Monday, May 7, 2018

Archive Recipe: Strawberry Rhubarb Sauce

Early last week I peeked in the back yard at the rhubarb plants growing in the sunny spot next to the shed. “Great,” I thought. “It looks like I will be able to cut a few stalks by the weekend.”

Well, plenty of rain followed by a few days of warm sunshine, and my little rhubarb patch developed fleshy personality all its own. Saturday brought way more rhubarb than I need, and my mind was racing in panicky circles, trying to figure out what I should make first.

Of course, while rhubarb is one of the first plants ready to eat in the early spring, the plants will keep going, even with minimal upkeep, all summer long. I can calm down a bit and start with the basic Strawberry Rhubarb Sauce that always makes me happy. 

I published this recipe ages ago as part of a dessert recipe that involved folding it into whipped cream. (This can also be frozen for a hot-weather treat.) I thought it deserved further mention, since I make it so much, as well as some new photos.

I also added one little, and I mean little, optional twist to this recipe. I can’t find where I read this idea (sorry), but I decided to try adding a few dashes of bitters into the mix. It’s delicious! I used orange Angostura bitters, but you could use original Angostura bitters, or any others you like. (I have a bottle of rhubarb bitters somewhere, but do you think I can find it now that I have heard of this great idea? Of course not!) The bitters added a subtle herbal and floral note to the sauce that I found really wonderful. I didn’t know what to expect, and I was very pleasantly surprised. The bitters aren’t necessary, just unique without being weird. I also think you could add a teaspoon of gin, or perhaps orange liqueur, amaretto, or something else fruity or botanical.

This sauce is great in and on all kinds of things. We loved it on our pancakes this weekend, and it’s also good on vanilla or strawberry ice cream, stirred into yogurt, or spooned over a cake, like this one. I can’t wait to make more! And, if I can’t wait to get to the store for more strawberries, I might just make Blueberry Rhubarb Sauce, or this rhubarb sauce with brown sugar and vanilla. Of course, there are lots of other great things to make with rhubarb and lots of new recipes to try. It’s a good thing there’s a lot of rhubarb!

Strawberry Rhubarb Sauce
I used about 1/8 teaspoon orange Angostura bitters with good results.

8 ounces rhubarb, chopped
8 ounces strawberries, hulled and coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons lemon juice
½ cup sugar
1/8-1/4 teaspoon bitters, or to taste (optional)

1. Mix all the ingredients together in a medium saucepan. Heat, stirring gently until the sugar has dissolved and the fruit begins to give off liquid. Bring to a boil.

2. Simmer until the liquid has reduced and thickened somewhat, about 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in the bitters if using. Serve warm or chill until ready to use.

Makes about 2 cups sauce.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Favorite Vehicles for Maple Syrup

So often, maple syrup gets added to recipes in the fall. I won’t deny that it goes extremely well with fall foods and flavors, but since maple syrup really is a spring product, I like to celebrate it at this time of year. Recently, I got a big boost in that desire to celebrate by a rather large gift of homemade syrup.

My uncle and cousin tap on the order of 90 sugar maple trees in Upper Michigan, collect the watery sap, and boil it down into delicious liquid gold. My cousin may have been unloading the end of last year’s batches when he gave me 4 pints of syrup in March, but if one were to add up the retail value of this pure Grade A goodness, I have no choice than to feel like an important and well-loved part of an extremely generous family.

2018’s spring syrup crop has been boiled and sealed away, ready for baking and drizzling all year long. Here, I have complied a list of my favorite uses for maple syrup from The Messy Apron Archives. I have all the good stuff here, from maple flavored baked goods to pancakes, waffles, and the homemade breads that make the best French Toast.

Maple syrup is a subtle flavor in baked goods, but I find it a lovely way to bring on the sweetness, and a little goes a long way.  It’s really great with dates, like in Maple Cake with Walnuts and Dates


I love it for sweetening homemade Granola, too.

And for more savory applications there’s Maple Walnut Vinaigrette, which is great on the spinach salad in the same post and the grain salad in this one.

And Maple Glazed Winter Squash and Potatoes, which is, admittedly, a more autumnal recipe. I think other vegetables, or even tempeh and tofu could benefit from this application. 

The majority of my maple syrup does end up playing a more traditional role, however: that of properly gilding pancakes, waffles, and French toast. The most popular pancake recipe on The Messy Apron is this one for Barley Pancakes with Orange Juice and Vanilla.

But all of the others, including, Butter Pecan Pancakes, Coconut Pineapple Pancakes, and Double Banana Walnut Pancakes are appropriate vehicles for maple syrup as well.

Waffles are great, too, and I can’t think of a reason not to drench them in maple syrup. For thin and crispy waffles, there’s Crispy Light Wheat and Cinnamon Waffles


Finally, let’s not forget French toast, which I think needs to be made with thick slices of bread, especially homemade bread like White Sandwich Bread.

Whether it’s baked-in or poured-upon, maple syrup is a fabulous addition to all kinds of sweet breakfasts, desserts, snacks, even salads. For me, imitation just won’t do. I have a source, however, and I recommend studying up to find one for yourself. Even if you have to pay the premium on a well-made commercially available maple syrup, I recommend doing so. Like any other specialty product, if you appreciate it and use it well, your life can be a wonderful culinary adventure! But even if you’re just dousing your made-from-mix pancakes or frozen waffles in it, you’re indulging in one of North America’s greatest treats.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Walnut Blondies

Let me just start by saying that I love these Walnut and White Chocolate Blondies!!

I was just going to make some simple blondies. You know, the simplest of simple bars. Kind of a chocolate chip cookie-flavored brownie. I started with this recipe at Smitten Kitchen, and, intrigued by the browned butter recommendation in that recipe, started doing some fiddling and tweaking.

What I ended up with was a wonderfully nutty bar with an almost gooey (but not quite), moist chewiness, and a delightfully sweet, somehow caramel-y flavor. I made that browned butter, swapped some of it out for walnut oil, and exchanged half of the flour for whole wheat pastry flour. I also stirred in some walnuts, then thought, do these need some kind of chocolate? Yes, I answered. White chocolate chips. Why not?

The resulting bar cookies really made me happy. The flavor of the brown butter and walnut oil were fabulous together, and the extra nuttiness of the whole wheat flour was a great compliment to those unctuous fats. The crunchy walnuts were right at home, and the vanilla-sweet white chocolate got gently caramelized during baking, contributing to the complex flavor. The interplay of all these wonderful ingredients was even more delicious than I expected!

These chewy bars can certainly be varied to meet your personal tastes or even just satisfy your need to try as many versions of the classic blondie as possible. The method is, of course, super easy, so you can make blondies over and over as needed to satisfy all your blondie lust. That’s a thing, right? Or is it just me?

Walnut and White Chocolate Blondies

¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter
¼ cup walnut oil
1 cup light brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat pastry flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ cup chopped walnuts, toasted if desired
1 cup white chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray an 8-inch baking pan with cooking spray, or grease it as desired.

2. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Continue to cook the butter until it stops bubbling and turns golden brown. Remove from the heat and cool slightly.

3. In a medium-size bowl, whisk together the walnut oil, brown sugar, and egg until smooth. Whisk in the browned butter until completely combined. Whisk in the vanilla extract.

4. In a small bowl, combine the all-purpose flour, whole wheat pastry flour, salt, and baking soda. Whisk or sift together.

5. Add the flour mixture to the liquid mixture and stir until just combined. Stir in the walnuts and white chocolate chips.

6. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan, and smooth it out evenly. Bake at 350 F for 25-35 minutes, or until set and glossy on top and a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached. Cool in the pan on a wire rack.

Makes about 16 servings.