Friday, September 3, 2010

Day 56! Estonia - Estonian Barley Skillet Bread and Rhubarb Cake - Up Next, Ethiopia

Don't get me wrong, I love my Kitchenaid stand mixer. In fact, I love it so much I've been known to give her a quick pat after watching her dutifully knead a sticky batch of raisin bread without so much as groan.

But there's something about mixing up a cake in a beautiful old yellow ware bowl. A bowl with history. A bowl that nestles right under the crook of my arm as if it knows it belongs there. A bowl whose rich patina has been polished over the years by loving and efficient hands besides mine. A bowl where the rhythmic sound of a wooden spoon mixing batter is both purposeful and comforting. Did I mention that I love, love, love my bowls? I know, I'm nuts...blame it on my mother...she has a yellow ware and ironstone collection to die for, and started me on my bowl quest years ago. Love you, Mom!

It seems appropriate then, to have used these beautiful old bowls while baking Estonian bread and cake today. Estonia, the most northerly of the European Baltic states, is an ancient country, whose short growing season, along with relative poverty dictates the country's eating habits. Typically, hardy country fare includes black bread (eaten with most every meal), pork, fish, cabbage soup, potatoes, seasonal vegetables and dairy products. The predominant culinary influence is German, as they ruled and occupied the country for centuries.

It's raining today, so I decided baking would be a nice way to explore and sample Estonian cooking. I settled on Barley Skillet Bread because it's a traditional staple in many households - and actually, very healthy.  I stayed true to the custom of eating the bread straight out of the oven, slathered with butter and lingonberry jam, of which I became an immediate fan - okay, so maybe all that butter isn't so healthy,

Barley, whole wheat and unbleached all purpose flour - add caraway seeds for color and flavor

Egg, buttermilk (I made my own by adding the juice of 1/2 a lemon to whole milk) and oil bind the dough

Killer preserves - tart and sweet, sort of like red currant jam-I am a FAN!

AWWWW YEAH - This was lunch!
My neighbor's sweet house - Mr. Higgins has been growing rhubarb in his back yard for 20 years
Buddyboy, hoping for a dog biscuit and  keeping and eye of things as usual

The rhubarb, the bowl-and the old bottles, found in our backyard while digging the garden

Just as pretty as Christmas

Ummmm - I couldn't help myself - hey, that's the Etheopian injera starter proofing in the bowl behind me! 

Estonian Rhubarb cake and flox from my garden

Barley Skillet Bread

4 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1-1/2 cups barley flour
1/2 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
2 tbsp. packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. caraway seeds (optional)
1 large egg, beaten
1 cup buttermilk
2 tbsp. vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush an 8 or 9 inch cast iron skillet with 2 tablespoons of the butter.
Sift dry ingredients and caraway seeds (if using) together in a large bowl.
Whisk together the egg, buttermilk, and vegetable oil. Add the dry ingredients and mix until blended. Do not overmix. You will have something between batter and dough.
Spoon the mixture into the skillet and smooth top with a rubber spatula. Drizzle the remaining butter over the top.
Bake until golden brown and a cake tester comes out clean - about 50 minutes. Serve warm.

Estonian Rhubarb Cake

2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
7/8 cup butter, melted and cooled
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup milk, yogurt, Kefir, buttermilk or sour cream (I used 1/2 buttermilk, 1/2 sour cream)
1lb. rhubarb, finely diced
Tubano sugar for topping

Preheat oven to 350
Grease 10" pan
Mix dry ingredients in large bowl and set aside
In separate bowl, combine milk, butter and eggs and whisk together
Combine dry and wet ingredients and stir well
Fold in rhubarb
Pour batter into pan, and sprinkle with turbano sugar
Bake for 45-50  minutes

Final Assessment: We loved both of the bread and rhubarb cake equally. The bread was hearty and full of  the nutty flavor of the whole wheat and barley flour. If you can find it (I got mine at Whole Foods), serve it warm with Lingonberry jam. The cake was heavy, dense, moist and not too sweet. The rhubarb is wonderfully tart and bakes to a lovely pink color. Finishing the cake with turbano sugar adds a nice crunch and a final touch of sweetness....sweetness all around!

1 comment:

jd decker said...

yum, love rhubarb, basically unheard of in these parts.