I received some devastating news this week….rhubarb apparently “doesn’t grow in The South.” And by “doesn’t grow,” I mean the plants don’t take the heat well. One website I found said it grows best in Michigan, Washington and Oregon (sigh). Finding these red and green stalks has been just short of a nightmare.
Upon learning this agricultural tip, I had to look inward and ask myself deep questions, like, “What will this mean for the Rhubarb Challenge? Should I postpone it? *shudder* Cancel it? Should I take on a new challenge instead?”
Fate answered my questions when I discovered frozen rhubarb at Fresh Market (and no, Whole Foods didn’t have it. They have frozen acai and goji berries, but no freaking rhubarb). I bought three bags and marched home to make my second recipe for the Rhubarb Challenge: rhubarb and ginger bread pudding.
Folks, it was really good. I bought freshly baked brioche from Ollie’s Bakery…
And layered thick eggy slices with the vanilla-bean custard and chunky rhubarb compote. After baking, I brushed the rhubarb sauce over the top, brought it to a cook-out and served it with fresh whipped cream. At first, my friends’ responses were:
Lance: “I cook a lot and I’ve never heard of rhubarb…is it a vegetable?”
Rachel: (raised eyebrow)
Bethany: “I don’t know what this is, but I like it!”
Those kids gobbled almost the entire pan up…and that’s after eating locally farmed burgers, brats and assorted side dishes (plus Miss Anna Lyn’s sangria).
The tartness of the rhubarb is wonderful with the richness of the custard, perfectly flavored with specks of vanilla bean. The ginger was not overpowering – a surprise – and in fact just added a new dimension to my favorite (fruit? vegetable?) stalk.
The big takeaway was that my FROZEN RHUBARB worked perfectly. It was bright red and beautiful. So I highly recommend using frozen, if you can find it (in a pinch).
Rhubarb-ginger bread pudding (adapted from Bon Appetit)
- 1 c. seedless raspberry preserves
- 1/2 c. water
- 1/3 c. chopped crystallized ginger
- 1 T orange zest
- 2 1/2 lbs. rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (or just buy frozen)
- 3/4 c. sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1 c. whole milk
- 1 c. heavy whipping cream
- 1 vanilla bean, split
- butter, for dish
- 8-10 thick slices of brioche, cut lengthwise (one loaf)…you can also use challah
- Lightly sweetened whipped cream
Whisk preserves and water in large skillet over medium heat until dissolved. Add ginger, orange zest and rhubarb. Bring to simmer, stirring gently, until rhubarb is slightly tender, about 10 min. Pour mixture through large sieve over large saucepan. Let drain in fridge while you get going on the custard…
Preaheat oven to 350. Whisk sugar and eggs in medium bowl. Set aside.
In medium saucepan, add milk and cream and scrape in seeds from vanilla bean. Bring to simmer over medium heat. Gradually whisk cream into egg mixture, blending completely.
Butter 13×9 inch baking dish. Arrange bread slices along bottom, then spoon over half the drained rhubarb mixture. Repeat with bread and rhubarb. Pour custard over the top and gently press to make sure the bread absorbs all the liquid.
Place dish in roasting pan or lined baking sheet, filling with water to create a water bath (try to get liquid halfway up the dish). Bake until pudding is just set in the middle, covering the top with foil if it gets too dark, about 50 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand in water bath another 30 minutes, or while you make the whipped cream and sauce…
Boil the draining rhubarb liquid until reduced to 1 c., about 15 minutes. Brush the sauce over the bread pudding before serving.
To serve, spoon pudding onto plate and top with sauce and whipped cream.
This recipe proves that even if you have no clue what rhubarb is, or don’t care, you’ll still enjoy it. Let my diverse and opinionated group of friends attest to that. Enjoy the beautiful weekend, friends! xoxo