I think rhubarb is fantastic. Not only is it a harbinger of summer in the Midwest, it is so perfectly tart that I never grow tired of it. A couple of weekends ago, I bought about 4 pounds of rhubarb at the market, and proceeded to find delicious ways of using all of it up. This buckle was up first.
One of my favorite restaurants in Chicago is Nightwood  and so this recipe for a rhubarb buckle from Nightwood pastry chef Matthew Rice was a must-try in my book. Part of what makes Nightwood so great is that it manages to be both totally elegant and really casual at the same time. Kind of like this buckle. It is the kind of neighborhood restaurant that you could eat at once or twice a week and never get bored. It is pretty perfect. I especially love brunch there, complete with their delicious donuts and other morning pastries. If you are in Chicago and haven’t been to Nightwood, you need to go.
Everyone else can make this buckle.
This is delicious warm from the oven with a scoop of ice cream. But it also is great the next day, and I even enjoyed a final slice the day after that. It can be cut in half and prepared in an 8×8 pan or even in ramekins for individual cakes.
What have you been making with rhubarb? I’d love to hear how you’re taking advantage of the abundance of stalks at the markets right now.
Rustic Rhubarb Buckle (recipe by Matthew Rice via TimeOut Chicago )
- 3 pounds rhubarb, cut into half-inch chunks (about 8 cups)
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 1/2 tbsp cornstarch, dissolved in 2 1/2 tbsp water
- 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
- 1/2 cup lightly packed light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 4 tbsp chopped oats
- Pinch of salt
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp honey
- 3/4 cup buttermilk
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Make the filling: In a large bowl, toss the rhubarb with the sugar, lemon juice, cornstarch slurry and vanilla seeds. Let it macerate for about 30 minutes.
Make the crumb topping: In a medium bowl, work the butter into the dry ingredients with your fingers until combined. You’ll have small to medium crumbs. Refrigerate until needed.
Make the cake: In a medium bowl, whisk the flours with the baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter with the sugar at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about three minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between additions. Beat in the vanilla extract and honey. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the batter in three additions, alternating with the buttermilk.
Assemble the buckle: Pour the fruit filling into a 9-by-13-inch glass or ceramic baking dish. Spoon the batter over the fruit filling, spreading it to the edge. Sprinkle with the crumb topping. Bake in the center of the oven for about one hour, until the filling is bubbling and the crumb topping is golden.