Fresh Rhubarb Fools w/ Scotch Oat Crunchies

Alright, so, I do understand that June is decidedly a summer month and we are no longer in the cool (and maliciously wet) hands of Spring…but I’m hoping this rhubarb recipe is tempting enough to defy the seasons. I did in fact make these beauties in May, but with my current job nearing its end things have gotten pretty insane around here; “busy” doesn’t even begin to describe it. Prep for the Big Move, grad school on the horizon, and my boyfriend finally (finally!) moving back in with me after a year away for his own studies just add to the distraction.

I paired these fools with an oat-based cookie after finding the homogeneous texture of the fluffy dessert a bit boring. Don’t get me wrong, the flavor of the fools was fantastic (there’s a secret way to cook the rhubarb I learned in making these, see Beezer’s Notes below), but I found myself yearning for a pie crust or some sort of crunch to pair with it. A bag of rolled oats had been sitting in my cupboard waiting to be made into Scotch Oat Crunchies – adorable little cookies listed as the top recipe for January 1943 in The Gourmet Cookie Book – and I thought that if the original recipe said these paired well with tart fruit jams than they would surely pair well with a tangy rhubarb dessert. For once, people, I was 100% correct!

Fresh Rhubarb Fool w/ Scotch Oat Crunchies

(from Spring Entertaining by Cook’s Illustrated ’10 and The Gourmet Cookie Book)

Ingredients:

For the Fools…

2¼  lb.  rhubarb, trimmed of ends and cut into 6″ pieces

1/3   C   juice from 1 large orange

1   C   sugar, plus 1 T

pinch of salt

2   C   cold heavy cream

For the Cookies…

1   C   unsalted butter, softened

1   C   light brown sugar

2½   C   AP or cake flour

½   t   baking powder

½   t   salt

2½   C   rolled oats

½   C   cold water

2 – 3 drops almond extract

¼   t   vanilla extract

Procedure:

  1. Submerge the 6″ stalks of rhubarb in 1 gallon of cold water and soak for 2o minutes.
  2. While the rhubarb is soaking, make the cookie dough: cream the butter until almost white then gradually add brown sugar and keep creaming until thoroughly blended. In a separate bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt and sift twice. Stir in rolled oats. In a third small bowl add almond and vanilla extract to water and set aside. Finally, alternating between the dry mixture and the water/extract, add both in small batches to the creamed butter/sugar blend. When all ingredients have been fully incorporated into dough, split it into two equal halves, roll each into balls, wrap in saran-wrap or wax paper, and chill for at least an hour.
  3. As the dough is chilling, drain rhubarb and pat dry with paper towels. Cut pieces crosswise into ½” thick slices. Bring orange juice, ¾ Cup sugar, and salt to boil in a medium non-reactive saucepan over Medium heat. Add rhubarb and return to boil, then reduce heat to Medium-low and simmer, stirring only a few times (frequent stirring causes the rhubarb to become mushy). Cook until the rhubarb is soft, but not falling apart – about 7 minutes. Transfer rhubarb to non-reactive bowl, cool to room temperature, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold (at least 1 hr or up to 24).
  4. Once the dough and rhubarb mix have thoroughly chilled, preheat the oven for 350°F. Roll out the first half of dough on a floured work surface to about 1/8″ thick or as thin as possible. Cut into rounds about 2″ in diameter and use a broad spatula to lift cookies onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes or until slightly browned. Cool cookies and store in an air-tight container. Repeat with second half of dough if desired or store for later. They will keep indefinitely in a cool, dry place.
  5. As cookies are cooling begin assembling the fools: beat cream and remaining sugar in a medium bowl on low speed until small bubbles form, about 45 seconds. Increase speed to medium and continue until beaters leave a trail in the cream, about 45 seconds longer. Increase speed to high and continue beating until soft peaks form, about 30 seconds. Assemble the fool in parfait or wine glasses by carefully spooning about ¼ Cup rhubarb mixture into the bottom of the glass followed by an equal layer of whipped cream. Repeat until glasses have filled, ending with cream on top. Place a cookie or two on top of the fool for garnish and serve! Fools can be assembled in advance as well and covered and chilled for up to 6 hrs before serving – just save the cookie garnish for service.


Beezer’s Notes:

I’m so glad Cook’s Illustrated found a way to cook rhubarb so that it retains its bright red color without losing its tang. According to the source recipe, a professor of food science at Washington State University in Pullman, and confessed rhubarb enthusiast, Barry Swanson was consulted. Professor Swanson explained that “a water-soluble pigment called anthocyanin is responsible for rhubarb’s somewhat chalky, tannic mouthfeel as well as its bright pinkish-red color.” When you presoak or boil rhubarb in water – as most recipes call for –  a portion of the anthocyanin escapes which mellows its harsh bite but also its more desirable color. However, Swanson also said that anthocyanin is sensitive to the acidity of its environment: when the pH is high, the color shifts to bluish-grey; when the pH is low, the color becomes more red. From that, recipe developer Raquel Pelzel found success in presoaking her rhubarb in orange juice.

As for the final dessert itself, all my taste-testers (read: family) loved the marriage of the sweet, crunchy oat cookies with the smooth, tangy fools. Together, you could think of this dessert as a sort of deconstructed rhubarb pie. Also, because both the dough and rhubarb mixture requires chilling, this is a great make-ahead dessert for a party or picnic. You can pause at any point in the recipe (with the dough, the filling, or the finished fools) and return to it later. Finally, the cookie recipe makes a LOT of cookies. I ended up only baking one half of the dough and it was more than enough. I’m never one to complain about pre-made cookie dough ready and waiting in my freezer, but if you’re short on space feel free to half that part of the recipe above. 

Overall Enjoyment:    ♥   ♥   ♥   ♥   ♥

Lemon Ginger Ice Cream & Chamomile Granita Parfait

As we begin to feel the first chilly breezes of autumn I am both excited and a little sad. Excited because the cool, dry fall weather is peak season for rock climbing (and while I haven’t had time to do much other than work and school, I will always consider myself to be a climber)! Plus, autumn in New England means apple picking, pumpkin carving, scarf-wearing (I have a thing, ok?), and my favorite holiday: Halloween.

I’m also a bit sad this time around for two reasons. First, cooler weather in VT almost always means less sunlight. We don’t get a terrific amount of sunshine in the Valley anyway, but we were lucky this year. Already I feel the lethargy creeping in as I wake up to slate-grey skies that do nothing but darken as the day goes on. I brought my textbooks to the park yesterday and slowly got my vitamin D fix as sunbeams escaped the clouds sporadically. Here’s hoping I can keep that up til the snow falls.

The second reason I’m lamenting the cool weather is a silly one, but true: ice cream. Yup. Fall weather makes one long for spicy hot cider, rich hot chocolate, or hearty soup – not ice cream. Don’t get me wrong, I’m looking forward to all those cold-weather treats, but it feels like I’ve just gotten started with my ice cream maker – and there are so many more recipes to try! Haha. Well if there’s any ice cream that is good enough to continue making year-round, this Lemon Ginger Ice Cream is it. Seriously. I made it on a whim after discovering the recipe on :pastry studio and couldn’t get enough. I can’t remember the last time I licked a bowl so thoroughly clean.

How I got from the initial ice cream recipe to the parfait involving granita is an entirely separate story. In a nut shell, I had three recipes swirling in my head that week from reading about Watermelon Basil-Lime Bars on 17 on Baking, Peaches With Honey Sabayon and Chamomile Granita on :pasty studio, and the ginger ice cream I had made earlier. I loved Elissa’s pairing of creamy semifreddo with light sorbet, I thought the chamomile granita sounded fascinating, and I was dying to freeze another batch of ginger ice cream – this time adding a bit of lemon for my own taste. In the end, I decided to try to pair up the granita and ice cream in a parfait.

Lemon Ginger Ice Cream & Chamomile Granita Parfait

(adapted from :pastry studio)

Ingredients:

For the Ice Cream…

4   oz.   fresh ginger root (source calls for 3, but I prefer a stronger taste)

1 – 2      lemon peels*

1 ½   C   whole milk

1 ½   C   heavy cream

½     C    sugar, divided

4   egg yolks

¼   t   vanilla

¼   t   lemon juice

generous pinch of salt

* Note: the source recipe does not include lemon peel, but adds only the ¼ t lemon juice. I found myself wanting a tad bit more lemon flavor, but almost overdid it by adding the peel. Be careful how much you add if you decide to do so. The lemon peel provides far more flavor per slice than the ginger root. I’d recommend one small peel to start.

For the Granita…

2   C   water

¼   C   sugar

6 bags (or 2 T) chamomile tea

1   t   honey*

* Note: I added honey in addition to the sugar because I wanted a bit of honey flavor. Because honey is such a strong sweetener, the source recipe recommends using sugar only so as not to overwhelm the chamomile flavor. My chamomile flavor was strong and delicious, but the sugar-honey combo made the granita quite sweet. I didn’t mind, but if you’d like less sugar you may want to nix either the sugar or honey (or perhaps both entirely).

Procedure:

  1. Begin by preparing the ice cream base: peel the ginger root and remove any blemishes before slicing thin. Peel one or two inch-long peels from lemon to seep with the ginger root (see note above). Put milk, cream, ¼ C + 1 T sugar in a saucepan with the ginger root and lemon peel. Bring mix to a simmer over medium-low heat, but be careful not to boil. Simmer for a few minutes until sugar has dissolved, then remove from heat, cover, and let steep for at least one hour.
  2. Strain the ginger slices and lemon peel out and reheat milk base if needed until warm. In a medium separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks and 2 T sugar until egg is pale yellow and the mixture has thickened. Very slowly add the warm milk to the egg mix, whisking constantly to keep the eggs from scrambling. Return combined mixtures to saucepan and cook over medium heat.
  3. Stir the ice cream base constantly, scraping the bottom while doing so, until the custard thickens. Be VERY CAREFUL not to let the mixture heat to quickly or boil. This took me about 30 minutes, but mine never got to be so thick that “a finger traced through it would leave a clean track”. I went instead with the coats-the-back-of-a-spoon test.
  4. Strain the custard through a sieve and into an air-tight container. Add vanilla and lemon juice and stir. Let it proof overnight in the fridge so the flavors will develop.
  5. While ice cream base is proofing, start on the granita: bring the water, sugar, and honey to boil, then remove from heat and immediately and add tea bags (or loose leaves). Steep tea for at least one hour.
  6. Remove tea bags (pressing to save all excess tea liquid) or strain tea leaves. Pour liquid into a shallow, freezer-safe container and freeze. Every two hours, scrape granita with a fork to break up the ice crystals until all the liquid has frozen (about 4 hours).
  7. Once the ice cream base has finished proofing, freeze in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Pour back into the air-tight container, push plastic wrap down along the surface (to prevent freezer burn), cover, and return to freezer to firm up (about an hour).
  8. To assemble the parfait: place a few scoops of Lemon Ginger Ice Cream on the bottom of a tall glass. Layer generous scoops of Chamomile Granita on top to fill the middle of the glass – fill a bit more than you think necessary since the top ice cream layer will press down on the less-dense granita. Finish with a few scoops of ice cream on top. If desired, serve with caramel sauce or honey.

Beezer’s Notes:

This has become one of my all-time favorite desserts. The slight heat of the ginger root is perfect in the rich, creamy ice cream and its light lemon undertone adds a bit of zip that blends so well with the sweet chamomile granita. The mix of textures also makes for a very interesting treat – Elissa was right. Soft ice cream with the crunch of icy granita is a pairing I wish I had tasted before.

I should mention that another fantastic way to enjoy this ice cream is how it was first described by :pastry studio, with plums in caramel sauce. Personally, I never would have thought caramel sauce would go well with ginger ice cream, but this is why I fully admit to being a novice in the kitchen, haha. My dish was yummy. To be completely honest, I’ll keep making the ice cream-granita combo over a sundae, but I highly recommend you try both.

I feel like a whole new world of icy treats has been opened up to me now. What other combos work? Blackberry black tea granita with cherry ice cream? How about pineapple granita with coconut ice cream? Basil ice cream with lemon granita? …see why I wish summer would last a bit longer now? 🙂


Overall Enjoyment: ♥   ♥   ♥   ♥   ♥

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