Rhubarb Cinnamon Polenta Cake adapted from Nigel Slater's Ripe: A Cook in the Orchard
I wanted to make a rhubarb dessert for Easter, I so badly yearned for a rhubarb pie, or tart, or galette. Anything that would highlight this tangy, tart, delicious sign of spring. But the farmers market didn't have any rhubarb, and the only rhubarb I could find at the grocery store was tiny, sad and rotting at the ends. I couldn't bring myself to buy it. But this week I was graced with an amazing surprise present. A copy of Nigel Slater's newly released book Ripe: A Cook in the Orchard was nonchalantly handed to me over a cup of tea. Apparently junk email sometimes tells your boyfriend when beautiful counterpart cookbooks are being released and sometimes he buys them for you on a whim. Sometimes life is grand. Needless to say I spent that evening poring through my new, beautiful book detailing how to grow, cook and enjoy pears, currants, peaches, rhubarb, quinces, strawberries, hazelnuts and much, much more. And then we had to cook something. Luckily BalMar had beautiful stalks of rhubarb and we enjoying this scone like cake filled with tangy roasted rhubarb that same night.
Feeds 8 people
For the filling:
1 pound rhubarb
1/4 cup sugar
4 tablespoons water
For the crust:
3/4 cup coarse polenta
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
a teaspoon of baking powder
a teaspoon of ground cinnamon
3/4 cup sugar
grated zest of a small orange
10 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces, chilled
a large egg
2 to 4 tablespoons milk
a tablespoon demerara sugar
1. Lightly oil or butter an 8-inch springform cake pan. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Trim the rhubarb, cut each stem into short pieces and put them in a baking dish. Toss with the sugar and the water. Bake for thirty to forty minutes, until the rhubarb is soft but still retains its shape.
3. Remove the pieces of fruit from the dish and put them in a colander to drain. Reserve the extra liquid to serve with the cake.
4. Mix the polenta, flour, baking powder, cinnamon and sugar in a food processor. Add the grated orange zest and the butter, cut into smallish pieces, then blitz for a few seconds until you have something that resembles breadcrumbs. (Alternatively, mix in a large bowl and by hand break up the butter into tiny pieces. I agree with Nigel, "it is an extraordinarily peaceful thing to do if one has the time.")
5. Break the egg into a small bowl and mix with 2 tablespoons of milk, then blend into the crumble mix either in the food processor or by hand. Stop as soon as the dry ingredients ad liquid have come together to form a soft, slightly sticky dough. It it isn't a little sticky, then add a touch more milk.
6. Press about two-thirds of the mixture into the cake pan, pushing it 3/4 inch up the sides. Makes sure there are no large cracks or wholes. Place the rhubarb on top, leaving a small rim around the edge. Crumble lumps of the remaining polenta mixture over the fruit with your fingertips. Scatter over the demerara sugar.
7. Bake for forty-five to fifty minutes, then cool a little before attempting to remove from the pan. Serve in slices with the reserved rhubarb juice.