Rhubarb season is elusive here in New Orleans, but it’s here… I think.
It’s here insofar as the cashier at Whole Foods wants to call rhubarb ‘red celery’ which is fully fine by me because she’s not wrong but not fully correct all at once.
I feel like I’ve indulgently enjoyed more than my fair share of sweet strawberries lately and I’ve been craving the sour bite of rhubarb alone.
These pie bars are a call back to waaaay back in the day Joy the Baker when I made these sweet and charming Blackberry Pie Bars. A very chill 10 YEARS LATER I’ve revisited the proportions, adding a bit of firmness and several handfuls of rhubarb to make these sweet, buttery crisp, and lightly tart squares.
A press-in crust, a creamy sweet filling, a satisfying way to present springs most beautiful dessert vegetable.
Sprinkled with a shower of cinnamon spiced powdered sugar.
Is this your Mother’s Day dessert? Why yes, yes it is.
In past rhubarb news: Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble Pie.
This recipe is simple. We’re making a buttery and sweet cookie press-in crust and reserving some of the crust to crumble as a topping. It’s a classic lazy baker move that pays off in spades, honestly.
For the crust we’ll need flour, sugar, salt and butter. Simple, right? If you want to add extra favor, a bit of fresh grated nutmeg or lemon zest is all very nice.
For the filling we’ll need eggs, sour cream, sugar, vanilla, cornstarch and flour. Enough to keep things creamy and thicken the filling nicely. It’s a simple and sweet filling so a splash of almond extract or a zesty zest of some lemon is a nice addition.
We’ll start by making the crust so it can bake in the oven while we make the filling.
Whisk together the flour, sugar, and a good pinch of salt.
Add the cold butter and start working the butter into the dry ingredients.
I like to use my hands but a stand mixer will keep your hands clean and incorporate the butter really quite well.
I like to get in there and break down the butter into a shaggy crumble.
I make my fair share of pie crust every month and keep the butter chunks pretty pronounced in my crust. We’ll break the butter down a bit more for this press-in crust. If you’re using your finger, you’ll notice that the dry ingredients will start to hold together as they’re coated in fat. That’s a good place to be.
Press a majority of the crust into a parchment lined baking sheet. We’ll save a hearty handful of the crust to crumble across the top of the filling as it bakes.
While the crust bakes to lightly crisp we’ll whip together the filling. Eggs to start.
Sour cream and granulated sugar are incorporated to a thick and glossy mixture.
Vanilla extract will add a depth of flavor and because we have the right to be totally extra, adding either a dash of almond extract or a bit of lemon zest is also a very very good idea.
To the wet ingredients we’ll add flour and cornstarch to thicken the mixture. Whisk until well combined and no lumps remain.
I chose thick matchsticks for these bars so I sliced my rhubarb into three inch long sticks and, because those babies were thick, I sliced each three inch stick in half.
You can absolutely choose your own adventure. Maybe you’d like little crescent moon shapes.
Pour the eggy sweet filling into the slightly cooled crust.
And line up the rhubarb bars across the square pan. Cozy them up. More is more.
Sprinkle generously with the rest of the crust and call it a crumble.
Bake to golden around the edges and firm through the center. The rhubarb will cook to tender and the crumble will crisp up nicely. It’s all meant to be.
Allow the bars to cool to room temperature before slicing.
But once you slice into them, they’re soft and tender, firm in filling, sweet and tart through rhubarb.
They’re a sweet delight. The invitation is yours.
For the Crust and Topping:
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cups sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into cubes
For the Filling:
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- a splash of almond extract or 1 teaspoon of lemon zest (optional)
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- pinch of salt
- 5 stalks of rhubarb or about 4 cups of rhubarb cut into 3 inch sticks
- Top with cinnamon spiced powdered sugar if you’d like
- Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and line a 9-inch square baking dish with parchment paper and lightly grease the parchment paper. Set the pan aside.
- In a medium bowl stir together flour, sugar, and salt. Add the chilled butter and with your fingers, work the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture forms a crumbly but cohesive dough.
- Reserve a heaping half cup of the dough and press the majority of the dough into the bottom of the prepared pan. Place the crust in the oven and bake for 12 minutes. Remove and allow to cool slightly.
- While the crust is baking mix together the filling. In a medium bowl whisk together eggs, sugar, and sour cream until well combined. Whisk in the vanilla extract and almond or lemon.
- Add the flour, cornstarch, and salt. Whisk until thoroughly combined and no lumps remain.
- Slice the rhubarb into 3 inch sticks. Depending on the thickness of the rhubarb you may have to slice it in half – I did.
- Pour the filling liquid into the par-baked crust. Line the rhubarb up in the pan in rows, three across and three widthwise.
- Sprinkle on the remaining crust mixture. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the center no longer jiggles in waves but feels more set. Remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature before slicing. Slice into 9 squares. Maybe shower with cinnamon powdered sugar, maybe don’t. Serve at room temp or chilled.
- Squares will last up to five days well wrapped in the refrigerator.
Photos with my dear friend Jon Melendez.