August 06, 2006

Baking for Mom- More Uses for Rhubarb

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Not everything turns out the way I plan it to, or the way I think it will in my head. My Mom needed something to bring to a potluck and I volunteered to make it for her. This was a potluck in the traditional sense in that no one had been told specifically to bring a salad or a main or a dessert, they were just going to make do with whatever people brought. If there were 12 chocolate cakes, so be it, that’s what they would eat. I liked that as it gave me the freedom to basically make whatever I wanted. I had previously prepared a checkerboard cake with chocolate ganache for this same group so I thought I had to come up with something that would rival that.

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I was blanking on ideas though because seriously, that checkerboard cake was pretty hard to top, (note to self- start with simple things and then everything that follows will look better, if you start at the top there’s nowhere to go but down). Mom suggested I make another rhubarb pie, I’ve kinda been on a roll with those so at least I knew it would probably turn out alright. I thought I’d 'kick it up a notch' by making little tarts so that everyone got their own. I thought it would look cute. I now know why my Mom never really bothered with making tarts, they take forever. It’s like I completely forgot my own instructions to go big or go home. Tarts are for sissies, I should have made an enormous pie. A pie so big that I would also have had to construct a super sized pie plate and bonfire to cook it over because no oven could hold this sucker. Instead I wasted away hours trying to cut out tart shells and fit them into those finicky, overly bendy silver tart shells. Not wanting to take even more of my time trying to put a pastry crust on the top I used the same sour cream, brown sugar and oatmeal mixture that I had put on the pies for the principles dinner instead. Before going into the oven they looked alright and I thought maybe my hard work wasn’t done in vain. I wasn’t really sure how long the tarts should be in the oven, less time that the pies, but how much less? I kept an eye on them, but got distracted while writing my spinach pasta blog, (and forgetting to add the pictures that I talked about taking). As a result, the tarts bubbled everywhere, all over the sides. Some of the tops got a little dark, but even as this was happening the pastry part wasn’t quite done. I tried to prevent more burning on top by covering them in tinfoil. The outcome was not the cute, perfect little individual pies that I had imagined. The edges were all gooey, some of them looked slightly burnt and they all looked messy. This was not sophisticated. This was nowhere near the caliber of a chocolate checkerboard cake. They tasted alright, but as half the eating is done with the eyes, I was not overly impressed with myself.

I guess part of my problem may have been that I was working on a deadline and simultaneously making a strawberry yogurt rhubarb cake, (we’ve got rhubarb coming out of our ears, I’ve got to use it up somehow). This was also for my Mom, for some meeting she had the next day. I had to get both done before 1pm and didn’t start them early enough. Also, as I’m a procrastinator, I had a lot to do in very little time, didn’t think about how long things would take to bake, and was trying to do 9 other things, completely unrelated to baking all at the same time. I got the yogurt cake done first and based on the taste of the batter I was happy with how I thought it would turn out. The problem with cakes though is that you can’t taste the final product before serving it, so all my hope was that the awesomeness of the batter would remain after baking, (past experience says it does not always happen like this). Coming out of the oven the cake smelled and looked good so I set it aside to cool while I finished with the tarts. I got impatient though and tried to take the cake out of the mold too early. Don’t do that. It broke in two. I should have taken this as a sign that not to get my hopes up for the tarts. Good news on the cake though, since it was going to be used as a snack at the meeting it was going to be cut up and put out on a plate to serve so no one was ever going to know about its imperfections. For my own satisfaction I stuck it back together to take the final picture.

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My Mom saved me a piece and I can attest to the fact it was actually very good too, surprisingly fluffy, almost like an angel food cake. The strawberry yogurt rhubarb cake, (which needs an acronym or something) will be made many times before I try to do something stupid like tarts again. Go big or go home. Remember that.

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