COTM: Rhubarb and Custard

Not long ago rhubarb had a bad reputation. People remembered the school dinner/hospital canteen stringy, sour, sickly green goop; undersweetened, overcooked and probably from a tin. Maybe with a helping of lumpy custard.

These day’s rhubarb is super trendy, gracing the pages of every foodie magazine and cookbook out there, in pretty shades of pink. I’m guessing they only use the best forced rhubarb ‘cos I have never managed to get it that colour. Sickly green every time!

If you’re into growing fruit and veg it’s about the easiest thing to grow, it’s not fussy over situation or soil and I haven’t met the bug brave enough to try and eat it. Rhubarb contains oxalic acid, a component of bleach! Eating large amounts can aggravate Kidney stones, gout and rheumatoid arthritis and is responsible the the pungently acidic taste. You may have a parent or grandparent who will tell you how they used to dip the end of a raw rhubarb stick in a bowl of sugar and eat it. Do not try this! Raw rhubarb has certain side effects on the digestive system, it’s a purgative, that means something that causes mega poopies.

I like rhubarb.

Cake of the month for May is an attempt to capture the flavours of a rhubarb crumble served with lashings of Bird’s custard, a childhood (and adulthood) favourite.

Rhubarb and Custard Cake

For the rhubarb:

Peel two medium stalks of rhubarb and cut into 5cm lengths. Put in a baking tray or casserole dish and sprinkle with 2 tbsp of sugar. Bake in a medium hot oven until soft (around 15 mins). Leave to cool.

just rhubarb

For the custard:

  • ½ pint (280ml) milk
  • 4 tbsp of custard powder (not instant!) I used Bird’s
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 2 egg yolks

Mix the custard powder and sugar with a little of the milk to make a paste. Heat the milk to boiling point. Pour the milk over the custard paste and mix well.

Pour it all back into the saucepan and cook on a medium heat, stirring briskly until the custard is really thick, be careful it doesn’t burn.

Allow to cool for a few mins, then beat in the egg yolks. Cover with cling film to prevent a skin forming, and leave to cool completely.

For the crumble:

  • 5oz (150g) plain flour
  • 1.25oz (37g) butter
  • 1.25oz (37g) margarine
  • 2oz (60g) sugar

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl, rubbing the fat into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs. Put to one side.

The is the only time you will ever see me advocating the use of margarine. I find an all butter crumble to be too rich and powdery. Margarine helps it to clump together and crisp up better, though you can use all butter if you like!

For the cake:

  • 7oz (210g) plain flour
  • 1oz custard powder
  • 1tsp each of baking powder and bicarbonate of soda
  • 6oz soft butter
  • 9oz caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract

You did all the advance preparation didn’t you? Ok, now grease and line a 20cm round loose bottomed or springform cake tin. Preheat the oven to 170°c/ 150º fan/ gas mark 3

In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together. Add the eggs one at a time. Add the vanilla and beat well.

Sift together the flour, custard powder, baking powder and bicarb of soda. Add to the mixture in two goes. It will be quite stiff. Stir in the rhubarb and all the syrupy juices in the tray. Stir gently till combined.

Scrape half of the cake mixture into the cake tin. Spoon the custard on top. Gently spoon the rest of the mixture on top, don’t worry if its uneven! Sprinkle the crumble mixture over the top.

rhubarb mix

Bake for around 40 mins to an hour. Once the cake has started to brown, cover it with a piece of baking paper to stop it from burning on top before the middle is cooked. Test with a skewer poked in the middle, when it comes out clean the cake is done.

Allow to cool in the tin for 10 mins, then carefully remove from the tin and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.

 

Now, instead of making lovely layers, my cake mixture got a bit over excited in the oven leading to an interesting marbled effect:

rhubarb in tinNot what I had in mind! However, everyone agreed that it tasted really good, especially the custardy bits, so I leave the recipe as is, without trying to figure out what went wrong. Who knows, yours might turn out perfectly layered!

Ice Cream Of The Month: Elderflower

Summer is coming….I think?

We are trying to make the most of our National Trust membership before it runs out, so far we’ve been to four places but each time a major part of the gardens have been closed due to wet weather! Ah! British summertime!

When the sun does come out, the English countryside is a wonderful place to be. Invoke the air of an English Country Garden with May’s ice cream of the month: Tangy elderflower, served with boozy G&T strawberries. For simplicity’s sake I used elderflower cordial, but you could make your own elderflower infused syrup if you like, there are plenty of recipes on the internet.

elderflower

Elderflower Ice Cream

 

  • 300ml milk
  • 300ml double cream
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp cornflour
  • 250ml elderflower cordial (I used Bottlegreen)
  • the zest of 1 lemon

Beat together the egg yolks, sugar, lemon zest and cornflour. Heat the milk to boiling point.

Pour the hot milk over the egg yolks, whisking continuously. Pour it all back in the saucepan and stir briskly over a medium heat untill the mixture has thickened to the consistency of cream. Remove from the heat.

Pour into a jug. Add the double cream and elderflower cordial. Put in the fridge to chill.

Following the instructions for your machine, make the ice cream. Scrape into a tub and freeze until firm.

For the gin and tonic strawberries:

Take a small punnet of strawberries, wash them and then cut into quarters. Pop them in a bowl and sprinkle with 1 tbsp of gin (or other booze of your choice) 2tbsp of good quality tonic water and a heaped tbsp of sugar. Stir gently then leave to macerate for half an hour. The strawberries will have soaked up the flavour and the juices will be nice and syrupy.

The perfect dessert for a sunny weekend!

 

Toffee Apple Flapjacks

Picnic season is upon us. Pack your blanket, waterproofs, swimming costume, sun screen, umbrella, wellies, sun hat, a flask of tea and let’s go!

The British weather certainly keeps things interesting! Anyone who has taken a break at the seaside will recall the biting Atlantic winds, sandy sandwiches and sitting huddled in the car while it pours with rain, because there’s nowhere else to go. We can have snow in April, balmy days in Bournemouth in the winter and everything else in between. Sometimes the sun shines (“Phew, what a scorcher!”) Be prepared for anything, but don’t let it stop you getting out and having fun!

This year I bought Mr Crumbs membership of the National Trust as an anniversary present and we are trying to tick of as many places as possible before it runs out. Thankfully not having to pay to get in means we can take advantage of the excellent cafês and tea shops instead of having to eat sarnies on a bench in the rain, which is nice. But there is something rather romantic about a traditional picnic in beautiful surroundings, so I’m on the lookout for recipes and ideas for picnic food that it easy to prepare, easy to eat and (most importantly) travels well! These toffee apple flapjacks fit the bill nicely, even Eldest Son who is not keen on flapjacks raved about these. Simply change the oats to gluten free oats, for a gluten free option.

Toffee Apple Flapjacks

  • 3 dessert apples
  • juice of ½ a lemon
  • 30g caster sugar
  • 130g toffees (I used Werthers toffee, because it’s softer than a lot of other brands and is easier to cut up)
  • 140g butter
  • 140g golden syrup
  • 50g brown sugar
  • 250g rolled oats
  • pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 180°c/160 fan/gas mark 4. Grease and line a square cake tin or traybake tin.

Peel, core and chop the apples. Put in a small saucepan with the lemon juice and caster sugar, simmer gently until soft. Puree till smooth. Chop the toffees into smallish chunks. A greased knife or scissors will work best.

Measure out the oats into a large bowl. Put the butter, brown sugar, syrup and salt in a saucepan and heat gently until the butter has melted. Pour the butter mixture and apple puree onto the oats and mix well. Stir in the toffee pieces.

Scrape everything into the prepared cake tin and bake for around 20 mins, until golden brown on top. Cool in the tin on a wire rack. Cut into squares or bars while still slightly warm.

May The Fourth Be With You!

How is it possible in the western world to reach adulthood without seeing Star Wars? Mr W managed to avoid one of the most popular films of all time by allegedly spending his youth “outside playing football”. Lucky for him he has a group of caring friends who lured him to Crumb Towers to be educated. How to mark such an occasion? With cake of course!

Now I’m not the worlds biggest Star Wars fan (I’m more of a Doctor Who kind of girl), but I do think everybody should see the first three films, if only for the sake of knowing your cultural references! And by the first three films, I mean exactly that. Star Wars, Return of the Jedi and The Empire strikes back, none of your “New Hope” nonsense. What was George Lucas thinking when he make those ghastly prequels? It’s not as if he needed the money or anything! The latest film “The Force Awakens” was fab though, I just hope they can keep it up!

Over the course of three weekends (we’re too old and tired for movie marathons now) we managed to drag a reluctant Mr W away from his healthy outdoor pursuits and get him to sit in front of the telly like normal people. Each film needed it’s own novelty cake, I must say, it was a lot of fun making them and I hope you feel inspired to let out your inner geek once in a while!tatooine 1This one, of course, is the surface of Luke Skywalker’s home planet Tatooine. Made from biscuit crumbs, brown sugar and popping candy!

hothThe ice plant ot Hoth is represented by a cream filled angel cake topped with a cute little fondant Wampa, complete with adorable dripping red claws (awww!).

sarlac close sarlac mouthI’m rather proud of this one, the Mighty Sarlaac, a bundt cake topped with butterscotch icing and cake crumbs. The razor sharp teeth are flaked almonds and the tentacles dragging unwary folks to their doom are fruit strings. We didn’t have a Han Solo figure, that little guy in the picture is Rory from Doctor Who, but they look sort of similar!

You may notice that this Sarlaac lacks the CGI “tongue” which was added on when the film was released on DVD, don’t get me started on that….