Monday, June 1, 2009

Rhubarb Bread

My best friend introduced me to rhubarb. She actually convinced me to try the rhubarb raw - which was an extremely tart surprise. She made her Aunt Peggy's (which I don't really know if Aunt Peggy is actually her aunt) rhubarb bread, which is so simple because everything just needs to be combined in a bowl. I now make it every year. It is great for breakfast or for dessert. The original recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups of rhubarb, but I love the vegetable so I go for two cups. Also, I have this recipe rapidly written on an old envelope, so I wasn't for sure whether I was suppose to top the bread with granulated sugar or brown sugar, so I made it both ways. I think brown sugar is the best version.

Here are the ingredients for Lisa's Aunt Peggy's Rhubarb Bread (which makes two loaves):
-2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for flouring pan
-1 1/2 packed brown sugar
-2/3 cup vegetable oil
-1 cup buttermilk (not pictured - oops)
-1 teaspoon salt
-1 teaspoon baking soda
-1 large egg
-1 teaspoon vanilla
-1/2 walnuts, chopped
-2 cups rhubarb, diced into half inch pieces
-butter for greasing pan

-1/2 brown sugar (or less)
-1 teaspoon cinnamon
-1 tablespoon butter, softened and cut into small pieces
-chopped walnuts

To begin preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour two 9"x5" bread pans and set aside.
Combine all ingredients except for rhubarb and walnuts until well combined.
Chop rhubarb and walnuts. Add to the batter and mix well.
Divide batter evenly into the two bread pans. Sprinkle about 1/4 cup brown sugar on top of each bread pan. Dot with butter and sprinkle with more chopped walnuts.
Place in oven and bake for about 1 hour or until toothpick comes out clean. Let cool completely before slicing. I let mine cool on a wire rack. Enjoy in the morning or as a dessert after dinner.
Comparison between sugar toppings - granulated sugar on left, brown sugar on right
Note: According to The New Food Lover's Companion rhubarb comes from the buckwheat family and can reach up to two feet long. The celerylike stalks are the only edible part of the plant, their leaves contain oxalic acid and therefore can be toxic. Although generally it is eaten and prepared like a fruit, it is actually a vegetable. There are two basic types - hothouse and field grown. Hothouse rhubarb is distinguished by its pink to pale red stalks and yellow-green leaves, whereas field-grown plants (which have a more pronounced flavor) have cherry red stalks and green leaves. Hothouse rhubarb is available from around December to March, while field grown is usually found from March to October, with a peak from April to June. Choose crisp stalks that are brightly hued. If the leaves are left on, they should be fresh looking and blemish-free. Highly perishable, fresh rhubarb should be refrigerated and tightly wrapped in a plastic bag, for up to 3 days. Wash and remove leaves just before using. Rhubarb contains a fair amount of vitamin A.

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