Everything’s Coming Up Rhubarb.

My father is the champion of all things kitchen. He has more gadgets than I care to mention, and what seems like an endless amount of storage space with which to put them. I, on the other hand, have had to whittle things down to fit into my urban kitchen.

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Needless to say, when he offered me his DeLonghi gelato maker, still in its original packaging, I said yes; perhaps a bit more for him than for myself. It’s what daughters do.
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Now, given the amount of real estate that I have, making space for this 30-lb pound beast required I engage in a bit of kitchen economy. Minor hassles aside, I couldn’t help but get swooned by the promises of sweet, chilled confection at my fingertips. As soon as I’d had it wrenched from the box, I started dreaming about what I was going to make.
Actually, that’s not entirely true. A more accurate statement would be that I found myself dreaming about gelato allweek long. I’d be out for an early morning or afternoon run, inhaling the scenery and the ideas would percolate. Wild flavors like rosemary peach andthyme rhubarb would swirl like the paddle of the machine, blending possibilities.

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 I still had a bit of rhubarb left from the last foraging, to which I added a couple of sprigs of thyme and a bit of sugar and let it bubble away on the stove until it made a nice jammy compote. While the rhubarb was doing its thing, I steeped vanilla bean in some milk and brown sugar and let it simmer for a while until it had just the faintest hints of caramel.
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Mixing the components together took hardly any effort, and within little time, I had an incredibly flavorful treat. The hint of thyme was quite complementary to the rhubarb; its subtle flavor layered between sweet and tart. Definitely present, but not overpowering.
The gelato can be enjoyed straight up, or embellished a bit of granola or perhaps a few gingersnaps.
Rhubarb-Thyme Gelato with Caramel Cream

Rhubarb-Thyme Gelato with Caramel Cream

Enjoy, and much love,
J
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Rhubarb Thyme Gelato with Caramel Cream

Caramel milk base:
1 1/4 c milk
1/2 c cream
1/2 c brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 vanilla bean, scraped, or 1 tsp vanilla

Rhubarb Thyme Compote:
8 oz rhubarb, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/3 c sugar
2 sprigs fresh thyme, or 1/2 tsp dried
Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon

Method:
Combine milk, sugar, salt and vanilla bean, if using, in a small saucepan. Over moderate heat, stir until sugar dissolves, then continue to summer until reduced to ~1 cup. Remove from heat; add cream and vanilla, if using liquid. Pour into bowl and chill.

While milk is simmering, prepare compote:
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. Let bubble over medium heat until rhubarb is soft and cooked through, about 6-8 minutes. Remove thyme stems and then place in a glass container or bowl and chill.

Pour cream base into gelato maker and prepare according to manufacturer directions. When firm, add 2/3 c rhubarb compote. There will be a bit left over, which will taste fantastic on scones or toast, or mixed with yogurt.

Freeze up to two weeks, though gelato is best enjoyed within 1-3 days.

You’re Baking Me Crazy.

PicFrameI’ve been thinking about rhubarb pretty much constantly for the past several weeks, picking up stalks regularly at the farmer’s market and grocery, as it finds its way into cakes, jams and spreads.

photo 1This weekend, I was able to do a bit of pruning at my father’s and took home a moderately sized sack of perfectly rosy beauts. I’d been planning to make dessert for some friends, and, given our glorious hint of early summer, a sort of strawberry-rhubarb shortcake came to mind. A recipe I’d discovered recently boasted a sweet-savory concoction of roasted fruit with balsamic and maple flavors, which brought my own craft into the sweet-savory realm. I dreamt of thyme and pepper-coated berries and barb, caramelized and tender, folded into layers of whipped cream and fluffy biscuits.

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Given that I still had a bit of ricotta on hand from recent baking adventures, I thought it might be interesting to incorporate it into some pastry for shortcake. Much of baking is the result of a formula: fat+liquid+flour. I recalled Michael Rhulman’s genius concept of using ratios for basic batters, pastry, cake and the like. You can find a link, here.
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I added a couple of tablespoons of sugar, as this is more of a dessert biscuit, and used equal parts ricotta and milk. The rest is well, all me.
Like so many fine things, this dough takes only a moment to come together, then it must rest, given some delicate handling, then rest again. The biscuits can be refrigerated, or frozen to bake at a later time. The resultant crisp and flaky texture is ruined by moisture, so it’s aways best to eat biscuits the day they are baked.
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I measured my ingredients out using a scale, however I’ll provide approximations using household measurements. For the original recipe, refer to link above. Additionally, I bake my scones and pastry at a higher temperature, say, 425 degrees F. This melts the butter quickly and creates those lovely air pockets that make for a light, fluffy, buttery-layered biscuit.
Enjoy, and much love,
J
Thyme and Balsamic-Infused Rhubarb with Strawberries , Ricotta Shortcake and Vanilla Whip Cream

Thyme and Balsamic-Infused Rhubarb and Strawberries , Ricotta Shortcake and Vanilla Whip Cream

Thyme and Balsamic-Infused Rhubarb and Strawberries 
Inspired by Ladystiles Roasted Rhubarb and Strawberries:
**Note: the fruit can be prepared 1-2 days ahead of time and stored along with their juices, until ready to serve.
2.5-3 cups rhubarb, cut into ~1-inch lengths
1 pint strawberries, split
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp sugar
2 sprigs thyme, plucked of leaves
dash of freshly-ground black pepper
Method:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Line a rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan with parchment paper.
Combine rhubarb and strawberries in a large bowl. Whisk remaining ingredients together; pour over fruit. Toss gently.
Pour into prepared pan. Bake for about 40 minutes, until juices have started to bubble and thicken. Remove and serve with Ricotta Biscuits (recipe follows)
Ricotta Biscuits
Ingredients:
2 c flour
2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 c butter, chilled and diced
1/2 c ricotta
2 oz milk
Method:
Mix dry ingredients together; set aside.
Using a pastry blender or food processor, cut flour and butter until the mixture starts to resemble coarse sand; leaving a few larger pieces strewn throughout.
Whisk together ricotta and milk; add to flour.
Using a wooden spoon or hands, stir the liquid into the flour/butter until it’s just barely absorbed. Turn onto a flat surface, and knead, just a few times to bring it all together. There will still be bits of butter poking about; this is key to a flaky biscuit.
Wrap in plastic/parchment and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Once chilled, begin rolling: roll out dough into a rectangle ~1/2 inch thick.
Fold in thirds, then refrigerate a further 30 minutes.
Repeat the rolling, folding and chilling cycle once more.
As the dough makes its final rest, preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Line a baking sheet with parchment; set aside.
Shape dough with your hands, or roll out to ~3/4-inch thick and cut with a biscuit cutter.
Brush biscuits with a bit of milk, if desired, then bake for ~12-15 minutes until golden and puffed to about twice their original volume. Serve either warm or at room temperature.