Some food, some drink.
Goofy Name, Tasty Dessert: Strawberry Rhubarb Puffs.
Have you ever heard of Strawberry Rhubarb Puffs? I've been eating rhubarb desserts for as long as I can remember, and not once had I ever had any "Puffs." Turns out, that the puff in question is pretty much a cobbler; a simple assemblage of fluffy, flaky, buttery drop biscuits floating atop a sweet and tangy jam of strawberry and rhubarb. Hell, I guess when you put it that way, "Puffs" doesn't sound near as goofy, huh?
A few times a month, my work in Geographic Information Systems puts me back into an office-type environment. Usually this involves either desk time in a proper office building, or my traveling to attend a conference and/or give a presentation. Most of the time, I end up talking with folks about food and booze just as much as I do about spatial accuracy and the elements of good cartographic design. Anyhow, I mention this because it was another one of those office talks that hipped me to this recipe here.
The same guy who let me take a stab a screwing up his barbeque grill with a brisket also happened to have a rhubarb dessert recipe that got brought up every time the conversation turned to rhubarb (and hey, this is me we're talking about here; so that happens quite a bit).
The dessert we're talking about is Strawberry Rhubarb Puffs.
"Puffs?" What the hell? Like cream puffs or is it something more like a souffle? And for that matter is "puffs" being used as a noun or a verb? There was an attempt to explain it to me, but being a visual sort of guy I knew I was gonna have to see the recipe and bake it for myself. So when my rhubarb came in this year, I told Curt that I wanted that recipe; and after a promise to Grandma that her puffs wouldn't get plastered all over the Interwebs, I got the knowledge to try me some puffs first-hand (apoligies to Grandma).
Recipe: Jump to the detailed recipe. (or, keep reading for the gist of it) -
For the Fruit on the Bottom
Mix rhubarb, strawberries, 1.5 cups sugar, split vanilla bean and wine in 3 qt saucepan and cook over medium heat stirring occasionally until mixture comes to a boil. Conintue to simmer (and stir occasionally) over medium heat an additional 10 minutes (about 25 minutes total). Remove vanilla bean, scrape the pulp out and return the good stuff back to the fruit (discard the pod). Pour into a 9 X 13 inch baking dish (and don't worry - it'll still be runny).
For the Drop Biscuits
Preheat oven to 350F.
Mix flour and baking powder in a bowl with plenty of room. In another bowl, add salt and sugar into melted butter and stir/whisk until integrated (it all won't dissolve). Whisk the milk into the butter mixture to integrate, then stir (don't whisk) the wet stuff into the dry stuff. Make sure not to over-work it; you just want it to come together into a shaggy dough.
Grab balls of the stuff with your mitts (but don't roll 'em smooth) making for about eight 2.5oz puffs. Flatten 'em out slightly and place onto the hot jam in the 9 x 13 pan (Space 'em evenly; gaps between the dough balls are totally acceptable). Brush each biscuit with a little melted butter and sprinkle with a mixture of the 1 tsps raw sugar and 1/4 tsp cinnamon (you likely won't use it all).
Bake for 25-30 minutes or until puffs are set and just begin to brown, and let cool about 30-45 minutes before serving to let the fruit pectins to their thang.
- So what are we really talking about here? Essentially, this puff business is a cobbler. In the first part of the recipe, we're assembling the fruit compote (or jam if you will) that will line the bottom of the baking dish. The second part is a drop biscuit recipe with plenty of leavener that will puff up after that stint in the oven (it all makes sense now huh?).
- Like the so many community cookbook recipes that I've become quite accustomed to deciphering, I could tell up-front that I was gonna tweak this a bit. Grandma's recipe looked straightforward for the most part, but I thought we could do better than just sweet and tart. Firstly if past events held true, I knew that fruit was gonna need a shot of alcohol instead of water, and no one's ever complained about fruit simmered with a vanilla bean either. Likewise, the original recipe uses cooking oil for the fat in the biscuits, and I thought that melted butter would work to add some richness to an otherwise monotone quickbread.
- The texture of the biscuits is going to depend a lot on your ability to leave things alone. Don't mix the biscuits until you're ready to pop 'em in the oven so you get the biggest bang for your buck out of the baking powder; and if you're looking for tender and flaky, for cryin' out loud, don't over mix and don't over handle the dough.
- There's enough dough here to make about eight 2.5 oz biscuits. I know 'cuz I scaled 'em out for ya. Pull the dough out of the bowl in portions about the size of a plum, and flatten them a little before spacing them evenly in the pan o-jam. Don't roll 'em into balls and don't over work lest you want your puff to be tough.
- I totally cheated on the whole brushing the tops with melted butter thing. I had some spray margarine on hand, and as butter is already fully represented anyhow, a couple of spritzes to get the cinnamon and sugar to stick is no cause to harrumph.
- I almost always use a Pyrex baking dish for these kinds of things. Heat transfer is direct and even, and can lid up and store any leftovers straight away to the fridge.
- You may absolutely not eat this stuff straight out of the oven. The sauce needs to set up a bit, and besides, no one likes second degree burns on the inside of their mouth. Bake the puffs, then fix dinner, and by the time it's time for dessert it'll be just perfect.
After that excruciating wait to allow your dessert to come to a palatable temperature, you can certainly serve it straight-up; and likewise, no one is gonna complain if you finish with a dollop of whipped cream or even a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream. If you weren't serving company and do happen to have leftovers, a very brief stint in the microwave will warm up the fruit and bring the biscuits back to a near from-the-oven consistency. Regardless as to whether you're having this after dinner, or even the next morning with a cup of coffee, those flaky biscuits floating atop that tangy and sweet fruit sauce will put these strawberry rhubarb "pooftie poofs" (as my five-year old calls them) on the top of your list as one of the easiest and tastiest things you can do with a pound of rhubarb.