My wife loves rhubarb. She thinks it’s marvellous stuff. I am not completely convinced but year-on-year I am getting there. Most probably this is because I am being worn down with a bowl of stewed rhubarb to go on top of my cereal and at the weekend, a sponge with rhubarb in it or a crumble or the like. My kids have a similar battle with it although are anxious not display any lack of loyalty to their mother, which is quite touching to see. “Would you like some rhubarb crumble?”….”Um, no thanks, the dinner was so nice I ate too much of it and am not hungry now.”….you know the sort of thing.

Anyway, a few years ago, I was persuaded to divide our rhubarb clump so that we now have 5 or 6 of them. They do nothing until quite late in the season and suddenly we are overrun with really thick 2 foot stems. I’m not allowed to just compost them all so we have them in various bakes. The one I do like with ice-cream is a very simple sponge with rhubarb pieces on top. We call it Rhubarb Windows. The task for Vanessa was to make something delightful with rhubarb to make me besotted with the stuff…I am impressed with this recipe as it is light and delicate.

Recipe: Lemon & Rhubarb Brioche

Brioche is a bread with a story to tell. The long history of this bread runs from its likely origin in northern France, where Normandy cows produce a creamy milk used to make butter for this enriched dough, to a modern incarnation as a bun for gourmet burgers.

My own version of the classic brioche loaf has a seasonal twist. I’ve been using home grown rhubarb in crumbles and pies as well as making lots of stewed rhubarb to spoon into bowls of creamy porridge at breakfast time. Using roasted rhubarb as a topping for a lightly lemon flavoured brioche was a chance to combine two flavours that complement each other really well. Each serving (100g) of rhubarb provides 45% of the daily recommended intake vitamin K which is important to maintain healthy bones and other physiological functions including blood clotting. The brioche is lovely to eat fresh in slices, with or without butter. And if you’re wanting a little extra extravagance - make plenty of the sweet rhubarb compote mixture so you can warm it through and serve a generous spoonful with a slice of brioche and a good dollop of whipped cream.


Put the milk into a small saucepan and warm it slightly over a low heat – just enough to take the chill from the fridge off it (or take it from the fridge an hour or so before you start).

While the milk is warming, put the flour, osmotolerant yeast (designed for enriched doughs), salt, the sugar for the dough and eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the milk, then with the dough hook on low speed, mix until all the ingredients are combined. You might find that you need to stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl down with a scraper to ensure that everything is evenly mixed. With the mixer still running, slowly add small pieces of the softened butter. Again, you might need to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Continue until all the butter is added and incorporated. Then add the lemon juice and zest.

Keep the mixer running on low, and knead the dough for about 10 minutes, until it is smooth and silky, and starts to form a ball that comes away from the sides of the bowl. Transfer the dough to a large mixing bowl and cover with a clean, damp cloth. Leave to rise at room temperature for 1-1½ hours. During this time the dough will almost double in size.

Meanwhile, prepare the rhubarb compote. Preheat the oven to 180°C / 350F / gas 4. Wash the rhubarb stems and cut them into chunks of about 1cm thickness. Put these chunks into a roasting dish, and cook in the warm oven for about 20 minutes, until the rhubarb is soft. Take the roasting dish from the oven and stir about 60g of the golden caster sugar through the tender rhubarb so that it dissolves. Taste a small amount to check for sweetness – add more sugar to taste. Leave the compote on one side to cool.

Turn the oven down to 170°C / 325F / gas 3. Grease the bottom and sides of the cake tin with a little butter, then dust with a small amount of flour.
When the dough is ready, tip it gently out onto the work surface and form it into a ball. Transfer the dough to the prepared cake tin, cover and leave to prove for 30 minutes. Before baking the brioche, arrange the sliced rhubarb over the brioche and brush with an egg wash. Bake in a preheated oven for 35 minutes. The loaf with a dark, golden brown colour on top and if you push a skewer into its centre it should come out clean. Gently remove the loaf from the tin and immediately sprinkle with a tablespoon of golden caster sugar then leave to cool on a rack. Serve with the roasted rhubarb compote.

(Makes 1 loaf)


Stand Mixer
9” by 2” or 22cm by 5cm round cake tin


250g milk
500g organic “00” white flour, plus extra for dusting
18g osmotolerant yeast
9g salt
75g caster sugar
2 large eggs + 1 egg for egg wash
75g unsalted butter, softened, plus a little extra for greasing the cake tin
1 unwaxed lemon zest, finely grated
2tbsp of fresh lemon juice

Rhubarb Compote
400g rhubarb
75g golden caster sugar

Rhubarb Topping
2 stems rhubarb cut into 2-3cms for decorating the brioche
1tbsp caster sugar to sprinkle as it comes out of the oven

Vanessa Kimbell runs the Sourdough School, Northampton


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