Rhubarb tastes like summer to me, even more than fresh strawberries and Maine wild blueberries, though when those are in peak season, I'm sure I will say they taste like summer. What can I say? Summer tastes great around here. But I have especially fond, early-summer memories of rhubarb that give it a special place in my heart. And stomach. When I was growing up, we had a huge rhubarb patch out back and my mom would always make a rhubarb pie and sometimes rhubarb jam. She rarely mixed it with strawberries, letting the bright tartness of the rhubarb shine through. I always loved those rhubarb pies, and still do. It helped that she let us eat pie for breakfast, so I suppose I have fond memories of most fruit pies. But still, rhubarb was a particular favorite.
While I'm not (yet) a whiz at pie-making, I am not half-bad at muffin-making. Making muffins is not even mildly difficult if you have a good recipe to work from, and I do. My favorite source for muffin recipes is Sally's Baking Addiction. She really gets what makes a good muffin and I have yet to find a flaw in any of her recipes. I want a muffin that is flavorful, moist, tall, and preferably with a cracked top. For these muffins, I knew I wanted the rhubarb to shine but I also wanted the muffin itself to be enhanced with a little cardamom. I was feeling inspired by all my Scandinavian baking books, and I know that cardamom pairs well with rhubarb. So I started with Sally's Master Muffin Mix, which is a true winner in the muffin recipe category, and added my own spin with the rhubarb, cardamom, and streusel topping.
Rhubarb Muffins with Cardamom and Streusel Topping
- 3 c. all-purpose flour
- 4 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. cardamom (add more or less to suit your tastes)
- 2 eggs
- 1 c. sugar
- 1/2 c. greek yogurt, plain or vanilla - or substitute sour cream or buttermilk if you don't have yogurt
- 1/2 c. buttermilk
- 1/2 c. oil
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1 1/2 c. chopped rhubarb
- 3 Tbsp. melted butter
- 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
- 1/3 c. brown sugar
- 1/4 tsp. salt
Heat oven to 425 degrees F and line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.
In a mixing bowl, combine the first 4 ingredients - flour, baking powder, salt and cardamom - and whisk together. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, yogurt, buttermilk, oil and vanilla. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir together just until combined, being careful not to overwork the batter. Muffins want to be tender, not chewy, so you don't want to overwork the batter or too much gluten will develop giving you a tougher, chewier muffin. Don't worry if there are some lumps in the batter. Add the rhubarb, reserving just a small handful of pieces to place on the tops before baking, and gently stir. Fill muffin tins to the top and place the reserved rhubarb on the tops. This is for aesthetics only, and won't affect the recipe. I just like to leave a few pieces on top so they look more appealing when served.
To make the streusel, in a small bowl combine the flour, sugar, salt and whisk together. Pour the melted butter on top and mix until it is nice and crumbly. If it seems too dry, add a little more butter. If it's too wet, add a little flour. Humidity in the air has a big impact, so frequently when I'm baking in the summer I find that I need to add a little flour. Sprinkle the streusel liberally over the tops of the muffins.
Bake the muffins at 425 for 5 minutes and reduce the heat to 375. This helps them to rise nice and tall. Muffins will continue to bake for 15-20 min. I start checking on them at the 15 min mark and keep a close eye on them. You don't want to burn them or dry them out. They are done when you press gently on the tops and it springs back without squishing and when they no longer look wet in the cracks. Alternatively, you can stick a toothpick in one but I find the streusel topping makes it harder to tell. Remove from the pan and let cool a few minutes before eating. I like them best fresh from the oven, but they will last a day or two in an airtight container. Just make sure they are completely cool before packing them up or they will turn mushy.