Saturday, May 28, 2016

Strawberry-Rhubarb Blondies

One thing that Paul and I will always undoubtedly agree upon is that rhubarb is truly one of the greatest miracles growing on this earth. We both find desserts made with those tart, ruby-red stalks to be completely irresistible. In fact, when we first were married we could not wait to buy our own place just so we could plant a rhubarb plant and harvest our own! No, we did not yearn for that sense of independence that comes with home ownership or the acquisition of a more spacious environment to raise a family. The only reason we sunk our life savings into this little piece of property we call our own is so we could grow rhubarb. Sad, but not really too big of an exaggeration. Ok, Paul wanted me to note that HE bought the house for responsible reasons and I was the one with the rhubarb dreams.Yeah, sure Paul. *Wink, wink*

Shortly after we moved into our house, Paul acquired a rhubarb plant from a co-worker who was moving out of his home in Chicago. He had lots of "that pesky rhubarb" growing around  his house and had never learned of the wondrous things that could be made with it. He had sprayed Roundup on it in an attempt to keep it at bay, but the rhubarb kept right on growing.  Finally, he had to resort to completely digging up each plant. Paul begged him to save a plant for us half-jokingly. The guy took him seriously though because he dug up one of his rhubarb plants, stuck it in a planter, and carried it on a plane from Chicago and set it on Paul's desk the day he made it back to the office. We were delighted!

We planted that little rhubarb plant in a carefully selected section of the yard and tended to it with such gentle care you would have thought it was our child. (Truth be told, Matthew might have taken a little bit of a backseat to the rhubarb at this time). We began to dream of all the pies, tarts, cookies, and breads we could make with our rhubarb harvest.

Now, four years later, how is our little rhubarb plant faring? Truth be told, we killed it. Neither of us claims to possess a green thumb. We harvested it twice and made one delicious pie before Paul decided that he wanted to move it to a different part of the yard with "more sun" and somehow managed to murder it in the process. Roundup could not kill that plant, but one swipe of Paul's garden shovel seemed to do the trick.

With our dream of harvesting our own rhubarb gone, I am happy to report that the stalks I buy at the store are still just as tasty, albeit a bit expensive.

I had the sudden inspiration to create Strawberry-Rhubarb Blondies while shopping the other day. I had agreed to make some bar desserts for an upcoming wedding and was brainstorming different ideas that were floating through my head. Suddenly a couple stalks of rhubarb and a bag of dried strawberries ended up in my cart. And thus this recipe came to be. I took a basic blondie recipe, jazzed it up with the addition of finely chopped dried strawberries and thinly sliced rhubarb and - voila! Paul, after trying one, urged me: "Record this recipe - NOW!" So, here we are. These are not making it to the wedding - we have already devoured too many of them! They are a glorious treat indeed and yet another fantastic use for that "pesky rhubarb." Of course, if you are at all looking to unload your rhubarb supply, I would be more than willing to take it off your hands just so I can make more Rhubarb Blondies. And pies. And cakes...

Strawberry-Rhubarb Blondies

Note: I find dried strawberries in the bulk section of my grocery store. Otherwise, Target carries an extensive variety of dried fruit. I also think this recipes would be fantastic with the addition of a few tablespoons of very finely chopped crystallized ginger for an additional zip.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 sticks butter, melted
1 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 stalks rhubarb, thinly sliced crosswise
1 cup dried strawberries, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 13x9 pan with foil so that it drapes generously over the sides creating a sling so that the cookies may be easily lifted out and neatly sliced after baking. Grease the foil.

Whisk together the flour, salt, and baking power. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter and the sugars until very smooth, about two minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for one minutes between each addition. Add the vanilla and beat again. With the mixer on low speed, add in the flour mixture and continue to mix just until incorporated. Fold in the rhubarb and dried strawberries.

Spread into the prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center is removed with only a few moist crumbs attached. Let cool completely before slicing!

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