January 31, 2013

Cheerful things


Jodi Meadows, touring author, posted to the forum last night:

Getting here was kind of an adventure (Wherever she is right now, Robin just perked up and thought “guest blog?”)


Hey, I need cheering up.*  Wild Robert had one of his semi-random upper-lower-level practises** tonight and I rang bob minor and Stedman okay, but I came unpleasantly and discouragingly unstuck on Cambridge.  We did get through to the end, but that’s only because Wild Robert has two brains and six eyes.  I rarely get to ring Cambridge, I lose anything I don’t use, and I never really had Cambridge to begin with, although I did spend some time at the point where I could straggle through a plain course more often than not (without being yelled at).

So let’s have a CHEERING-UP RECIPE in honour of the nearly four hundred quid I just paid for my new dwarf under-stairs refrigerator.***

I’m already seeing fresh rhubarb at the greengrocers, so here is something to do with it.  The original recipe came from Rosie’s All Butter Fresh Cream Sugar-Packed No Holds Barred Baking Book by Judy Rosenberg, which you have often seen quoted in these (virtual) pages.

Rhubarb Bars


¾ c plain/unbleached white flour

¼ c ground oatmeal:  whizz ordinary porridge oats in your blender or food processor.  You can also leave them whole, but in this case I like the texture better ground.

8 T lightly salted butter, room temperature, chopped up in preparation to being smushed into the flour and oatmeal

5-6T icing/confectioner’s sugar

1 egg white for glazing


1 large egg, room temperature

½ c caster/granulated sugar.  I know, caster is finer grained.  It’s not going to matter here.

¼ c dark brown sugar.  You can cut this down to 2 T and replace with 2 more T of the white.  I like dark brown sugar.

2-6 T ordinary white flour

4 c sliced rhubarb.  NOTE that both how thick you slice it and how much sugar and flour you use should vary with your rhubarb.  If it’s young and sweet and tender, cut big fat chunks and trim the sugar.  If the stalks look like the legs of sea monsters, slice more severely.  If it’s really wet, add more flour.  If it’s relatively dry, add less.

Optional:  1 tsp cinnamon

Or handful of fresh mint leaves, slightly shredded

If you have a food processor, you can make the pastry in it.  I have one but I still make pastry with a knife or the back of a spoon and one hand.†  Stir the flour and oatmeal and sugar (and cinnamon if you’re using it) together and then cut in the butter.  You want to rub it together till it’s reasonably homogenous but don’t suffer over it.  If you’re using unground oatmeal, add it last, after the pastry is mostly finished.  Press this into the bottom of an 8” square pan and glaze with the egg white.  The original recipe tells you to tip the pan back and forth.  My egg whites do not behave very helpfully.  I use either my fingers or a brush.  If you have any egg white left over—this should be a glaze, not a pond—tip it out.  Bake 350°F about 25 minutes.  Take it out and let cool.

Whisk the egg.  Whisk in the flour and sugar.  Stir in the rhubarb.  When the pastry is cool enough that you can pick the pan up in your bare hands, pour the rhubarb over, and put this in the oven for about an hour.  Cool COMPLETELY before cutting, and chances are, rhubarb being rhubarb, you’ll still be serving it in bowls.  Sprinkle mint leaves over, if you like mint leaves.

* * *

* Guest blogs are very cheering.

** For ringers like me.  I’m not a beginner, I ring inside, I want to scale a few of the modest heights of the method ringing craft.  There are plenty of us erratic mid-level ringers.  But why we belong in this category varies.  Some of us are just passing through on the way to ringing Spliced Panjandrum Superlative Doohickey.  Some of us are just TERMINALLY KLUTZY AND STUPID.  ARRRRRGH.  You can tell the latter subgroup by the condition of their method books, which are dog-eared and scribbled-in to disintegration.  I really need to replace mine, before it completes its transformation into smudgy dust.  Gemma’s, on the other hand, is very nearly frelling pristine.  Can This Friendship Be Saved.

*** Speaking of ARRRRRGH.  If my swift and delightful publisher doesn’t start disbursing funds here soon I’m going to pack my ninja kit, fly to NYC and start stealing all the vice presidents’ bicycles in protest.  I shall create a Giant Bicycle Mobile and . . . well, New York is full of tall buildings.  I’m sure I can find a suitable pair, hang my Giant Bicycle Mobile between them . . .  and the Museum of Modern Art would probably pay me more for it than I was going to see for SHADOWS anyway, but unfortunately the entire plan falls down on trying to pack two hellhounds and a hellterror with the ninja kit.  I can barely tuck the hellterror under my arm any more.  One of these mornings I’m going to reach in to extract her from her crate at the cottage, and in negotiating the blasted 90° turn between the front of her crate and the rest of the kitchen . . . fall over.^

^ Getting her in the crate is much easier—I have of course put a little FOOOOOOOOOD on the crate floor, so she’s shinning up the chair legs for all she’s worth and she only needs an energetic heave.  SPROING.  But in the morning we’re all kind of sleepy and I don’t want her leaping down in the all-directions-at-once manner of a hellterror who suddenly realises she’s been in her crate for HOURS AND HOURS.  She’d probably take out the tallboy.

† Note that I have cold hands.  I’m told this is critical to a hands-on pastry-maker.


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