I was surprised at how nostalgic I got testing rhubarb pudding from the White House Cookbook. My mind swam with memories of grandfatherly teasing, vast forests of rhubarb’s elephant ear leaves in my great grandparent’s victory garden, mom’s stabbed toe, a pleasantly shocked Spanish face, regular begging from friends for this or that rhubarb recipe. I just don’t know if I ever knew life could exist without it. It was so ubiquitous in my life. My Beloved claims the same–no remembered introduction. It was, well, just… there. It was always there in the garden and on the plate. Discussing it around the dinner table provoked a lot of memories for everybody. Perhaps rhubarb is the time machine we’ve all searched for. Maybe every forkful is another spin backwards on the decade dial. Felt like it tonight.
The recipe for rhubarb pudding in the White House Cookbook was so vague that when I realized how much research it might take, I wondered if it would be a multi-trial recipe like Orange Float. I panicked a little. I admit it. But I’m too stubborn to give up that easily. I decided to do this recipe because I’m spending a little time with the home folks and thought I’d raid Mom’s garden. It was bound to be flush with rhubarb. It always is every summer. I’ve never known rhubarb to fail her. Ever.
At first glance, the rhubarb pudding looked like a cobbler but so many online or book recipes didn’t seem to share the same quantities of eggs, butter or milk. There was no sugar to be added and the flour was a guessing game. I tried googling the basic ingredients and kept coming up with hits for pancake or waffle recipes. Somehow the idea of pancake and sweetened rhubarb didn’t seem bad but I wasn’t convinced until my mother popped open a book with the pancake recipe she’s always used. There, in front of me, was a near exact copy of almost every element except the little bit of sugar. I was worried but I plunged ahead and made a mix of rhubarb with cobbler quantities of sugar added to it. I mixed up all the ingredients until the flour and added it quarter cup by quarter cup only to find that my original estimate had been bang on. When I put the two parts in the glass dish, I wasn’t convinced anything great would happen. I really didn’t think it looked promising since I didn’t even know what temperature to use in the oven. I decided on 375 degrees. I now think it might have been better lower but it wasn’t that bad of a guess. Even the doubtfulness on inverting the pudding on a plate was unnecessary. It popped out perfectly after some cooling.
The results were pronounce by all my guinea pigs to be quite edible, some preferring to add the proffered cream and some ate without any enhancements. It’s pretty much all eaten up now. I guess, if anything, how much food left is a sign of its success or failure. Success it is, then, with some minor adjustments. I’ll update you on those later.
RHUBARB OR PIE-PLANT PUDDING.–Original Recipe
Chop rhubarb pretty fine, put in a pudding dish and sprinkle sugar over it; make a batter of one cupful of sour milk, two eggs, a piece of butter the size of an egg, half a teaspoonful of soda and enough flour to make batter about as thick as for cake. Spread it over the rhubarb and bake till done. Turn out on a platter upside down, so that the rhubarb will be on top. Serve with sugar and cream.
RHUBARB OR PIE-PLANT PUDDING.— based on original recipe
2 cups rhubarb, finely chopped
1 cup white sugar
1 cup sour milk (this can be made with a near cup of milk and Tbsp of lemon juice)
1/4 cup salted butter, melted
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups white flour
1. Mix rhubarb and white sugar together in a bowl. Set aside*
2. Mix baking soda and flour together into bowl.
3. Make a well in the center. Add sour milk, eggs and melted butter; mix together until smooth.
4. In a lightly buttered round glass casserole dish, put sugared rhubarb on bottom and cover completely with batter.
5. Place dish into an oven at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or when golden around the edges and a toothpick comes clean from the center.
6. Allow to cool to room temperature. Slide a butter knife around the edges of the batter to detach from glass. Quickly invert pudding over a waiting dish. With the cooling, it should come out in once piece. This can be served with cream and sugar (white or powdered).