All the practising for patisserie exams has left a bunch of the stuff in my freezer, misshapen unloved things. Just right for the crouton treatment.
When I was little, when everything was allowed, I’d have croutons for breakfast in front of the TV. Melt a little salted butter on a baking tray in a hot oven, saw two slices of bread into cubes. Toss them in butter, bake until crisp and hot. It’s just like toast! I’d tell my mother, but buttered on all six sides.
I digress. Exams are next week (!) and I am wishing I was a kid again with endless Saturday mornings. It’s nearly the end of the school year: formal classes have finished and the apprenticeshi is nearly over. The mornings are light now, light enough to take a bike even at 6am and watch the sunrise bounce off the grey rooves. Last Saturday I passed an organic market (I work in a chic area of town!) just setting up and harassed a busy man into selling me a kilo of rhubarb. My colleagues laughed to see the pink stalks sticking out of my bag.
The rhubarb got roasted, eventually, somewhere between revision and running. Though it takes longer, roast rhubarb is nicer than the pot kind: it keeps its shape better, like those rhubarb and cream candies. In the corners of the roasting dish it shrinks down to a glorious sticky jam, just waiting to be scraped up with a spoon.
For company though, the rhubarb goes into little squat glasses with a generous layer of ricotta and more rhubarb. Add brioche croutons, rich and sweet, straight from the oven and call it a verrine. Acid pink, creamy white and crumbs of gold.
You could split a vanilla bean and toss it with the rhubarb. You could add cinnamon or even cardamom to the croutons and make a proper ricotta mousse. But the simple version is pretty damn good. I can only imagine how it would taste with real fresh ricotta from an Italian cheese shop.
Damn, dreaming of holidays again. Back to the books and felt-tip pens.
Rhubarb and ricotta verrines with brioche croutons
makes enough for 6 small verrines or several breakfasts
1 kg rhubarb
100g raw / golden granulated sugar
200g leftover brioche, slightly stale
30g muscovado / dark brown sugar
Wash, trim and cut the rhubarb into chunks. Toss into a roasting dish with the raw sugar. Bake at 180-200C for 20 minutes or until soft. Let cool.
Heat a baking tray at 180C with the butter on it, til it melts. Cube the brioche and mix on the tray with the melted butter and muscovado sugar. Bake for 10 minutes or until nice and crisp.
Layer rhubarb and ricotta in little glasses. Top with brioche croutons. Serve immediately.