A little while ago I entered an “ingredient swap” baking challenge. This is an every-so-often event organised by Ruth of the blog Makey-Cakey. The idea is that Ruth pairs you off with another person, you exchange mystery ingredients via Royal Mail and bake something. You can read all about it here.
This time I was paired with Jono, who has his own blog Four Ingredient Recipes and also happens to be Ruth’s other half, and he sent me this:
I had never seen or heard of dried rhubarb before. He also included 100g of ground hazelnuts.
I did some internet research and drying is an alternative way of preserving rhubarb, the other popular methods being freezing and bottling. There were however very few recipes for using dried rhubarb, only plenty of instructions on how to rehydrate it. So I had a bit of head scratching to do in order to come up with something.
I wanted to make something that used the dried rhubarb as a dried fruit rather than just rehydrating it and using it as if it was a fresh fruit, such as in a pie or crumble. There are plenty of recipes around for fresh rhubarb with hazelnuts but that was not the point, I thought.
After a good deal of happy research (time spent browsing my cookbooks is time well spent and thoroughly enjoyed) I found a suitable recipe for a date and almond honey cake in the Rachel Allen book “Cake”. So I decided to use that, following the recipe exactly but substituting the dried rhubarb for the dates and the hazelnuts for the almonds. You can see it for yourself here – go to page 27 – this is the only place I could find it on the internet – and it’s just as well I did because I dropped a clanger when we came to France for Easter – I brought the mystery ingredients with me to do the baking but forgot to bring the cookbook !!
The recipe uses wholemeal flour and honey instead of sugar. The mixture was stiff and sandy and I was expecting the cake to turn out rather dense. I was therefore very pleasantly surprised to find that although the cake didn’t seem to rise very much it was incredibly light and moist.
It went down well with our guests who had been warned to expect a different sort of cake – this is not your average chocolate cake or Victoria sponge and indeed not for the faint-hearted. Nick said it was the sort of cake you would find at the little tearooms patronised by fell-walkers and folk singers !!
I’m not sure I quite understand what he means but it was delicious in its own way, not too sweet and definitely tasted as if it would be good for you. If I ever see dried rhubarb for sale I would buy it and use it again, and I would certainly try the recipe again using the dates and almonds as per the original.
So thanks to Jono for providing me with a really inspiring challenge this time and for leading me to bake something rather out of the ordinary. If you would like to see what he made with the mystery ingredients I sent to him, click here.
100g chopped dried rhubarb (or dates)
200g softened butter
200g runny honey plus 2 tblsp for drizzling
3 eggs, lightly whisked
100g ground hazelnuts (or almonds)
125g wholemeal flour
1½ tsp baking powder
25g flaked almonds
Put the rhubarb (or dates) into a small saucepan with 50 ml water. Bring slowly to the boil and cook for a few minutes until the fruit is soft. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160° fan / gas mk 4. Grease a 20cm round, deep cake tin and line the base with baking parchment. If you are using a springform tin it would be wise to put it on a baking sheet to catch any leaks.
In a large bowl or food mixer, cream the butter and honey until soft. Add the eggs, beating all the time.
Add the fruit, including any liquid in the pan, and mix well.
Fold in the ground hazelnuts (or almonds), then the flour and baking powder.
Tip into the prepared tin and level the top. Sprinkle the flaked almonds over the top. Bake for 45-50 minutes.
Cool in the tin for 10 minutes then turn out onto a rack. Drizzle the 2 tblsp of honey over the cake and leave to cool.
Cuts into 10-12 slices.