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Renwald: Rhubarb custard a great way to welcome spring

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Rhubarb
custard

2 cups rhubarb, chopped into 1/2 -inch pieces

3/4 cup sugar plus more for dusting1

1/2 cups half-and-half2

1/2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch

2 eggs plus 1 egg yolk

2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon lemon zest

Heat oven to 350 F. Butter six ramekin dishes, and dust with sugar. Arrange on a rimmed baking sheet. In a small bowl, toss rhubarb with 1/4 cup sugar and divide among ramekins. Cover each ramekin with foil and bake until rhubarb is just beginning to release liquid and soften, about 30 minutes. Leave oven on. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together half-and-half, cornstarch, eggs and yolk, remaining 1/2 cup sugar, vanilla and lemon zest until smooth. Divide mixture evenly among dishes. Bake, uncovered, until just set, 22 to 24 minutes. Let cool for 20 minutes.

Adapted from “Rhubarb Custards,” Martha Stewart Living, May 2010

Updated: May 3, 2014 6:15AM



Barely after the first pale green blades of tulip stems raise their heads from the black earth, rhubarb follows suit.

It emerges like an ugly weed, a curly tuft of lettuce flowering above skinny rose stalks.

It’s a tenacious perennial, sprouting up in the bleakest of weather and most frigid of temperatures — all of which give proof to its rugged countenance.

Fresh from the ground, it’s nearly inedible. But is there really any question as to why we snap up droves of this stuff as soon as it’s right for the picking?

Rhubarb, in its own way, is a metaphor for spring. It pops out hard-faced and unflattering. It’s bitter and tough. Yet we are so happy to see it after the long months of winter.

Celebrate rhubarb — and spring — with this delicious custard that gives proper respect to the first seasonal harvest from your back yard.

Like the season, these individual custard dishes retain a certain tartness to them. There is a certain bite in the marrow of vanilla and cream that opens up the flavor for new interpretation. In this case, it comes in the form of sugared rhubarb pieces that have been baked just long enough to release their flavors.

When suspended in the middle of the pots of custard, they form little pockets of syrupy tartness — a nice surprise to the otherwise mellow dessert.

This dish presents a nice twist to the classic rhubarb custard pie. It isn’t paired with strawberry. Instead, it takes over the starring role and lets a simple vanilla custard with just a hair of lemon zest sing backup.

Lighter and less filling, the custard also transcends meal assignments. If you prefer, forego this spring dessert after supper and serve it for brunch instead. The absence of a crust creates so many more possibilities.

The hunger for spring and April’s earliest harvest is already present, so why not feed it?



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