Friday, May 20, 2011

Rhubarb Bars

photo by Anthony Palatta

I saw this recipe online a year ago, right after rhubarb season, and I've been waiting since then for rhubarb to come back into the markets.

It comes from a blog by Lara Ferroni, who lovingly photographed the rhubarb-bar making process on her lovely site.

The recipe worked perfectly, but there were a few modifications I'd make.

First, some of her ingredients were listed in grams, which I don't usually use for measuring, so I've converted those.

Next, she calls for a 5 x 9 baking pan to make the bars, which isn't a size that I have, so I changed the recipe to make in a 9 x 13 pan.  (Plus, that way you get more bars!)

Finally, as delicious as the final results were, I found I wanted a bit more flavor on the end, so I'm suggesting adding a teaspoon of vanilla to the curd.

By the way, the crust is absolutely perfect for any kind of filling:  lemon bars, lime bars, whatever you like.  The secret is pre-baking the crust BEFORE adding the semi-cooked filling. You can see more on this on Joe Pastry's website, where Lara got her crust recipe.

Dust these with powdered sugar immediately before serving.  (The sugar dissolves into the top of the bars pretty quickly.)  They're a great use of rhubarb for springtime!

Rhubarb Bars, adapted from Lara Ferroni
(Yield:  about 20 bars)

Begin by making rhubarb curd:

3/4 pound rhubarb (deep red stalks, or else add a bit of food coloring after cooking)
1/3 cup sugar (1/4 cup goes on the rhubarb immediately after chopping; reserve a tablespoon and a teaspoon for later)
6 egg yolks

3/4 cup sugar  

a pinch of salt

1 teaspoon lemon zest 
1/2 stick unsalted butter, cut up into 1/2 inch pieces
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Wash and chop rhubarb into 1/2 inch chunks, trimming off the ends of the stalks. In a medium sized pot, stir the rhubarb and 1/4 cup of sugar together and let sit for about 10 minutes. Add 1/4 cup of water and transfer to the stove, cooking over low heat until you can no longer see whole pieces. Turn off the heat, blend to a smooth puree, and let cool to room temperature.

While waiting for the pureed rhubarb to cool, bake the crust.  Preheat oven to 350.  In a mixing bowl, combine:

2 sticks of room temperature butter
2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
pinch of salt

Mix with the paddle attachment until the dough comes together into a ball.  Press into a lightly greased 9 x 13 baking pan and let rest for 15 minutes, then bake for about 20 minutes until the crust is light golden brown.

While the crust is baking, you can finish the rhubarb curd.

In a double boiler, whisk 6 egg yolks, 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of sugar, and a pinch of salt. Whisk until well combined and warm.  Add about 1 cup of the stewed rhubarb and the lemon zest.  Keep stirring until the mixture is warm again. Check for taste and add more of the pureed rhubarb until you get the desired flavor and color. Remove from heat and stir in the butter chunks and the vanilla.

If you are not using the curd immediately, let it cool to room temperature and then store refrigerated for up to a week.

Remove the crust from the oven when it's baked and top with the curd, then bake another 10 minutes, until the curd has set. Cool to room temperature. Refrigerate if desired (it’s easier to slice when chilled, but not necessary). Dust with powdered sugar immediately before serving, then slice into bars.

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