Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Rhubarb Streusel Bars with Ginger Icing

You'll experience the fluidity of time. You'll place your precious attention on the things that really warrant your focus, and suddenly time stretches or contracts to accommodate what you want to accomplish.

When I read my horoscope, I took a deep breath and wished with all my might that it would come true. Time seems both scant and never ending right now. There aren't enough daylight hours to accomplish everything on my multiple to-do lists lately and yet, it seems like it's still forever until this baby girl arrives sometime in August. I'm so eager to meet her and yet there are a million things to do before she arrives.

This is all on top of the usual anxiety I feel this time of year. It seems we wait forever for strawberries and tomatoes to come in season here in Central Texas and then, BAM! Shortly after, blueberries and peaches and blackberries make their arrival all on top of one another. Couple the bounty with our short seasons and I'm off and scrambling to find the perfect specimens for carefully chosen recipes I've stashed away all year. I have both blueberry and peach desserts I want to either try for the first time or perfect very soon but I haven't yet settled on a recipe for a blackberry creation. If I don't get moving, I'll miss the season all together.

As excited and impatient as I am about peaches and berries, right now they have to wait because it's rhubarb season. Not here in Central Texas, per se, who knows if we'll even see any locally grown rhubarb this year after last year's drought, but lovely dark, ruby-colored stalks from Michigan and Oregon are in stores. And you know how I feel about rhubarb....

I found this recipe on the same magazine tear out page as my go-to casserole recipe. It is the casserole recipe in my house- if you have a baby or lose a loved one, it's the tried and true favorite I'll show up at your door carrying. When I tore the casserole recipe from one of my Mom's Better Homes and Gardens issues long ago, I didn't initially notice this rhubarb bar recipe. Little did I know I had lucked upon not one but two gems. I expect these bars to go into heavy rotation each rhubarb season hereafter. They're just right- the tanginess of the rhubarb is played up by the addition of both crystallized ginger and ginger icing and the oatmeal streusel makes a nice solid base for the bars as well as a crunchy topping. Best of all, these bars are quick and easy with little to no mess- no mixer required, just a bowl or two and a square baking pan. The hardest part is refraining from finishing off the whole pan in one sitting.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Brioche Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Icing

Brioche cinnamon rolls... made with love. And lots of butter. But mostly love. It's the most important ingredient.

I come from a family of doers, not emoters. That's how we show our love for one another. We aren't the most demonstrative family, although we are affectionate in our own way. It's just that we express affection in the form of some act.

I know my dad loves me dearly because he's done so much for me over the years. He built Eric and I our first home, a project we took to referring to as Habitat for Lucas since Dad did all the work gratis. It was supposed to be a modest starter home but his daughter decided she had to have hardwood floors, nine foot ceilings, and crown molding throughout. Oh, and upgraded cabinets and appliances, along with maple butcher block counters. Not that our budget allowed for any of this but Dad made it happen. He laid the hardwood floors and installed the crown molding, kitchen cabinets, and countertops himself to save us money so I could have what I wanted. The house turned out beautifully and we happily lived there for six years before I got the itch to move on.
Despite his misgivings about us leaving the home he built for us to move three states away from our family and friends, Dad drove a 26 foot moving truck packed with our belongings all the way from Florida to Texas. He even let Harry ride along with him in the big truck and my father is not an animal person.

Now he and Mom travel to Austin at least yearly to check in on us and help with any projects that need taking care of. He always comes armed with a tool belt and saw or two to tackle my to-do list.

Last week he and Mom came in town to help us take care of a baby project. Our second bedroom, soon to be the baby's room, had a loft opening that overlooked the first floor so we closed it in in order to not have to tip toe around downstairs every time we put Ruby down to sleep.

That's me and Mom headed out for an afternoon of shopping. While Eric was taking pics of us, he managed to snap this off-the-cuff photo of Dad. He's finally seated, quietly resting up from a busy morning. After all the work to close in the loft opening the day before, he had just finished steam cleaning our couch and dining room chairs. Most parents vow they will do anything for their children but my dad actually does it.

With all that my dad does for me, the least I could do I was make these cinnamon rolls for him. Dad can never pass by a Cinnabon without stopping in so I thought I'd make him a homemade version of his favorite treat. The dough for these rolls is Joanne Chang's basic brioche recipe from Flour. To make them, mix up the basic brioche recipe and divide the dough and freeze one half, then roll the other half out into a rectangle approximately 16 x 12 inches and about a quarter of an inch thick. Slather the rolled out dough with half a stick of melted butter and sprinkle on a mixture of 3/4 cup of dark brown (golden works too) sugar and 3 tablespoons of cinnamon. Roll the dough up lengthwise like a log and gently press along the seam to seal the roll. Cut the roll into approximately 1 1/2 inch wide slices and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat. Set the baking sheet with the rolls aside to proof for approximately two hours in a warm spot or overnight in the refrigerator. The rolls should puff up and look pillowy when ready. Bake the rolls on the center rack of an oven pre-heated to 350º Fahrenheit for 20 minutes or until golden brown. You can check to ensure the dough is fully baked by inserting a toothpick in an inside ring of a roll. It should be clean and dry when removed. Remove to a rack and allow to cool completely before topping with cream cheese icing. As an optional step, I sprinkled a little extra cinnamon sugar on top of the iced rolls.