Big Crumb Rhubarb Coffee Cake.

March: a time of growth and hope. When everything that has been dead or dormant the past few months begin to creep back out from their hideaway. The time where daffodils shoot up in random bunches around the yard, soon to have a yellow bud of sunshine on their tip. It seems that this time always comes just when you are about to lose hope. Not consciously, necessarily, but subconsciously you have slightly given up that the sun will ever shine again, that flowers will ever bloom again, and that there will ever be warmth in the air again. This past week has been just that- a time of renewed hope. It is visible in the spring of people’s steps, the smile and warmth that has returned to their demeanor.
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That’s not me; kinda wish it was though.
You don’t want me to continue going on about how much I love spring? Fine. Let’s talk rhubarb.I have had exactly one rhubarb thing in my entire life: a strawberry rhubarb crumble, which I didn’t have until last year. Why? I don’t know-it just never came around. Shame on me. It wonderful! Tart, tangy, subtle sweet, crispy crunchy; all the things a fruit should be. When I was at the store this past week, I saw rhubarb on sale-63p a bunch. I cleared them out and walked home with a skip in my step and a determination to make something scrumptious.

Crisp? Crumble? Ice Cream? Pie? What to make, what to make . . . I even googled rhubarb. Mostly I just got interested facts. But that’s beside the point.

I searched through some of my favorite foodie blogs to see what other had come up with, when I stumbled upon this from Smitten Kitchen: Big Crumb Coffee Cake. 

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When I think and dream about coffeecake, I dream of the huge chunks of crumb on top. So they really aren’t crumbs at all-they are chunks of sweet, slightly cinnamon-y crumble. It’s the best part, hands down. I judge whether or not I want a piece of coffeecake on the crumble-a slight dusting of crumbs on top, barely visible? No thanks. Chunks that cover and promise that there are more underneath? Yes please. So to have a name with ‘big crumb’ in the title makes me a very excited little lady.I made these guys for an Oscar we had at the beginning of the week. They left everyone in wordless, moaning bites that tried to describe their goodness. Words don’t work here-just noises.

Thanks, rhubarb.

Please make these soon.

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‘Big Crumb’ Coffeecake with RhubarbButter for greasing pan

For the rhubarb filling:
1/2 pound rhubarb, trimmed
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

For the crumbs:
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick or 4 ounces) butter, melted
1 3/4 cups cake flour (I was out and used all-purpose and it worked great)

For the cake:
1/3 cup sour cream (creme fraiche if you’re in the UK)
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup cake flour (ditto on the all-purpose flour–worked just fine)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons softened butter, cut into 8 pieces.

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease an 8-inch-square baking pan, or you can line a muffin tin with muffin papers if you want individual portions rather than one loaf. For filling, slice rhubarb 1/2 inch thick and toss with sugar, cornstarch and ginger. Set aside.

2. To make crumbs in a large bowl, whisk sugars, spices and salt into melted butter until smooth. Then, add flour with a spatula or wooden spoon. Be sure that the sugar has fully dissolved in the butter before you add the flour! Or else you will get a sandy mess, and no one wants that. It will look and feel like a solid dough. Leave it pressed together in the bottom of the bowl and set aside.

3. To prepare cake, in a small bowl, stir together the sour cream, egg, egg yolk and vanilla. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add butter and a spoonful of sour cream mixture and mix on medium speed until flour is moistened. Increase speed and beat for 30 seconds. Add remaining sour cream mixture in two batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition, and scraping down the sides of bowl with a spatula. Scoop out about 1/2 cup batter and set aside.

4. Scrape remaining batter into prepared pan or muffin tin. Spoon rhubarb over batter. Dollop set-aside batter over rhubarb; it does not have to be even.

5. Using your fingers, break topping mixture into big crumbs, about 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch in size. They do not have to be uniform, but make sure most are around that size. Sprinkle over cake. Bake cake until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean of batter (it might be moist from rhubarb), 45 to 55 minutes for the loaf, 22-35 minutes for the muffins. Cool completely before serving.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

Source: adapted from Smitten Kitchen, adapted from The New York Times 6/6/07

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