Sunday, June 2, 2013

Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie Bars

How did you spend your Saturday night? Was it epic? Ours certainly was.

Both kids were sound asleep by 9:00pm and we were so excited to have a couple hours to ourselves to do whatever we wanted! Paul immediately suggested that we put in a movie, pop a large bowl of popcorn, and cuddle together on the couch. I agreed. But then the real quandry set in: choosing a movie to watch.

Paul wanted an action movie. Something with lots of violence, a minimal plot line, and zero character development. I preferred a good comedy. Ideally, a romantic comedy starring either Cary Grant, Colin Firth, or Hugh Grant. We both agreed that we were not in the mood for something depressing.

Paul headed off to the movie store, confident that he could find a happy compromise. He returned about an hour later declaring: "They have everything and nothing at the same time, but I think I found something you'll like!" He whipped out a copy of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.

"Ummm...honey. I thought we agreed that we didn't want to watch a depressing movie."
"I thought you read the book and liked it!"
"I did...but it was fairly depressing. It's all about a kid coping about losing is father on 9/11."
" is? That's horrible. I don't want to watch that!"
"Didn't you even read the description on the case?"
"Uhhh no. I just grabbed it."

So there we were without a movie to watch. Then we saw the stack of movies we rented for Matthew from the library to help with his potty training. In the stack was a copy of Mulan II. We both loved the first Mulan and had never seen the sequel. We decided to watch that.

About 10 minutes in, we realized there was a reason we had never seen Mulan II. We also realized that we did not want to waste another second of our life watching it. So we shut it off. By this time it was 11:00pm. We decided to call it a night.

When did we get so lame?

We should have spent our time whipping up another batch of these Rhubarb-Pie Bars. These are without a doubt one of my favorite ways to use rhubarb. They are so easy, so beautiful, and so wonderfully delicious, it is impossible to eat just one. First, a buttery shortbread crust is pressed into the bottom of your baking pan. While the crust bakes and cools slightly, the custard filling consisting of buttermilk, eggs, sugar, rhubarb, strawberries, and a touch of orange zest is quickly whisked together. Pour the whole thing over the par-baked crust, scatter a bit of shortbread streusel over the top, and bake until set! The result is a bar cookie with a flavor reminiscent of the best strawberry-rhubarb pie. Do not let rhubarb season pass by without making this treat.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie Bars
adapted from Pink Parsley

For the Crust and Topping:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled

For the Fruit Filling:
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup flour
pinch salt
zest of 1 orange
1 tsp vanilla extract
8 oz. strawberries, hulled and quartered
10 oz. fresh rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch slices

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9x13 inch baking pan.

Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse a few times to mix.  Cut the butter into 1/2-inch cubes, and add to the flour mixture.  Process until the butter is evenly distributed but the mixture is still crumbly, about 30-60 seconds.

Reserve 2 cups of the mixture to use as the topping.  Press the remaining mixture into the bottom of the pan, and bake 12-15 minutes.  Cool for at least 10 minutes.

To make the filling, whisk the eggs in a large bowl, then add the sugar, buttermilk, flour, salt, orange zest, and vanilla extract.  Gently fold in the berries and rhubarb and spoon the mixture over the crust.  Sprinkle the remaining flour mixture evenly over the filling, and bake 55 to 65 minutes.

Cool at least 1 hour before cutting into bars, or scoop out of the pan to serve cobbler-style.

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