When you give rhubarb’s tart bite a fighting chance by holding back on sweeteners just a bit, its distinctive flavor adds balance and complexity to any recipe. And it won’t bite back — we promise. Here we’ve reunited rhubarb with a classic springtime companion, strawberries.
Rhubarb is a stalky vegetable, similar in appearance and texture to celery, but bearing no resemblance in taste. It is extremely sour, both raw and cooked, and is often heavily sugared to overcompensate for its pucker-power.
You’ll find stalks of varying sizes, with ruby red, pink and grassy green streaks in stores and farmers markets from late March through June. If the stalks have leaves, or if growing your own, leaves should be trimmed and discarded before cooking, as they contain a high oxalic acid content and are potentially toxic to people and pets.
Strawberry-rhubarb shortcakes with rosemary and chantilly cream
For the shortcakes:
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, diced
- 2 eggs
- 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 egg beaten plus 1 tablespoon milk, for egg wash
- 6 small top sprigs of rosemary
For the strawberry-rhubarb compote:
- 3 cups rhubarb, leaves removed, washed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1/2 cup sugar, or to taste
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- Pinch of salt
- 1 pint strawberries, washed and quartered
For the chantilly cream:
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles a coarse meal with pea-sized pieces of fat. In a separate bowl, lightly whisk the eggs, rosemary and heavy cream. Add to the flour and mix until just blended. The dough should be sticky, but not wet.
- Place the dough out onto a well-floured surface and form the dough into a rough circle, one inch high. Cut six biscuits with a fluted or straight cookie or biscuit cutter and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Brush the top of each biscuit with the egg wash and sprinkle with sugar.
- Bake for 20 minutes or until the outside is slightly golden around the edges. Do not open the oven door during the first 15 minutes, to allow the biscuits to rise properly. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.
- Add the rhubarb, sugar, orange juice and pinch of salt to a saucepan. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes and add half of the strawberries. Simmer for another 15 minutes, or until the rhubarb is just tender but still toothy. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Add the rest of the strawberries to the cooled mixture and stir to incorporate.
- Beat the cold cream with a wire whisk or hand mixer until soft peaks begin to form. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla and continue to beat until stiff peaks just barely begin to form.
- Split shortcake in the middle, like a hamburger bun. Place the bottom of the biscuit into a shallow bowl and spoon some of the compote over the biscuit. Add a generous spoonful of chantilly cream. Place the top part of the biscuit on the cream and top with a small amount of compote and another dollop of cream. Place a small sprig of rosemary on the cream. Repeat for each shortcake.
Neat things you should know:
- Chantilly cream is credited to François Vatel, maître d’hôtel at the Château de Chantilly in the 17th century. Vatel had the honor of cooking for King Louis XIV, but took his own life rather than risk the shame and embarrassment he would face after being told he would not have enough fish delivered for the King’s dinner, which turned out to be a “grave” misunderstanding. The full fish delivery arrived later that morning.
- The first mention of shortcakes in Europe has been traced to the late 1500s.
- The first strawberry shortcake recipe has been traced to around 1850.
- Rhubarb was first used for medicinal purposes, with records as far back as 2700 B.C., and did not appear in the U.S. for culinary uses until the 1800s.
- Rhubarb leaves can be used to create organic insecticides for any of the leaf eating insects such as cabbage caterpillars, aphids, peach and cherry slugs.