Showing up in markets from April into June, hearty and tangy rhubarb is a harbinger of the warmer weather, and its accompanying flush of produce, to come. Eating rhubarb instantly takes me back to summer camp in Northern Minnesota, where—as part of some sort of foraging lesson—the counselors would tear long stalks of rhubarb out of the ground, dip the raw stalks in sugar and pass them to the kids. The tartness curled my lips back and stung my mouth, the acidity more bracing than anything I’d had before.
With its sourness, rhubarb helps buoy subtler, delicate and lingering flavors. (Think of the magic that is strawberry and rhubarb, or rhubarb with luscious custard.) When choosing your stalks for this cobbler, don’t fret about the color; there’s not a significant difference in taste among deep magenta, pink and light green rhubarb, though they are different varieties.
This recipe also calls for Lyle’s Golden Syrup, a widely available treacle from England that gives the crust a nice chew. If you end up buying one of Lyle’s signature green-and-gold tins that contain more than this recipe calls for (though it does come in smaller bottles), the syrup can also be used for pancakes and other baking projects.
I first encountered this dessert in acclaimed chef Magnus Nilsson’s tome The Nordic Baking Book (Phaidon, 2018), but I later stumbled across it during fika (coffee hour) in Stockholm, where this style of quick cobbler is popular. Though the Swedes use rhubarb in a variety of baked goods, in this lightly sweet version, fresh rhubarb is encased in a “crust” that comes together seamlessly on the stove. It bakes into a toffee-pudding-like consistency, soft and almost custardy, with chewy bites of caramel from around the perimeter. I’ve found this recipe to be incredibly versatile with a wide range of lower-moisture fruits; think orchard fruits like apples, pears and cherries. Anything with too much water, like strawberries, can muck up the crust.
The acidity in rhubarb makes it compatible with high-acid wines, such as a luscious, sleek sparkler like the Gruet Blanc de Blancs American NV (89, $17). Supple and filled with flavors of vanilla, brioche and almond, the Gruet complements the confectionery parts of this dessert without the rhubarb making the wine seem unpleasantly tart. Founded in New Mexico in the 1980s by a family from the Champagne region, Gruet produces affordably priced bubblies in the méthode traditionelle and has since expanded to use grapes from Washington and California in its blends as well. If sparkling wine with dessert isn’t your style, this cobbler would play well with a wide variety of tipples from Pedro Ximénez Sherry to ratafia to high-acid late-harvest Riesling. Of course if you want to enjoy it as they do in Sverige, coffee works well too.
Swedish Rhubarb-Caramel Cobbler
Pair with a sleek and generous sparkling wine such as the Gruet Blanc de Blancs American NV (89 points, $17).
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes
Approximate food costs: $20
- 1 pound of rhubarb stalks (leaves removed), finely chopped
- 1 1/2 sticks of salted butter, plus more for prepping the pie plate
- 4 tablespoons of Lyle’s Golden Syrup
- 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 cup sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter a pie plate, and add the rhubarb to the bottom.
2. Add the sticks of butter, golden syrup and cream to a saucepan over medium heat. As the butter melts, stir regularly to combine the ingredients and make sure the mixture doesn’t scald. Once the butter is fully melted and the mixture has achieved an even consistency, remove from stove top and add flour, rolled oats, baking powder and sugar. Stir together with a spatula until it makes wet dough.
3. Add the dough to the pie dish, spreading with the spatula so that it makes an even layer. Bake for 15 minutes until golden brown. Let cool slightly before serving, ideally with whipped cream or ice cream. Serves 8 to 12.