We were not planning to travel anywhere this month even though the kids have a two week vacation. But then one evening about ten days ago we were sitting on the couch and “we’re not going away but if we were where would we go?” led to looking online and then we stumbled upon this charming old farmhouse in Normandy which was only available for rent this week and obviously it was meant to be! So that’s where we are right now, in a stone house on a hill with the cows of the nextdoor organic farmer contentedly grazing right outside the fence.
I prepared for the trip by a) making sure somebody would water my seedlings during my absence (thank you, Jan!) and b) baking a rhubarb kuchen.
There was a point (at 11 pm the night before departure when I was frantically backing up photos on to my external hard drive) when I was questioning my priorities. But there was also a point (when we were stuck in an inexplicably long traffic jam outside of Antwerp) when the rhubarb kuchen was what helped me regain my equilibrium and enthusiasm for holiday travel and I knew that baking it had been the best use of my time.
I love kuchen – I grew up in central Europe so how could I not? – and I have shared two kuchen recipes before. In this case though there are several changes to my basic recipe. I made the dough slightly less rich by using water instead of milk and one whole egg instead of two egg yolks (I could not face the guilt induced by leaving two unused egg whites in my fridge) and to my delight the difference was not really noticeable. I even think I might prefer this dough, though I would have to make a side by side comparison to be sure. I also made a different streusel topping, using only whole wheat flour and spicing it up with cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg.
The kuchen thus consists of three layers: a relatively thin layer of barely sweet yeasted dough, a layer of refreshingly tart rhubarb and a fragrant nutty whole wheat streusel. The cake travels well, taste as good the next day and it is great with an afternoon cup of tea/coffee whether you find yourself in the middle of a traffic jam or not.
Rhubarb kuchen with spiced up streusel
500 g (3 ½ cups) all-purpose flour
¼ tsp salt
60 g (1/3 cup) sugar
250 ml (1cup) warm water
2 ½ tsp dried yeast
90 g ( 3 oz) butter, melted
700 g rhubarb, cut into 1,5-2 cm (1/2-3/4 inch) pieces
160 g (1 ¼ cup) whole wheat flour
120 g ( 2/3 cup) sugar
120 g (1 stick) cold butter, diced
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp ground allspice
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
To make the dough, mix flour with salt and sugar in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in the water in which you have dissolved the yeast. Let it stand for about 10 minutes, or until the yeast bubbles up. Add the melted butter and egg and mix everything together. If the dough is too sticky to mix by hand, use a wooden spoon to beat it until it becomes smooth and springy to the touch. Gently pressing with your hands, spread the dough evenly on a buttered baking sheet. Let it rise for 30 to 45 minutes in a warm draught-free room. Meanwhile, make the streusel topping: mix flour, sugar and spices in a medium bow. Add the cold butter and rub with your finger tips until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Keep the streusel in the fridge until needed.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (360 F).
Top the dough with the rhubarb, leaving an edge of about 2 cm. Cover the rhubarb with the streusel. Bake for about 30 min, or until the edges are golden and the topping starts to colour.