Posted by: Kath Usitalo | July 1, 2011

Recipe File: Rhubarb Bread

Rhubarb bread from the local U.P. veggie

Rhubarb is one of those love/hate foods. I’m in the “I ♥ Rhubarb” camp.

Although I don’t understand folks who munch the plant raw (stalks only, folks—the roots and leaves can be poisonous), I do like it in baked goods, which usually involve lots of sugar to counter the tartness of the vegetable.

It’s a plant that is not high on everyone’s radar screen not only because it’s an acquired taste, but because it grows best in the northern climes. “Regional” produce isn’t always the most popular across the land. I’ve never really given rhubarb much thought, except at this time of year when it’s in season and calling to me to make bread.

With my bunch of rhubarb in hand from yesterday’s farm market excursion I decided to take a closer look at this ancient plant. I learned that it was originally cultivated by the Chinese for medicinal purposes some 2,000 years ago, made its way to Europe in the 1600s, and to Maine around 1790-1800.

Michigan, Oregon and Washington are the top commercial growers of rhubarb in the U.S.; about 200 Michigan acres are planted with rhubarb, plus about 85 acres grown in hothouses.

Something I’ve noticed in the U.P. are roadside displays by crafters who like to make concrete impressions of the gigantic rhubarb leaves for bird baths, bird seed feeders or ????

You can learn all about the perennial veggie at  The Rhubarb Compendium, a site that not only outlines the history of rhubarb but offers growing tips and over 300 recipes for rhubarb cakes, breads, soup, pies, muffins, entrees and rhubarb pickles. Since I’m not a Star Trek fan I don’t get it, but those in the know can find the formula for Aaktay (Klingon Steamed Bread).

Rhubarb lovers will want to shop the site’s store for “Got Rhubarb?”  T-shirts, sweatshirts, mugs, tote bags, aprons and baby bibs.

For my rhubarb bread recipe I turned to my trusty Michigan Cooking…and other things cookbook by Carole Eberly.

Enjoy!

Rhubarb Bread

2-1/2 C flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1-1/2 C brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
1/2 tsp vanilla
2/3 C salad oil
1 C sour milk*
2 C rhubarb, diced
1/2 C chopped nuts*

Topping

1/2 C brown sugar
1 Tbsp butter (soft)

Sift together the flour, salt, soda and sugar. Beat egg, vanilla and salad oil. Stir in milk. Blend into sifted ingredients. Stir in rhubarb and nuts. Pour into 2 greased loaf pans. Sprinkle with topping. Bake at 325 degrees for 60 minutes. Makes 2 loaves.

*NOTES: For sour milk I used 1 C milk with 1 Tbsp white vinegar; let it set about 15 minutes. I did not include nuts because I didn’t have any in the house.

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