Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Rhubarb Coffeecake

Before I say anything about this cake, I have to say that I am generally speaking not a fan of coffee cake.  It's often kind of... dry.  And I generally think the ratio of cake to topping is off.  Sometimes there soooooo much crumb topping and not enough cake (or vice versa).  I just don't get it.  Alex likes coffee cake though.  And I like rhubarb.  Plus I wanted to try a new recipe.  I was originally going to do a play on my usual Raspberry Buttermilk Cake, but use rhubarb instead.  But I decided to try something new.  So I started thinking about making strawberry-rhubarb pie, which I LOVE.  But I didn't want to go to the trouble of making pie.  Pie is just generally beyond me - I don't have the patience to make the pie crust and do the lattice top.  And I am pretty sure that my crusts could never hold a candle to the fabulous pies that Aunt Loretta made at her daughter Christine's wedding that I attended in Kentucky back in early June.  Loretta made 16 pies for the wedding - including strawberry rhubarb, chocolate, apple and pecan pie.  Needless to say, the strawberry rhubarb was my favorite, although I the chocolate and the pecan pies were also delicious.  I might have to ask her for her recipe for strawberry rhubarb pie if I ever get up the gumption to actually bake a pie from scratch.  Speaking of Kentucky, I learned a few valuable lessons during my trip there.  First, if you visit the Applebees in Madisonville, KY and order a margarita on the rocks, you are liable to end up with what I call a "marga-tini" - a cocktail shaker full of margaritas of dubious quality, served with a martini glass with 3 olives in it, a salt rim and a lime wedge...  I wouldn't recommend it.  Stick with beer.  Also, the Kentucky hot brown (an open-faced sandwich with turkey, bacon and tomatoes, smothered in bechamel and cheese) is a heart attack on a plate, but it is seriously delicious.  Moving on.  I kept puttering around the internet until I saw this recipe on Smitten Kitchen and I had to throw out my prejudices against coffee cake and give it a shot.  It just looked so good!  Although, had I read the recipe from start to finish, I might have abandoned ship and gone with another recipe because it was more than a little labor intensive.  Actually, it wasn't that it was overly labor intensive.  The problem was that the cake required so many individual components to be prepared separately and incorporated at the very end that we dirtied just about every bowl, spoon, spatula, measuring cup, etc. in the apartment.

This cake was delicious - not too sweet and not too tart.  I was worried once I cut the cake and looked inside and saw how little rhubarb there really was that you wouldn't be able to taste the rhubarb at all, but you totally could.  And the rhubarb helped to keep the coffee cake really moist.  You could also taste the gentle background warmth and slight spicy flavor of the cinnamon and the ginger.  My one complaint was the crumb topping - I think there was a little too much flour in it, which almost left it tasting soapy/chalky to me.  If I were to make it again I would cut back on the flour by 1/4 cup or so and see if that changed things at all.  But I was really happy with this recipe!  I know it was labor intensive but I really think it was worth it.

Recipe after the jump!

Rhubarb Coffeecake
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Butter for greasing pan
For the rhubarb filling:
1/2 pound rhubarb, trimmed
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
For the crumbs:
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick or 4 ounces) butter, melted
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
For the cake:
1/3 cup sour cream
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons softened butter, cut into 8 pieces.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease an 8-inch-square baking pan. For filling, slice rhubarb 1/2 inch thick and toss with sugar, cornstarch and ginger. Set aside.

To make crumbs in a large bowl, whisk sugars, spices and salt into melted butter until smooth. Then, add flour with a spatula or wooden spoon. It will look and feel like a solid dough. Leave it pressed together in the bottom of the bowl and set aside.

To prepare cake, in a small bowl, stir together the sour cream, egg, egg yolk and vanilla. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add butter and a spoonful of sour cream mixture and mix on medium speed until flour is moistened. Increase speed and beat for 30 seconds. Add remaining sour cream mixture in two batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition, and scraping down the sides of bowl with a spatula. Scoop out about 1/2 cup batter and set aside.  Scrape remaining batter into prepared pan. Spoon rhubarb over batter. Dollop set-aside batter over rhubarb; it does not have to be even.

Using your fingers, break topping mixture into big crumbs, about 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch in size. They do not have to be uniform, but make sure most are around that size. Sprinkle over cake. Bake cake until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean of batter (it might be moist from rhubarb), 45 to 55 minutes. Cool completely before serving.

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