Friday, May 7, 2010

Strawberry-Rhubarb Betty

"Classified as a vegetable, but eaten mostly as a fruit, rhubarb is among the first plants to come up in the spring. Before fresh produce was available year-round, it was an eagerly awaited respite from winter's starchy fare. Rhubarb was so often used in pies that some nineteenth-century cooks referred to it as the 'pie plant.' -Nancy Bagget (author of The All American Dessert Book). I don't know about you, but even with access to loads of produce, I'm exceedingly happy to see rhubarb start to arrive.

This "betty" is a delightful alternative to rhubarb pie. It's an old-fashioned American dessert made with fruit and day old cubes of bread. Often it will resemble bread pudding, but because this betty is baked in a shallow dish, it comes out lightly crisp on top. And I don't mean to gush, but it's absolutely positively amazing.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Betty
Recipe from The All-American Dessert Book
Pictures by Caroline

4 3/4 cups cubed day old sourdough, French, or Italian bread, crust removed
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
3/4 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups 1/2-inch long pieces of rhubarb (about 1 1/4 pounds untrimmed)
3 cups very coarsely sliced strawberries
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease a 7 x 11 inch (or similar- we used a 9 x 13) baking dish with non-stick spray.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together the bread cubes, butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, orange zest, orange juice, and vanilla until blended.
  3. In the baking dish, stir together the rhubarb and a generous half of the bread mixture until well blended. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the dish from oven.
  4. Stir the strawberries into the rhubarb mixture; the dish (if a 7 x 11) will be fairly full. Top with the remaining bread mixture. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes loner, or until the betty is bubbly, browned, and crisp on top. Transfer to a wire rack. Let cool for at least 20 minutes. Serve warm, garnished with a scoop of ice cream or dollop of sweetened whip cream, if desired. (Since the rhubarb exudes a lot of juice, the betty is best eaten promptly, but will keep, covered, in the refregerator for a day or so....not that you'll have any left).

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