Rhubarb is one of those vegetables that I’ve never come around to trying, until now. Previously, I knew about rhubarb pies, rhubarb and strawberry compotes for topping ice cream, and rhubarb jam. While these all sound fine, they never piqued my interest because: 1) I’m loyal to chocolate and 2) I’m not usually a fan of cooked fruit. Both are good reasons but lately I’ve been feeling like shaking things up and getting out of my comfort zone. Too much of the same can be boring. So, I went all out and paired the rhubarb compote with a basil and lemon cake which to me just screams spring. One bite and the bright flavors combined with the slight tartness of rhubarb and the buttery cake made for a remarkable new dessert.
Lemon Basil Financiers
½ cup plus 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups plus 2 tablespoons powdered sugar; additional for dusting
2 tablespoons honey
5 egg whites
7 fresh basil leaves, chopped fine
Zest of one lemon
2 tablespoons melted butter or non-stick cooking spray
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (convection) and place the oven rack in the middle.
Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Simmer until browned bits begin to form. Continue to simmer, frequently scraping up browned bits at bottom of pan, until fragrant and dark brown but not burnt, 6–7 minutes. Scrape butter and all browned bits into a medium bowl. Let cool for 3–4 minutes.
Place almonds and flour in a food processor until nuts are finely ground. Transfer to a medium bowl; whisk in 1 1/2 cups plus 2 Tbsp. powdered sugar. Add egg whites; mix until smooth. Fold in honey, basil, and lemon zest.
Fold browned butter into batter. Cover and chill overnight and up to two days.
Coat savarin molds or a donut pan with melted butter or non-stick spray. Fill a disposable pastry bag with batter and pipe into coated molds filling to ¾.
Bake until cakes are just golden brown and cooked through, 18- 20 minutes. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove cakes from pan and place onto a cooling rack.
Adapted From Chez Panisse Fruit by Alice Waters
1 pound rhubarb
Juice of 1 orange plus zest
½ cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, scraped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Rinse and dry rhubarb. Cut off 1” from the bottom and any leaves. Cut lengthwise into 1/3” strips and crosswise into ½” pieces.
Grate the zest from the orange into a non-reactive baking dish and add 3 tablespoons of its juice. Add the rhubarb, sugar, and vanilla and toss everything together to coat the rhubarb.
Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 5 minutes or until a knife slides easily into the rhubarb.
Assemble the cakes:
With a small spoon, scoop rhubarb compote into the center well of each cake. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and garnish with a basil leaf. This dessert should be served warm or at room temperature.