We’re but a few weeks away from receiving the green light to wear our white shoes, but in the kitchen and at the farmers’ market, it already feels like summer. Bakers get a little greedy this time of year. Rhapsodizing over rhubarb while cradling quarts of strawberries in our arms, we tap our kitchen clogs impatiently, dreaming of the first peaches. Giddy over the dizzying selection of fruit headed our way, we cannot wait another minute to tuck this bounty into pies, tarts and crumbles. Without reaching too far beyond the kitchen, one of the hidden gems of spring and summer baking is probably lounging in the rear of your cabinet.
Cornmeal’s distinctive grit adds a satisfying crunch and hint of sweetness to warm weather bakes. Rhubarb’s vibrant punch (and strawberries that finally taste like strawberries) align perfectly with cornmeal. For those who think of cornmeal as a weighty, stodgy addition to pie crust, adding a hit of baking powder lightens things up.
As summer unfolds, an extra pie shell stashed in the freezer is a launch pad for any number of fruit-centric desserts. Rhubarb and its berry sidekick aren’t the only options to consider, but they certainly deserve a place at the picnic or patio table. Now go check on that lonely bag of cornmeal leaning against the all-purpose flour and make sure it’s still fresh; in the heat it’s a good idea to seal it up tightly, slide it into a Ziploc bag or tight lidded container and find space for it in the freezer. If unsure, best to start anew and while you’re out, might be worth replenishing your supply of Bain de Soleil; Memorial Day weekend arrives in less than fourteen days.