Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Poached Rhubarb and Vanilla Shortbread

Strawbs and Rhubarb - A Marriage Made in Heaven

We're spoiled for choice at the moment - with all the fresh summer produce appearing at markets everywhere.  I spied (and hurriedly grabbed an armful of) fresh rhubarb at my local farmers' market at the Jersey shore and conjured up a rapturous dessert - poached rhubarb and vanilla shortbread.

This tantalizing dessert combines the very sweet with the slightly sour; if you prefer to take the edge off the rhubarb, then you can always throw a generous pile of fresh strawberries into the rhubarb compote.

Rhubarb polarizes people, but my kids grew up on a traditional British dessert - stewed rhubarb and hot custard (Poached sounds posher than stewed, which explains why I used it in my title).  My family is therefore rather fond of this ruby fruit.

Kitchen goddess Nigella Lawson suggests serving poached rhubarb with her vanilla shortbread.  It takes about 25 minutes including cooking time to rustle up her recipe, which is perfect for this time of the year when you'd rather be outside than in.

I must confess this recipe comes from a British cookbook, Nigella Lawson's Forever Summer  And in terms of using non U.S. cookbooks, I've learned my lesson the hard way..through multiple baking mix-ups: I now know that it's not just a case of converting metric measures to Imperial (that never seems to work!)  Instead, I find that if you stick with the same ratio of ingredients then the recipe works out fine.

Hence, this is how I interpreted her recipe:

1 cup powdered sugar
2 cups of all purpose flour
1 cup cornstarch
2 cups of softened unsalted butter
seeds from 1 vanilla pod
sugar for sprinkling (I used my pantry supply of vanilla sugar!)

For full cooking instructions, see  Nigella Lawson: Forever Summer  

Note: I always have vanilla sugar hanging around in the fridge,  I think this is a transformational addition to many baked goods.  It lends a subtle vanilla nuance to desserts.

And this is how my vanilla shortbread turned out.  A big hit!  To serve this dessert, pile the rhubarb compote into individual decorative bowls and pass around the plate of shortbread.

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