Monday, August 13, 2012

Rustic Rhubarb Squares

We've got a monster rhubarb plant in our garden, which I love because not only do I not have to baby it in order for it to grow and come back every year, but the stalks are so incredibly versatile! I love it's tart, almost bitter bite in compote, pie, mincemeat, chutney, and even blondies - and when used in conjunction with the sweet, sticky fruits of Summer it's the perfect contrast of flavour and texture.  It's also a fairly nutritious thing to be getting in your diet - it's filled with the vitamins C and K, minerals potassium and calcium, fibre and a nifty little phytochemical called lindleyin which helps reduce hot flashes and regulate female hormones! The only downside to the nutrition in rhubarb is that the aforementioned calcium is bound up with oxalic acid. Luckily, cooking solves that problem - and I don't know about you but I'm not going out of my way to gnaw on a raw stalk anytime soon.

I've usually only used rhubarb in combination with other fruit, but was interested in trying out an application that let the vegetable (yup, it's a vegetable related to buckwheat!) speak for itself. As I paged through my copy of the Rosie's Bakery All-Butter, Cream-Filled, Sugar-Packed Baking Book, I came across a recipe of theirs for Rhubarb Bars. Nothing fancy, no other fruit, just a simple shortbread crust, piled high with fresh rhubarb in a light egg-flour custard. I modified Judy Rosenberg's recipe by adding vanilla and whole wheat flour to the base, dried pineapple sage to the filling and showering the lot with a handful of rolled oats for contrast. I brought them to a potluck with the slight concern that they'd be too sour for the host's two young children, but they were the first two to grab a piece and dig right in with thumbs up! That said, these are sweet (they are dessert!) but not too sweet, and I think they'd probably be a fantastic addition to any Summer gathering.


Rustic Rhubarb Squares
Makes 12 bars

Base
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 tsp nutmeg
3.5 oz non-hydrogenated shortening
1/2 tbsp vanilla
1 1/2 tbsp water
1 egg white, for glazing

Topping
1 egg
2/3 cup sugar
2 1/2 tbsp all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
3 cups diced rhubarb
1 1/2 tbsp crumbled dried pineapple sage leaves (optional)
2 tbsp thick cut rolled oats
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F and generously grease an 8" square pan.
  2. In a coffee grinder, process the sugar to a fine powder. Add to a bowl with the flour and nutmeg.
  3. Add the shortening and blend with a fork or pastry blender until crumbly, then add the vanilla and water and mix until the dough comes together.
  4. Press into the bottom of the pan and brush generously with the egg white.
  5. Bake 25 minutes. Remove from oven (leave oven on) and place into the freezer for 30 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, beat together the egg, sugar, flour, and salt.
  7. Add rhubarb and pineapple sage and toss to incorporate completely.
  8. Spread evenly over the base and sprinkle with rolled oats.
  9. Bake for 50 minutes.
  10. Cool to room temperature, then cover and chill at least 2 hours before cutting and serving.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 182.7
Total Fat: 8.3 g
Cholesterol: 15.4 mg
Sodium: 20.1 mg
Total Carbs: 26.0 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.0 g
Protein: 2.5g