So, it’s June, which is just about the jaw-crampingly best news I can think of, because rhubarb is in the house!
Actually, it’s behind the house, but still. I thought I’d better do a little round-up of Rhubarb Greatest Hits:
There’s the straight-up Rhubarb Crumble, which ran in O magazine, and which I love because it does not cave to the pressure of adding strawberries to everything rhubarb. Buttery, brown-sugary, achingly tart and sweet, one single clean, good flavor.
|On the website it says, "Photo courtesy of Catherine Newman," which is generous, because I did not take this photograph. I wish I had that cool spoon, thought!|
Then there’s the Strawberry-Rhubarb Crumble, which precisely caves to the pressure of adding strawberries to everything rhubarb. Oh, but it is so good, and the strawberries are coming in now, too, all ruby gorgeousness, so who can resist?
Brace yourself. Because, this?
|Real men bake crumble.|
This is the strawberry-rhubarb crumble that Michael made last night, on his very own, while I was at a baby shower. I came home and he was already taking it out of the oven! He had picked the rhubarb and everything. It was as perfectly fantastic as any crumble I’ve ever eaten, and I say that as the reigning Crumble Queen. You really can teach an old dog new tricks! (Birdy was completing proverbs for a friend of mine—proverbs she didn’t know and was just supposed to guess at—and she wrote “to not be so droopy-looking” to conclude “You can’t teach an old dog_______”)
Oh gosh, and this, Strawberry-Rhubarb Pudding Cake, which I made, like, every single night last June. Why have I not made it yet this year? What was I thinking?
|. . . drooling. . .|
And instead of giving you something totally new—something cool, like a Rollicking Ruby Rhubarbtini—well, I’m going to reinvent the rhubarb crumb bar. As you surely understand, if you’ve been with me on this journey, I have become a person who less and less wants to be using white flour, and so even my most beloved recipes are getting roughed up a little. This one, though—you won’t even notice it, the whole-wheat flour, not really. It just adds a little grit, a little malty sweetness. The bars are still oaty-butterscotchy-rhubarby heaven, you'll see. Report back, please!
Rhubarb Crumb Bars
Active time: 20 minutes; total time 1 hour and 10 minutes.
1 cup white flour
1 cup whole-wheat or whole-spelt flour
1 cup rolled oats
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt (or half as much table salt)
1 cup butter (2 sticks; I use salted), sliced into small pieces
6 cups sliced rhubarb (about 2 pounds before trimming and cleaning)
1 1/2 cups white sugar
4 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla
Heat the oven to 400 and heavily grease a lasagna-sized (11- by 7-inch) baking dish. I confess to using that unholy Pam baking spray--the kind that comes out of the can like foaming extraterrestrial phlegm but really keeps everything from sticking.
In a large mixing bowl combine the flours, oats, brown sugar, and salt. Now add the pieces of butter and toss to coat them with the flour mixture, then use your fingertips to rub the butter into the dry ingredients. This is a messy but not unpleasant job: you'll be lifting handfuls of the mixture up out of the bowl, then gently letting it fall through your fingertips as you rub it together. Eventually, you'll have a bowl full of pebbly crumbs, which is what you're going for.
Reserve a heaping cup of crumbs, and press the remaining crumbs into the baking dish, patting them down firmly to form a bottom crust. Spread the sliced rhubarb evenly over the crust. Now, here's a weird step that was in multiple recipes, and so I tried it, even though normally I would toss the sliced rhubarb with flour and sugar instead of doing anything so strange as creating a separate syrup: in a small saucepan combine the white sugar and cornstarch; stir in the water and cook the mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it turns clear and thickens slightly--around five minutes. It will foam up and it will never get especially thick, but this seems to be okay. Remove it from the heat, stir in the vanilla, and pour it evenly over the rhubarb. Sprinkle with the reserved crumbs and bake the pan for ten minutes at 400 before turning the temperature down to 325 and baking for another 40 minutes. Serve in squares, warm or at room temperature, with or without whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.