Brown Butter Rhubarb Bars

I didn’t get to celebrate Mothers Day with my mom because she is in Berlin, but I I know if she’d have been here, she would have loved these bars. I’m definitely planning on making them again when she’s back in this country!

When it’s rhubarb season, my mom makes sure there is always rhubarb sauce in the fridge. It’s just rhubarb, water, and sugar cooked together until the rhubarb starts to fall apart, but it’s totally addictive. The jam in these bars is similar, and the hint of orange in the brown-butter topping complements the rhubarb perfectly.

This recipe is originally from The Big Sur Bakery Cookbook, but I made a couple changes. I used whole wheat pastry flour for the crust and omitted a lot of orange zest and juice (and I think there was still plenty of citrus flavor, so I’m glad I didn’t use the full amount listed). I still get a little nervous making brown butter because I don’t want to cook it too much and end up with bitter black butter, so I’m not sure if I browned it enough here. These were still really good, and as a rhubarb lover, I can’t wait to make them again!

(adapted from The Big Sur Bakery Cookbook)

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
4 rhubarb stalks, cut into 1/2″ pieces

1 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

3 eggs
1 1/4 cups sugar
grated zest of 1 orange
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp all purpose flour
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp butter

First, make the rhubarb jam. Combine the sugar and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir in the rhubarb, and cook over medium until the rhubarb falls apart and the mixture is syrupy. Transfer to a bowl to cool.

Next, make the crust. Preheat the oven to 375 F.
Put the cup of butter in a medium saucepan over medium high and cook, stirring occasionally, until the butter separates and the milk solids turn brown (but don’t let them get black or it will be really bitter). Pour into a bowl and freeze until solid.
Toss the powdered sugar and flour together in a medium bowl. Dice the frozen butter, and mix it into the flour-sugar mixture with a pastry blender or two forks. Use your hands to press the mixture into a crumbly dough, then press into the bottom of a 13 x 9 pan. Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, then bake at 375 for about 20 minutes. Remove to cool, but leave the oven on.

While the crust is cooling, make the filling. Whisk together the eggs, orange zest, flour, and sugar and set aside. Brown the butter the same way you did for the crust, then pour it into the egg mixture, stirring constantly. Once it’s fully incorporated, stir in the vanilla.

Pour half the filling over the crust. Drop spoonfuls of jam over the filling and gently spread it evenly (reserve about 1/4 of the jam). Pour the remaining filling over the jam. Using a spoon, drop small dollops of the remaining jam randomly over the top of the bars, then bake for about 30 minutes, or until the filling is golden brown and set.

Let the pan cool completely on a wire rack, then cut into squares to serve.

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