out the top.
6. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the top of the cake is firm to touch and a toothpick stuck in the middle comes out without any large, moist crumbs.
7. Place the pan on a wire rack, and cool for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the cake, place a plate on top of the pan and turn it upside-down. Release the cake from the pan while still warm or else it will stick.
Yield: 8 servings
Recipe for David Lebowitz’ Strawberry-Sour Cream Ice Cream
1 lb (450 grams) fresh strawberries, rinsed, hulled and sliced.
2/3 cups (150 grams) sugar
1 tablespoon (15 mL) vodka or kirsch
1 cup (240 grams) sour cream
1 cup (250 ml) heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice.
1. Slice the strawberries and toss in a bowl with the sugar and vodka. Let stand at room temperature for one hour, stirring occasionally so that the sugar dissolves.
2. Pulse the berries and liquid with the sour cream, heavy cream, and lemon juice in a food processor/blender until almost smooth, but still slightly chunky.
3. Refrigerate for 1 hour, then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions.