Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Rhubarb Redux, and Kuchenish is a Good Word.

I could eat my weight in rhubarb. This year, I have found several neighbors who grow it but don't eat it, and I will never understand why some detest its spunky flavor. One or two such haters live under my roof. When I read aloud yesterday that rhubarb can be good for cutting cancer risks and improving conditions after some types of cancer, my Husband (who has had cancer) said he'd rather have cancer than eat rhubarb. The prolific neighborhood rhubarb has an outlet in me for the perennial crop, and I probably went a little overboard for the holiday weekend - baking up gluten-free, rhubarby treats all for me.

gluten free rhubarb crisp
gluten-free rhubarb crisp.

I think every pan of rhubarb dessert I've ever made has a corner mysteriously missing before the pan has been out of the oven 5 minutes. It's hereditary; I am not sure I could help it if I tried, though admittedly I haven't tried very hard. I usually wait until I have rhubarb-loving company to make rhubarb desserts, but I was tired of waiting - and when one of those neighbors gave me some fresh rhubarb, I decided to make myself some low-sugar, mostly wheat free experiments. They were both so good that I have to record them for the future.

rhubarby notes.

When I bake for myself, I often use little scribbled sheets of notepaper, a general idea of the baked good I want to come up with or a crib note for future endeavors. In the case of the adapted crisp, I used a common big spoon from my silverware drawer, which I measured and found to be the exact same as a standard tablespoon measure. That discovery just made my personal baking that much easier.

gluten free rhubarb crisp

This crisp was inspired by La Tartine Gourmande, which has been on my library shelf for the past few weeks. I have read some of Beatrice Peltre's blog of the same name, but never realized until I was looking through the desserts chapter of her book that the recipes were all gluten-free. I'm not sensitive or allergic to gluten (that I know of) , but do believe that we all can benefit from less wheat, so I figured I would grind up some alternative flours and give it a go. I loved it.

Rice flour (at least rice flour made at home) is always a little gritty, but I don't mind this, especially in a crisp topping where the crunchiness is appreciated. The day after, the rice does soften up a little bit, but I still really liked the combination of sweet rice, slightly bitter amaranth and almond. The topping to filling ratio of this crisp leaned heavily in the topping's favor. Exactly how a crisp should be if you ask me. I made all of my flours in the VitaMix, but it is increasingly easier to find alternative flours at co-ops, other natural food stores, and traditional grocery markets.

Gluten Free Rhubarb Crisp (adapted from La Tartine Gourmande)
1 8x8 pan, about 6-8 servings if you're lucky

  • 12 oz. rhubarb, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 apple, unpeeled, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 T. honey
  • 1 T. brown sugar
  • 1/4 t. cinnamon, more to taste
  • squeeze of lemon juice


  • 40 g. (1/4 c.) almond meal
  • 50 g. (1/3 c.) rice flour
  • 40 g. (1/3 c.) amaranth flour
  • 50 g. (1/4 c.) brown sugar
  • pinch of salt (omit if using salted butter)
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • pinch of ginger
  • 6 T. cold butter (3 oz. or about 85 g.), cubed
  • 35 g. (1/3 c.) rolled oats
  • large handful of chopped almonds, about a heaping 1/3 of a cup

Preheat oven to 350.

Butter an 8x8 baking dish, preferably glass, and set aside. Mix filling ingredients in a bowl, and stir well. Spread into the baking dish in an even layer. Save the dirty bowl to mix the topping.

To make the topping in a food processor, combine the flours, sugar, salt and spices and pulse to combine. Add butter, and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse pebbles. Pour into the bowl used to make the filling, and add the oats and chopped almonds and mix well by hand. Spread evenly over the top of the filling. (You can make the topping by hand by crumbling the butter into the flours with your fingertips or a fork. Aim for the same, pebbly consistency.)

Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until well browned and bubbly around the edges.

rhubarb kuchenish

After the success and rapid decimation of the crisp (yes, I pretty much ate it for breakfast, snack and dessert for 2 days solid), I turned my thoughts to the Rhubarb Kuchen of my youth. Kuchen is probably my all-time favorite dessert if you don't count chocolate cake, and it wasn't until I ate the crisp that I thought about altering it.

This is one recipe I've never thought about altering before. Tigress altered it last year, and did a good job of it, but it was still heavy on the refined sugar and leaden with kuchen-trademarked amounts of butter. I don't have anything against butter, but I was craving a more virtuous, breadfast-y version of kuchen, one that I didn't need to feel bad about eating all myself. I found my answer in dates.

rhubarb kuchenish
I really loved adding chia seed to the topping.

I simmered whole, dried dates in water and let them cool to make a near sugar-free version of rhubarb kuchen. Really, it's only kuchenish, because there is no bottom layer, but if you eat it with yogurt or ice cream, you'll hardly miss it. I have now made 3 rhubarb desserts in the past 4 days, but to my defense, there is still a nearly full pan of the last kuchenish left.

For the first attempt, I used whole wheat flour along with the oats but I liked it just as well using amaranth flour. For the second test, I also increased the volume and used frozen rhubarb from last year since I have to make room for the new crop. The fresh rhubarb is preferable, but the frozen still makes a respectable result. If using frozen rhubarb, I would recommend using an additional egg to add to the creaminess of the filling.

rhubarb kuchenish

Rhubarb Kuchenish (adapted from our family recipe of Rhubarb Kuchen)
bake in a 8x8 pan for thicker, longer baking dessert or 9x13 for thinner, shorter baking one

  • 12 oz. (about 1 c.) dried dates
  • 2/3 c. water
  • 6 c. rhubarb, measured after chopping to medium sized dice
  • 2-3 eggs
  • pinch of cinnamon, optional


  • 1/2 c. rolled oats
  • 1/2 c. whole wheat (or amaranth) flour
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar
  • 2 oz. (4 T.) butter
  • pinch of salt (omit if using salted butter)
  • 2 T. chia seeds
  • pinch of cinnamon, optional

To make the filling, simmer the water and dates in a covered pan for 10 minutes or so until soft. Cool to room temperature, then puree using a food processor, food mill, or immersion blender (that's what I used). Mix with the rest of the filling ingredients, and spread into a buttered baking dish.

Preheat oven to 350.

Make the topping by crumbling the butter into the flour by hand or with a food processor. Then add oats and the rest of the ingredients and toss to combine well. Spread over the filling in an even layer, and bake until golden brown and bubbly around the edges, 40-60 minutes depending on the size and depth of your baking dish.

kuchenish bite

Stored in the refrigerator, both the kuchenish and the crisp will keep several days - if not a week - but I know that is wishful thinking for me. I am reminded why I have been dutifully staying clear of baking desserts for myself. I crouch over a piping hot dish of fresh-from-the-oven rhubarb with fork in hand, burning my mouth to shovel those first few bites in, to examine if rhubarb made with dramatically less sugar is just as beguiling as the real thing. It is, I think. I feel a little better knowing that if I eat a whole pan of rhubarb dessert, it has just a trace of refined sugar in it. If you make one, let me know what you think, will you?


  1. I don't have a vitamix (if I get one I won't blame you though--there's lots of blame to go around) but I can see why it would be so useful for one-off gluten free baking--I already have so many flours and I don't have space for too many more--and as you say it's hard to find these specialty flours. I certainly don't bake gluten free but I enjoy trying to use a variety of grains for health and flavor reasons! Oh, and I LOVE rhubarb--and love that these are low sugar too.

  2. Thinking I'll make the Kuchenish this weekend. My rhubarb plants struggle a bit so I'm always hesitant to pluck too much, but this should work!


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