In coastal Alaska, it’s traditional to celebrate the season’s First Salmon, usually around May 15. Well, we live in coastal Alaska (and love salmon), but we celebrate another “first”: The First Rhubarb. And such a momentous occasion deserves a new recipe, don’t you think?
It just so happens that for this season’s “first pick,” we had rhubarb-loving, B&B guests from the Carolinas staying with us. They told us a story about how a future daughter-in-law loved rhubarb and that the best way to make a good impression was to make a rhubarb custard pie.
“We hit every store in the area, dozens of them. No luck. We finally settled on a package of frozen rhubarb. It was better than nothing.
“The pie turned out okay, but there’s nothing like the real thing.”
In my opinion it’s unfortunate that anyone should live in a part of the world where you can’t grow rhubarb.
For this year’s celebration, we decided to share the first pick with our Carolina friends, by creating a new recipe: Whole wheat muffins with rhubarb, apples, fresh grated ginger, and teff. (More on teff later). As you’ll see, it’s actually two recipes: The first is a multi-purpose muffin mix and the second one is a variation on the theme.
Whole Wheat Muffin Mix
This is a fabulous mix–a kitchen staple–that I depend on for most of my muffin (sweet or savory) and quick bread recipes.
4 cups whole wheat flour
4 cups all purpose flour
1-1/2 cups nonfat dry milk
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/4 cup baking powder
1 Tbl salt
1-1/2 cups butter or shortening
In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients. Then using a pastry blender or two knives, cut in butter or shortening until the mixture is crumbly like coarse cornmeal. (Tip: It’s easier to cut shortening into half the amount of dry ingredients. Once the mixture is crumbly, add the rest of the dry stuff). Store mix in an airtight container, in a cool, dry place. Makes about 14 cups.
TO USE: Measure 4-1/2 cups mix into a bowl. Add 1-1/4 cups water and a beaten egg. For sweet muffins, add 4 tablespoons sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Bake muffins at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Makes 14-18 muffins.
To make Rhubarb-Apple Muffins: Add 4 tablespoons sugar to the batter then fold in 2 cups chopped rhubarb, 1 cup chopped apple (don’t bother peeling), and a healthy tablespoon of orange zest. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar before baking.
By the way, if you don’t know what teff is, make friends with it. As the traditional grain of Ethiopia, it’s gluten free, has a mild, nutty flavor and very nutritious. It’s great added to oatmeal, stews, pilaf or baked goods. Cooked whole grain teff is great on its own. You can add teff to veggie (and regular) burgers, cakes, rice, muffins, cookies and breads. Toasted, sprinkle it on yogurt and custard.