Have you ever tried dicing rhubarb with a plastic knife?
"It won't cut the skin!" the kids in my "food appreciation" classes cried.
Well, nobody said learning how to cook was going to be easy.
I'm surprised how many people don't know what rhubarb is and don't even recognize it in the store. We always had rhubarb in the spring when I was growing up. Tons and tons of rhubarb. Along with asparagus, it's one of the earliest edibles in the garden. Since we try to cook with the seasons in our classes, I wanted to expose my kids to the glories of rhubarb.
Fortunately, there are any number of kid-friendly rhubarb recipes. Not long ago I conducted a search for rhubarb texts at my favorite on-line book seller and purchased no less than three different cook books devoted to this vegetable masquerading as a dessert fruit. One of them, "The Joy of Rhubarb," is nearly 250 pages long and has an entire chapter on rhubarb muffins and breads.
I thought rhubarb wheat bran muffins was a good place to start. Muffins have a number of virtues: kids love them, and they don't take long to bake in the oven. That makes them a perfect choice for cooking classes. The bran is a reminder that we like to cook healthy whenever we can. Bran is full of fiber, something woefully lacking in modern processed foods.
This lesson reinforces a couple of basic baking techniques: Mix dry ingredients in one bowl, wet ingredients in a second bowl. When the time comes, pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. This procedure rarely varies. Also, this is a good example of a chemical rise. One of the dry ingredients is baking soda. One of the wet ingredients is buttermilk. When the acid in the buttermilk mixes with the base content of the baking soda, a chemical reaction occurs that makes gas that causes the muffin dough to expand or rise. This is much faster and more convenient than baking with yeast and is common in muffins and quick breads.
For 12 muffins:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup wheat bran
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups fresh rhubarb, diced small
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup corn oil
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
In a bowl, mix flour, bran, brown sugar, baking soda and salt. In a second bowl, beat buttermilk and egg together, then mix in oil. Separately, mix together sugar and cinnamon and set aside.
Grease a muffin tin (paper cups are optional, but should be greased if used, as with a cooking spray). Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated. Spoon mix into muffin tin, distributing mix as evenly as possible. Sprinkle sugar-cinnamon mix over tops of muffins. Place muffins on middle rack of oven.
Bake 25 to 28 minutes, or until muffins are browned and a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean.
If you have buttermilk left over, pour yourself a glass. It's just the thing to wash down one of these muffins.