A classic French dessert, this custard can be made with almost any fruit or no fruit at all. Try making it with, nectarines, figs, star anise, rum or even chocolate. Rhubarb needs to be roasted a bit to soften and sweeten but any softer fruit like cherries, pears or berries can be cut up and put straight in the pan. The batter is easy enough to memorize so just add whatever is in season and you’ll have a fabulous desert any day of the week.
It’s late spring and the wonderful stone fruits are emerging but I thought rhubarb should be featured before the cherries, plums, peaches, nectarines and beloved apricots take over. Here I have roasted the rhubarb with brown sugar, butter and orange juice. It’s a real treat on it’s own, with a bit of cream or spread on some crusty toast. When it’s nestled in this lovely custard it is simply devine.
Serves 6 to 8
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large or 2 medium stalks rhubarb
½ cup light brown sugar
1 medium orange
½ cup sugar
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup all purpose flour
Powdered sugar for dusting
Heat the oven to 400°F. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large bowl and set aside. Rinse, trim and peel each stalk of rhubarb and cut into half inch pieces. Add to the bowl along with the brown sugar and ¼ teaspoon salt. Grate the zest of the orange and set it aside. Squeeze the juice over the rhubarb and mix thoroughly. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet, cover tightly with aluminum foil and transfer to the oven. Roast until the rhubarb is tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, discard the foil and set aside to cool.
Lower the oven temperature to 325°F. Butter a 9 inch pie dish, small casserole or cast iron pan with the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Dust the butter with 2 tablespoons sugar and set aside. In a blender or food processor blend the orange zest, milk, eggs, vanilla, remaining sugar, flour and a pinch of salt until smooth. Set aside in a cool place to rest, 15 to 20 minutes.
When the rhubarb is cool enough to handle, gently spoon it into the buttered baking dish. Spread the rhubarb out evenly, then carefully pour the batter on top, barely covering the rhubarb. Transfer to the oven and bake until set and golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Serve lukewarm or room temperature, dusted with powdered sugar.