The rhubarb season has started in Switzerland—a sure sign of spring! Considered a vegetable, my experience with rhubarb has been limited to desserts. Although I know more savory options exist, I have yet to try them.
About 80 percent of commercial Swiss rhubarb comes from Vully, located across the lake from where we live. Apparently, there’s one grower, Alexandre Javet, who grows the majority of Swiss rhubarb and has been referred to as the “Rhubarb King.” According to Monsieur Javet, the rhubarb harvest happens twice in the spring, and the first harvest is typically less acidic and less stringy.
Almost everywhere I’ve lived, we’ve had rhubarb growing somewhere in a backyard or a garden. As a child, I remember picking it in the springtime and taking a bite of the fresh, sour stalks. In Minnesota, my grandmother would make rhubarb upside-down cake for dessert—I should really track down her recipe…
About 4 years ago, I discovered my own favorite rhubarb recipe for cake-like muffins. I typically make them at least once during the rhubarb season. However, last year I didn’t because we had just discovered my son’s milk allergy, and we were still holding off on introducing eggs.
One year later, I’m more comfortable making substitutions in order to avoid my son’s allergens. I made my rhubarb recipe over the weekend with rice milk, soy yogurt and flax meal—along with treacle sugar (similar to brown sugar) that my husband picked up on a recent trip to South Africa. It seems a little harder to find brown sugar here in Switzerland. The treacle sugar worked fine, but it has a slightly darker appearance.
Even though these take some time to assemble, I was happy with the results. I even tried de-stringing the rhubarb this time (nothing serious, just some loose and stringy pieces), which helped with the overall presentation. I hope you’ll enjoy them too!
For the topping:
3/4 cup flour
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons vegetable-based margarine, softened
For the rhubarb:
About 1 1/2 cups rhubarb, cut into ¼-inch pieces
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
For the batter:
1 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable-based margarine
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup soy yogurt
1 tablespoon flax meal mixed with 3 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup whole milk
1. Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F.
2. Use muffin cups and/or generously grease a 12-cup muffin pan with vegetable-based margarine (or a dairy-free, non-stick cooking spray).
3. Prepare streusel topping: Whisk together all the dry ingredients in a bowl: flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Using a pastry blender or a fork, blend in the margarine until the mixture forms small clumps.
4. Prepare the batter: Whisk together the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder and salt. Separately, beat together the margarine and sugar, except for the rice milk, in a large bowl. Then, add the yogurt, flax meal and vanilla and mix together until well-blended.
Next, add the flour mixture and milk alternately in two batches, and mix together until just combined (do not overbeat).
Mix the rhubarb and powdered sugar together in another small bowl.
7. Assemble the muffins: Divide the batter among the 12 muffin cups. Sprinkle the batter with the rhubarb, and spoon the streusel on top.
8. Bake for 22-25 minutes, until the muffins are golden brown and toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.
9. Cool muffins in the pan on a wire rack for about 5-10 minutes. Loosen the edges of the muffins with a small knife or metal spatula and carefully place on the wire rack to cool slightly. Serve immediately or keep in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days.
If you have any other rhubarb recipes to share, please send them my way. I hope to have another spring vegetable recipe later this week… Thanks so much for your help and support!