I can thank my first job out of culinary school for introducing me to how wonderful strawberries and rhubarb can be together.
The job was at an catering company in Manhattan that specialized in large-scale events. I worked in the pastry department, which meant that we could spend an entire day creating hundreds of portions of the same desserts. At times, the head count for certain events could be as high as 1,500. If you have ever done 1,500 portions of the same cookies, cakes, or pies, you know how tedious this can be.
Fortunately, some of the desserts we made were actually pretty great and inspiring, including a strawberry-rhubarb crumble with a brown sugar and oatmeal topping that was in our spring repertoire.
It's pretty simple as far as desserts go, but the sweetness of the strawberries and tartness of the rhubarb, along with a crunchy, almost cookie-like texture of the topping made it incredibly addictive. We sometimes got leftover portions for staff meals, and I'd be the one sneaking in seconds or thirds of dessert.
So when May rolled around, I was itching to do another strawberry and rhubarb dessert. My good friend Hrishi, whom I've known since freshman year of college, was moving from New York to Berlin, possibly leaving the US for good. So I invited him over for one last home-cooked meal in New York. I found a Martha Stewart recipe for a rhubarb buckle, and decided to tweek it slightly to incorporate strawberries, because after all, this is the perfect time of year for it. Dear readers, the recipe did not disappoint. Lemon zest and sour cream gave the batter a nice subtle tanginess that went well with the strawberries and rhubarb. This buckle tastes like the essence of spring that you can eat for breakfast as well as dessert.
The dinner came and went. We had coconut chicken adobo, drank wine, and looked through incredibly old and somewhat embarrassing photos from college he found while cleaning out his apartment. And out came the strawberry and rhubarb buckle, which we may or may not have had seconds of. My only regret was not having vanilla ice cream on hand to go with it, but this is good to know for next time.
The beauty of this recipe is that the buckle is cut up and served in squares, which is probably why Martha's writers say it "belongs in everyone's 'outdoor entertaining' file." (Summer picnics, anyone?) Or they can be eaten a home as a simple weeknight dessert. Or, they can be packed up to be taken on the plane, for someone who's leaving home for life's next big adventure.
Strawberry Rhubarb Buckle
For the cake:
- 1 pound strawberries, trimmed and diced
- 1/2 pound rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 3/4 cups sugar
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon coarse salt
- 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
- 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
- 3 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup sour cream
For the crumb topping:
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
- 1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted
- Grease two 9"x9" cake pans and line with parchment paper, leaving some overhang on two sides. Stir together the strawberries, rhubarb, and 3/4 cup of the sugar and let sit for about 30 minutes to macerate.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a stand mixer or another large bowl, beat the butter, lemon zest, and the remaining 1 cup of sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the vanilla. Add the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the sour cream, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.
- Prepare the crumb topping: In a large bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, and salt. Stir in the melted butter. The mixture should be somewhat crumbly.
- Divide the batter between the two cake pans. Drain the macerated strawberries and rhubarb through a fine mesh strainer, discarding the liquid, and divide between two pans. Scatter the crumb topping on top.
- Bake for 60 to 65 minutes, until the top is golden brown and a toothpick or butter knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow it to cool completely in the pan, then lift from the pan with the parchment and cut into squares for serving.
Adapted from Martha Stewart's Rhubarb Buckle
More strawberry desserts for spring:
Mini Strawberry Pies from Wishful Chef
Roasted Strawberry Coconut Milk Ice Cream from Sprouted Kitchen
Strawberry Brioche Bread Pudding from A Chow Life
Blackberry and Strawberry Pastry-Cream Tart from Z Tasty Life