Friday, July 11, 2014

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp Bars - Baking GALS Round 32

Bebopareebop Rhubarb Pie.  Ever heard of it?  How about “Mama’s little baby loves rhubarb, rhubarb…”  Still no?  Ha – well, it’s not surprising.  This little ditty is from Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion – a show on NPR my parents would religiously listen to on Saturday evenings.  I don’t remember when I heard it, but it was definitely more than a decade ago (yikes!)…and I think it was only the second time I had ever heard of rhubarb.  The first was on a family vacation in Nova Scotia when my dad’s aunt made a rhubarb pie.  Since I was probably about 10 years old, I’m pretty sure I turned my nose up and didn’t try a bite.  Funny how both of these things have stuck with me though, huh?

Well, now with my much more sophisticated and refined palate (ha!), I have baked with it a few times and so far, liked everything I’ve made.  Rhubarb is such an interesting vegetable.  It looks like and has the consistency of pretty celery, but almost tastes like a really tart apple, and despite its tartness, is almost always used in sweet recipes rather than savory.  This recipe is obviously no exception.  I am on a strawberry rampage this summer, so I was excited to try this – it gave me a chance to take what I know and love and add something less familiar.  By the way, did you know that rhubarb leaves are toxic??  True story.  Remove and discard please!

Anyway, on to the bars.  I have a coworker who likes to try my new recipes so I brought her one for an opinion….to quote her exactly, “Oh my god, I think this is the best thing you’ve ever made.”  WOW – now that’s a bold claim, especially since she’s had my sour cream coffee cake which I swear by.  Not a minute later, she shouted down the hall, “I want these for my birthday!”  Ha, yes maam, done and done.  I’m convinced it was the addition of my go-to secret ingredient (a spice used often in Scandinavian and Indian cuisine).  I add a little to my apple pies too and it totally brings it up a notch.  Perhaps you can figure out what I’m talking about, but if not – well, some things just need to stay a secret. J    

Here are the details and step-by-step pics:

1 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup, plus up to 2 Tbsp extra all-purpose flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar
Heaped 1/4 tsp table salt
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 tsp cornstarch (optional, but helps firm up the filling)
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 cup small-diced rhubarb (from about 1 1/2 medium stalks)
1 cup small-diced strawberries
Secret Spice (optional)
Powdered sugar, for decoration, if desired

Heat oven to 375ยบ. For easy removal, line bottom and two sides of 8-by-8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper. No need to bother (and no greasing needed) if you plan to serve them right in the pan.  This recipe can be doubled and made in a 9x13 pan (this is what I did).

Rinse and chop rhubarb and strawberries into small dice and set aside.

Place oats, 3/4 cup flour, brown sugar and salt in bottom of baking pan and mix. Pour melted butter over, and stir until clumps form. If the clumps feel soft or look overly damp, add the remaining 2 tablespoons flour (I did). Set aside 1/2 cup of the crumble mixture. Press the rest of the crumb mixture evenly in the bottom of the pan.

Sprinkle the fruit evenly with cornstarch, then lemon juice, and 1/2 tablespoon of granulated sugar. Stir to combine.  Spread fruit over crumb mixture evenly.  Scatter reserved crumbs over fruit and bake bars for 30 to 40 minutes (firmer fruits will take longer – mine took almost the full 40), until fruit is bubbly and crisp portion is golden and smells toasty and amazing.


Let cool in pan; I do this in the fridge, where they become crisp once chilled (less so at room temperature). Cut into squares and sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving. Store leftovers in fridge, if they make it that long.

Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen