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May 13, 2010

An Exploration Through Rhubarb
by Ryan Butler (Pastry Chef, Double Crown, NYC)

Photo courtesy of Double Crown

In the realm of contemporary pastry, employing a multitude of textures in plated desserts allows the chef to access seemingly endless creative approaches, thereby transforming even the simplest ingredients.

One Ingredient Exponentially
Through a focus on textures, the pastry chef can offer guests a variety of taste experiences created from the various interplays of frozen, cool and warm temperatures with crisp, soft, and chewy elements; all developed from one core ingredient or flavor. Concentration on a single ingredient, complemented with one or two additional minor elements, prevents overcrowding the dish and presents a visually impressive and wonderfully flavored result.

The Oft-Neglected Rhubarb
An excellent example of this method features a one of my favorite ingredients, the often misunderstood and always underestimated rhubarb. The tart, crimson-colored vegetable may scare some but always has my fellow devotees yearning for rhubarb on the dessert plate.

The first tip for to the rhubarb non-believer is to learn about its versatility. A great basic recipe to start with is rhubarb jam, made by simply chopping the rhubarb, adding sugar and lemon and cooking down. Simple but elegant. For a great variation, swirl the jam into a batch of vanilla bean ice cream and you have two very basic components creating a delicious, balanced combination with great texture and visual appeal; the rhubarb ripple. Basic but very satisfying.

Tacking On More Texture
The building of textures in our pastry kitchen is a constant pursuit remembered by every member of my team. In the case of our rhubarb desserts that process often begins with a basic rhubarb stock acting as the foundation of many of the dishes. Ours is simply prepared with water, sugar and a selection of Southeast Asian aromatics, all combined with the rhubarb then brought to a simmer and strained.

Starting with this fundamental component we are able to create numerous dishes with diverse and unique textures on the plate. The stock is frozen into a sorbet or Continue Reading…