Thursday, April 29, 2010

52 Cookies - Chapter 17

Near the beginning of my Cookie Journey, I said I would try my hardest to use seasonal ingredients or stick with a current holiday theme when researching what new cookie recipe I was going to use each week.  Did I make something Valentine-y back in February?  I can't even remember.  I'll have to check back and see.  Anyway, this week is definitely sticking with that promise.  You can't get much more seasonal than RHUBARB!  What an unusual ingredient.  My earliest memories of rhubarb go back a looooong, looooong way.  My Grandma on my Dad's side had a nice little patch of rhubarb and she would make rhubarb crisp.  Made just like apple crisp, it had a crunchy oat topping.  The only way to enjoy rhubarb, in my opinion, is with a heavy dose of sugar.  Rhubarb is VERY TART!  I cannot imagine taking a bite of raw rhubarb and eating it by itself. 

"What is rhubarb?" you might ask.  That's a really good question!  It looks a little bit like celery with a slightly pinkish color to it.  It grows in stalks, but not in stalks bundled together like celery.  Since rhubarb is served primarily in desserts, you might think it's a fruit but it's actually a vegetable.  Bet you never saw that one coming!  Bet you didn't know I was so smart either!  I didn't know it either until I just looked it up on Wikipedia

The rhubarb plant is actually quite pretty.  The pink stalks, the green leaves.  The leaves can become really big and bushy.  My friend Joy gave me some rhubarb last year.  I hadn't ever baked with rhubarb myself.  Just memories of eating what my Grandma made when I was a kid.  Joy asked me if I wanted some and then shared her recipe with me for some bars.  I made the bars.  Boy oh boy...there was a lot of sugar in there!  I asked Joy this spring if her rhubarb was ready and she promised me some as soon as it was up.  She brought a grocery sack full of it to me at last week's soccer game.  I had already done a little research, knowing I wanted to use rhubarb in a Cookie Journey recipe.  I decided to go with this recipe from Martha Stewart.  These Rhubarb Crumb Squares are so yummy and not too heavy on the sugar.  Just the right combination of sweet and tart and the bars are almost like a little cake.  I love them!  As is typical with Martha, there were several steps and a few more bowls to wash when I was done than I would prefer.  But nothing overly difficult.  I was able to make these while I was fixing dinner one night this week.

Rhubarb Crumb Bars

Here's What You'll Need:
6 Tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

2 heaping cups rhubarb, cut into 1/2 pieces
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup applesauce...Martha's recipe used 1/2 cup butter and no applesauce, however, I wanted to lighten it up a bit what with all the butter in the streusel topping too...swimsuit season is upon us, you know!
1 cup powdered sugar
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Here's What You Do:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Butter an 8 inch square pan.  You can line it with parchment paper and then butter again if you desire.  I did this and they came out really easily.

To make the streusel, mix together the butter, brown sugar and salt.  Add the flour and mix it with a fork until large crumbs form.  Stick the bowl in the fridge to firm up while you mix up and assemble the rest of the bars.

To make the bars, combine the rhubarb, brown sugar and 1/4 cup flour in a medium sized bowl. 

Note:   Martha's recipe mentions a nice variation on this recipe would be to use equal parts strawberries and rhubarb.  I think the strawberries might add a different kind of sweet.  I would be willing to try that out next time around. 

In a small bowl, combine 3/4 cup flour, baking powder and salt.  Give it a whisk to combine.  In a large bowl...See, so many bowls to wash later.  I hate that part!  Beat the butter and powdered sugar with an electric mixer.  This is where I substituted half my butter with applesauce.  Do what you like here.  Beat in the eggs.  With the mixer on low, add the vanilla and then the flour mixture.  Spread the batter in the prepared pan.  Arrange the rhubarb mixture evenly on top of that.  Now, sprinkle the streusel topping from the fridge on top of that.  Put it in the oven for roughly 45 minutes.  Let it cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.  I had to have a warm sample.  Just the right combination of tart and sweet.  I'll be saving this recipe to use again, every spring, when Joy shares her rhubarb with me.  Thanks Joy!

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