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Making Time

Processed with VSCOcam with h4 presetLadyslipper PicnicRhubarb Buttermilk Bread 2Ladyslipper Picnic 2Barbara Swell

Gather ye rosebuds while ye made, old time’s still a-flying. And this same flower that smiles today, tomorrow will be dying. -Robert Herrick, from “To the Virgins, To Make Much of Time.”

There are things worth waiting for. Some things that you simply don’t actually want to have available every day, no matter the enjoyment you might glean from them. If Christmas, or your birthday, or any other holiday or occasion you partake and delight in happened on the regular, say, each Saturday, after awhile, they’d loose their significance. Their value would diminish. It’s because of their infrequency that they become imbued with such meaning.

This is exactly the case with the annual Ladies Ladyslipper Boozy Picnic that I attended yesterday. Barbara Swell (shown smiling with a glass of bubbly in the last photo), the hostess (and cookbook author and food historian and gifted gardener and all around woman of awesomeness), gathers a small group of women each May, to come and sit one afternoon with the patch of wild pink ladyslipper orchids residing in the forests behind her east Asheville home. Each guest brings along a dish to share featuring an ephemeral food, those fruits, vegetables, and herbs that are available for but a few fleeting weeks every year. We sip mead, and cava, and rosé, and other various libations, nibble on lovingly crafted edible delicacies, and share a few hours of fellowship and conviviality amongst the orchids. There’s a good deal of laughter, a profound depth of conversation, and always a sharing of our hearts. It. Is. Magic.

Yesterday I brought along a loaf of my Rhubarb Buttermilk Bread. From the “Spring To Life” potluck in Handmade Gatherings, the quick loaf features lemon zest, vanilla bean, crunchy nuts (the recipe calls for hazelnuts, but I was out yesterday and subbed pecans with great results), and, the tart, rosy, wonderful, ephemeral rhubarb. Technically a perennial vegetable, rhubarb is in season right now. I picked several stalks from my patch in the garden yesterday late morning, chopped them up, added them to the mix, and had my house smelling like everything you ever wanted nearly an hour later. Make this for your mom. Make this for your best friend. Make this for yourself and anyone you love. It’s only here for a short while, and making time for it, and all those fleeting things in life, is a treasure and a gift ripe for the taking (and baking!).

 

Rhubarb Buttermilk Bread (from Handmade Gatherings: Recipes and Crafts for Seasonal Celebrations and Potluck Parties , Roost Books, 2014)
Yield: One 9×5 loaf.

You Will Need:
-1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
– ¾ cup granulated sugar
– ¾ cup rhubarb, chopped
-1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
– ¾ teaspoon baking soda
– ½ teaspoon salt
-2 eggs
– ½ cup buttermilk
-6 Tablespoons butter, melted
-Zest of 1 lemon
– 1 vanilla bean seeds*
*Using a pointy-end knife, slice the vanilla bean pod open lengthwise, then out scrape the tiny seed flecks with the knife tip.

Topping:
-4 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
-2 Tablespoons brown sugar
-3 Tablespoons butter, cubed
-1/4 cup chopped hazelnuts or pecans
-1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

To Make:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter a 9”x5” loaf pan, and set it aside.

Prepare the topping:
1) Place all of the topping ingredients into a medium-size mixing bowl.
2) Using clean hands, mix everything together, until the ingredients are fully combined and the butter is in pea-sized clumps. Set aside while you prepare the bread batter.

Prepare the batter:
1) Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium-size mixing bowl, using either a whisk or a fork.
2) Add the eggs, buttermilk, melted butter, lemon zest, and vanilla bean seeds. Whisk together until the ingredients are fully combined.
3) With a mixing spoon, stir in the chopped rhubarb until it is well blended into the batter.

Assemble the bread:
1) Pour the batter out of the mixing bowl into the prepared pan. Use a spatula to evenly distribute the batter across the surface of the pan.
2) Sprinkle the topping evenly across the batter.
3) Place the pan into the preheated oven. Bake for one hour, until the top is golden and the a knife inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.
4) Cool at least 30 minutes before serving.

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