Buttermilk Tea Cakes

        From the blog For Love of the Table

3/4 c. diced (1/3-inch) rhubarb (100 grams)

1 1/2 T. granulated sugar

1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour (200 grams)

1 1/2 t. baking powder

1/2 t. salt

10 T. unsalted butter, room temperature (140 grams)

1/2 c. brown sugar (100 grams)

3/4 c. granulated sugar (150 grams)

Zest of half an orange

1 t. vanilla

2 eggs

2/3 c. buttermilk (150 grams)...or, use plain, whole milk yogurt

1/4 c. pistachios (or walnuts), lightly toasted and finely chopped (30 grams)

The night before you plan to make the cakes, place the rhubarb in a small bowl and toss with 1 1/2 T. sugar. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Drain the rhubarb in a fine meshed sieve set over a small sauté pan (just large enough to hold all of the rhubarb in a single layer). Press on the rhubarb to squeeze as much liquid into the pan as possible. Set the rhubarb aside on a plate.

Bring the juice to a boil over high heat and reduce to a syrup. Remove from the heat and add the rhubarb; toss to coat. Return the pan to high heat and cook without stirring until any remaining liquid exuded by the rhubarb has evaporated—the rhubarb will not be cooked at this point; it will still be crunchy. Set aside and cool to room temperature. Scoop out 1/4 cup of the rhubarb and reserve separately from the rest.

Preheat oven to 350°. Butter and flour ten 6 oz. ramekins. Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk to combine and aerate. Set aside.

Cream together the butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, orange zest and vanilla extract until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. After adding the last egg, scrape down the bowl. While mixing in low speed, add a third of the dry ingredients to the bowl. Follow with half of the buttermilk. Add another third of the dry ingredients followed by the rest of the buttermilk. Fold in the last third of the dry ingredients by hand, adding the reserved rhubarb (about 1/2 cup) with this last addition. Mix just until well combined.

Divide the batter among the 10 molds (an ice cream scoop works well for this), filling each half way with batter. Sprinkle the nuts and reserved 1/4 c. of rhubarb over the cakes.

Bake until light golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean—about 25 to 30 minutes. Cool the cakes in their molds for 10 minutes before turning out and cooling completely on a wire rack.

(Recipe adapted from blog Cannelle et Vanille)

Blueberry-Pecan Variation: Omit the rhubarb and the 1 1/2 T. of sugar. Use 3/4 cup fresh blueberries instead (fresh blueberries can be added as is, without sugaring or cooking ahead). Replace the orange zest with the zest of one lemon. Replace the pistachios with pecans

Strawberry Variation (June 2017):  The strawberry variation is best made with small, local berries that are only about 1-inch in diameter.  Omit the rhubarb and the 1 1/2 T. of sugar. Use 15 strawberries, hulled and halved lengthwise.  Do not mix them into the batter.  Instead, arrange three berries (cut side up) on top of each cake after sprinkling with the pistachios.   Bake as directed. (I don't think it makes a difference, but I used yogurt for the strawberry version.)