May 26, 2010
A few weeks ago, my good friend Jen said that she had never tasted rhubarb. I was stupefied. How can you get through life without rhubarb pie? Rhubarb crisp? Rhubarb jam?? On the spot, I made her eat a spoonful of my mother-in-law’s homemade rhubarb jam. But that’s still not the same as a pie. I promised that this season I would bake her something rhubarb.
Aunt Suzy has been talking about this recipe for rhubarb bars a lot lately, and talked me into baking that. I was going to do this really complicated but delicious looking rhubarb meringue pie that was in the latest “Martha Stewart Living,” with a pate sucree crust and a filling that was more like rhubarb custard, and involved actually juicing the rhubarb. My mom brought me rhubarb from her farmer’s market on mother’s day in order for me to bake this pie. But a week went by, and I still hadn’t made it. Then Suzy came to visit, and I planned on making it, and still didn’t. Needless to say, these bars looked WAY easier, and sounded delicious. So I made them instead. I’ll put the Martha Stewart pie on my list of things that I want to bake when I have a baby- sitter, or when Desi goes to school.
Aunt Suzy says
I LOVE this recipe which is a Minnesota family recipe over 100 years old! It was published in our Minneapolis paper about a year ago. I thought I would never like anything better than my Mom’s rhubarb pie, but this is tied for first now. It’s also made me want to explore many more rhubarb recipes, so I hope that I’m around when Margaux makes the fancy Martha Stewart recipe. We both made these bars last weekend and after eating them for 5 days and giving away several pieces and still having some left, I have concluded that I will make a half recipe in the future unless I’m having company or going to a potluck!
A couple of my tips…first of all, I’ve had this gadget in my kitchen for I don’t know how long. And because my memory is absolutely terrible, I don’t remember who told me what it was or when they told me, but sometime around last summer I somehow discovered what it was for…zesting citrus fruit. And it is fantastic. You can make short little zests for recipes like this, or you can make long, curly ones for decoration. And it is so easy, and less messy! I highly recommend getting one.
Second of all, the recipe recommends using your hands for the crust/crumbly topping, and I found that a pastry cutter is much more efficient. The butter was just melting in my hot hands and not breaking up like I wanted it to, and the pastry cutter helped the butter get more evenly distributed through the mixture.
I gave a couple bars to Jen today…we were both unfortunately too busy for a get-together, so I don’t get to see her reaction or her oooh’s and aaaahh’s when she tastes rhubarb for the first time (well sort of…a spoonful of jam doesn’t really count). I hope she likes them! I don’t know who wouldn’t.
Preheat the oven to 350. Lightly grease a 9×13″ pan
3 c. chopped fresh rhubarb
2 tsp. orange zest
juice of one large orange
1/4 c. water
1 c. granulated sugar
1 c. brown sugar
1 1/2 c. flour
1 1/2 c. uncooked oatmeal (not instant)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 c. unsalted butter (I recommend cutting it into 16 pieces)
1/2 c. chopped walnuts
Place the rhubarb, orange zest, juice, water and granulated sugar into a large pot. Over medium-high heat, bring to a boil and then reduce the heat and simmer until the rhubarb is tender and the mixture begins to thicken, about 10 minutes. Aunt Suzy says “I love the juxtaposition of two of my favorite kitchen tools – the antique juicer from the 1930’s and the ultra-modern Microplane zester.”
In a large bowl, mix together the brown sugar, flour, oatmeal, salt and cinnamon. Cut the butter into about 40 small pieces. Blend the butter into the dry ingredients with a pastry cutter and then work in the butter with your fingers to make a crumbly dough. Mix in walnuts. Pat half of this dough into the prepared pan to make a crust.
Turn the rhubarb onto the crust, top with the remaining crumbles. Bake about 30-40 minutes until nicely browned and rhubarb is bubbling. Cool completely before cutting into bars.