Following weeks of dashed hopes, Mike-in-Produce and Mr. Sweet as Pie came through; Rhubarb and I have finally been reunited. Earlier this week, upwards of 10 pounds of the elusive pie plant sprawled across my kitchen counter, making itself comfortable while I rearranged my refrigerator in order to accommodate the spring vegetable. Where to begin? What to bake besides pie?
Leafing through old manila recipe files, I came across a number of restaurant menus from my former life in Philadelphia. Rhubarb and I reminisced about those crazy late spring/early summer days, toiling in the relentless heat with the convection ovens blazing. Unable to curtail the momentum of food memory, I found myself tumbling down the rabbit hole of the early 1980s. Rhubarb reminded me of my obsession with the Chipwich ice cream sandwich, and I reminded him of his splashy feature in The Silver Palate Good Times Cook Book, as a rhubarb crisp, in 1985. Rinsing the slender stalks under cool water before drying them on a clean gingham dish towel, I had a dizzying flashback. “Remember how the 1980s were inundated with chocolate and white chocolate? It touched everything sweet; over-sized muffins, airy mousses, cocoa dusted truffles, ridiculous cheesecakes and sublime ganache. Remember the chocolate lava cake? And how it was a topic of molten debate, with Jacques Torres and Jean-Georges Vongerichten each claiming to have invented the dish?” Rhubarb nodded as I continued.
“Even simple bar cookies, classic brownies and butterscotch blondies were given ‘80s make-overs. They were studded with every kind of chip, exotic nuts like macadamias, and chunks that fell under the blade of the mighty Chef’s knife. Brownies couldn’t escape a swirl of cream cheese or an infusion of espresso. We drowned them in dark chocolate ganache, or insipid white chocolate curls. Remember?”
Rhubarb shuddered. “Makes your teeth hurt just thinking about it, doesn’t it?”
I had to agree. White chocolate was never my go-to; its one saccharine note paling in comparison to chocolate’s multi-faceted blend of bitter and sweet. I always blamed white chocolate for my aversion to blondies, avoiding their brazen sweetness. That was until I came across Lisa Ludwinski’s recipe for Rhubarb Blondies. Plucking the recipe from the back of a notebook, I checked to see if my bakeware collection included an 8” square pan. Of course it did.
“You’re featured in this brown sugar/white chocolate bar cookie,” I casually mentioned to Rhubarb, combing through the recipe.
“You don’t say?” the pie plant ruminated.
“Shall we give it a go, despite the white chocolate?”
“Just don’t over-bake it,” Rhubarb warned . “And maybe cut back a little on the brown sugar, or bump up the salt. Whatever you do, I don’t want people getting the impression that I’m sweet. I have a reputation, you know.”
“Understood,” I assured the spring vegetable. “I’m not using any old white chocolate. I’m using caramelized white chocolate and hazelnuts.”
Rhubarb shrugged, unimpressed. “Aren’t you fancy? Just promise me one thing. If these rhubarb blondies don’t work out, promise me you won’t turn them into truffles?”
Professional Pie-isms & Seasonal Sarcasm