The appearance of rhubarb on the market is just the start of my summer love affair with jams. I’m too lazy to do the hot-bath method, preferring quick jams that immediately satisfy my need to create.
Last summer I discovered the delightful mix of strawberry and rhubarb together, especially if the rhubarb was chopped so that the texture didn’t get in the way of the flavor (my opinion). Still, strawberries had the starring role. The rhubarb was there to balance the overwhelming sweetness. As I experiment more with flavor, I find I like more complexity and the ability to taste the fruit and not so much the sugar.
A bag of half-eaten cherries made me wonder if the same magic could work with rhubarb. Cherries aren’t in season here yet, but they will be in July. But the markets are filled with fresh cherries from California, and, I bought a bag. Alas, they were hidden in the back of the fridge and were pushing their past-prime time.
Serious Eats provided the recipe road map, but the recipe included pectin and had a whole lot of sugar. So I cut the sugar in half, eliminated the pectin and added both fresh and ground ginger to add some heat to the sweet. Because I don’t use pectin, I allow it to simmer until it reaches the desired thickness. The end result is something that is as magical on a scone as it is paired with cheese, particularly creamy cheeses such as brie.
Once I had this delightful jam, I needed something that was equally delish to eat with it. I’ve been experimenting with scones, with some success, but so far this King Arthur Flour Cream Tea Scones has been consistently good.
Rhubarb Cherry Jam
6 cups chopped rhubarb
2 cups pitted sweet cherries
1 1/4 cup sugar
Grated zest of 1 small orange
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
In a medium-sized heavy pot, add rhubarb, cherries. sugar and orange and cook over medium to medium-low heat until the sugar melts and the fruit starts to give off juices. Increase the heat (not high) to bring the mixture to a simmer and allow it to thicken, being careful to stir and scrape the bottom so it doesn’t burn. This is why a heavy-bottomed pot is so important for jam. It will take about 15 to 20 minutes. You can test it by taking a spoonful out and drizzling it on a cold plate. If it is very runny, it isn’t done. Remember it will thicken as it cools. Remove from heat and stir in gingers. Once cool, place in clean glass jars (2 to 4, depending on size) and refrigerate.
The key to these scones is the freezing step. The colder the fat, the more steam escapes in baking and the fluffier it becomes. 8 scones.
2 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
(or 3 cups unbleached white flour)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1 1/2 cups heavy cream or half-and-half (cream will be richer)
1 to 2 tablespoons melted butter, for brushing on top
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar, for sprinkling on top
Line a 9-inch cake pan with a round of parchment or foil (coat foil with butter or cooking spray to prevent sticking).
Whisk together dry ingredients. When whisk in vanilla paste. Gradually stir in the cream, stirring just until the dough comes together. There should be no flour in the bottom of the bowl. The dough will be slightly sticky, but not terribly.
Pat dough into the cake pan. Use a knife to cut 8 pieces. Start by cutting in half, then cut those pieces in half until you have 8. Freeze for 15 minutes or overnight.
Heat oven to 425 degrees about 20 minutes before baking. Remove scones from freezer at this time.
Turn scones out of the pan (here is where the parchment/foil help). Peel off parchment/foil. Then turn right side up and gently break the scones into the 8 pieces. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet (not needed, but it speeds cleanup). Brush tops with melted butter and sprinkle with turbinado sugar.
Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, or until the scones are brown on top and not sticky in the middle. This may take a little longer if your scones didn’t defrost on top of the stove (mine took about 18 to 20 minutes because I had frozen mine overnight).
These are best eaten within a couple of hours of baking. So you can choose to only cook the number you want and return the rest to the freezer.
Marnie Mead is a freelance writer and blogger with a love of food, travel and adventure. Reach her at email@example.com.