I work alone. Oh sure there are three other little bodies who take up the small space in the house with me during the days. But the role of mother is lonely. I love the moments when my husband emerges from his office downstairs to briefly come upstairs for lunch or a coffee refill. I try and pack those moments with as much adult conversation he will allow.
While I am very much an introverted person I need community. The hearty conversations among friends, the nods of approval and the questions asked lovingly that give your heart a refining tug. The ideas generated when equally passionate friends start with a seed and end up with a flourishing dish.
It began as roasted rhubarb with creme fraiche ice cream and vanilla shortbread. Whether it was because we had grown tired of repeating this dessert or because the last batch of the ice cream had a texture that was too closely related to chalk. Either way, Julie (my cooking class partner, and creator of The Joyful Kitchen) and I set out to change it.
After class one night we rested our legs for a moment and after hours of prepping food, making food and teaching about food, we continued to talk about food. It’s what we do. Our minds began to churn out different ice cream flavors. She shouted, “Brown Sugar!”
Of course. Rhubarb and brown sugar are made for one another. Tart and warmly sweet.
My mind wandered from ice cream and eventually found its way back to semifreddo – essentially a frozen mousse. The satisfaction of ice cream without the chilling and churning.
Eventually the idea had morphed the original dessert into a Muscovado semifreddo with roasted rhubarb and shortbread cookie crumbles.
The rhubarb remains the same. Like a child caught in the middle of a parental spat, the rhubarb was innocent. Doing its job perfectly by being a soft warm bite and providing a welcoming sourness in the midst of cool sweetness.
Muscovado is a unrefined brown sugar with a hearty punch of molasses flavor. Little is used in the recipe so the pungent aroma is needed to stand up to the rhubarb. The semifreddo slowly puddles and melts under the weight and warmth of the rhubarb creating a cool, creamy sauce that forgives the rudeness of licking one’s plate.
The shortbread whispers vanilla bean throughout the dish and adds a perfect crunch to an otherwise soft bite.
The reward of sharing one’s passion and surrounding yourself with a generous community is being able to create something that would have never been possible if you were alone.
continue on for recipes…
Vanilla Bean Shortbread Crumbles
1 ½ sticks of butter, softened
½ cup sugar
1 ¾ cups flour
¾ tsp kosher salt
seeds from ½ a vanilla bean
¼ cup oats (optional)
In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until they are just combined. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, oats and salt; then add them to the butter-and-sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together.
Mix the ingredients until large crumbs appear. You can use your hands in the final moments of mixing to get the size crumbs you desire. They will be varied in size – which is great, but you want a portion of them to be about the size of a penny.
Bake at 350* until golden brown around the edges – about 12-15 minutes. If you oven is uneven check on them after 10 minutes of baking and carefully move them around as you would if you were toasting nuts, as the crumbs on the outside tend to get darker faster.
Let cool and store in an airtight container for up to one week.
2 lbs Rhubarb, cut in 1/2 inch chunks
1/2 cup dark brown sugar (or more depending on desired sweetness)
zest from 1/2 orange (optional)
3 tbl butter
On a parchment lined baking sheet combine all the ingredients except the butter. Dot the top of the fruit with 1/2 inch chunks of butter. Bake in a pre-heated 350°F degrees oven for about 20-30 minutes (until juices are bubbling and the rhubarb is cooked through).
serves 8-10, depending on how you slice it
A semifreddo is essentially a frozen mousse. This recipe requires the use of several bowls but I assure you the extra cleaning time will be completely worth it.
Due to the moisture content in the sugar it tends to clump easily. Make sure to break up any visible clumps before adding to the yolks.
1 ⅓ cups heavy cream
½ cup muscovado sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 vanilla bean, seeds removed (optional)
3 eggs, separated
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
Lightly spray a loaf pan with pan spray. Cover the inside with plastic wrap. Set aside.
In a very clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment add the egg whites. Whip until frothy. At that point add the cream of tartar and whisk until medium-stiff peaks form.
Carefully put the whites in another bowl. Wipe clean.
Next add the yolks and the muscovado sugar to your mixer bowl. Make sure the sugar is free of large clumps. Add the salt, vanilla and vanilla seeds, if using. Whisk until double in volume.
Remove this mixture from the mixer and place in another bowl.
Wipe out the bowl of the stand mixer one last time and whip the cream until medium peaks form. Using a rubber spatula, carefully fold the whipped yolks into the cream. Once completely combined add ⅓ of the whites. Fold in to lighten the mixture. Then fold in the rest of the whites until completely mixed. Take care with folding as you don’t want to loose any of the volume you worked so hard to get. Place the mixture in the prepared loaf pan. Cover with more plastic wrap on the surface of the semifreddo. Freeze for at least 4 hours.
Remove from the freezer, slice and serve with roasted rhubarb and vanilla bean shortbread crumbles.