If you’re like me and await each fruit and vegetable to come into season with a level of excitement that some reserve for Christmas, then you probably already know that rhubarb is now at its peak. There are so many reasons to welcome this seasonal treat into your kitchen: its bright flavour, those beautiful red stalks, the endless dessert and jam possibilities. Plus, it’s the only plant that can survive my perpetually black thumb – how can you not love a plant that grows to mammoth proportions despite your inability to pick up a garden hose or pluck a weed? Resilient and delicious, rhubarb is a sure sign that summer is just around the corner.
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To create the perfect balance of tart and sweet, rhubarb is most often paired with strawberries. The strawberries mellow the tang of the rhubarb and add a splash of pink, but it’s the rhubarb that really makes the flavour combination shine. This recipe is a riff on traditional strawberry rhubarb crumble. Baked into bars, they’re perfect for picnics, barbeques, car trips and bagged lunches. So celebrate the beginning of the tastiest season by baking up a batch and heading outside.
1 cup 3 plus tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled from the fridge
2 ½ cups (390 g) all-purpose flour
¾ cup (95 g) graham cracker crumbs
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons (62 g) large flake oats
½ cup (105 g) sugar
¾ cup (144 g) brown sugar, packed
1/8 teaspoon salt
Zest of one lemon
1 egg; 1 egg white
3 cups rhubarb sliced into 1-cm pieces
3 cups strawberries halved and then sliced
½ cup (105 g) sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons corn starch
Preheat oven to 375 and grease a 9 x 13 tray. Use a cheese grater to grate the butter onto a plate and then place the grated butter in the freezer while you mix the rest of the ingredients. This works best with butter from the fridge, not room temperature or frozen butter.
In a large bowl stir together the flour, graham cracker crumbs, ½ cup oats (do not add the 2 tablespoons yet), brown sugar, white sugar, lemon zest, and salt. Add the egg and egg white and mix them into the dry ingredients with a fork.
Get the grated butter from the freezer and add it to the crumble mixture. Use your hands to rub the butter into the flour until it resembles crumbs the size of peas. Remove two cups of the crumble mixture to use as the topping and stir the 2 tablespoons of oats into this mixture.
Press the remaining crumble mixture into the greased pan into an even layer.
In a different bowl stir together the chopped rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, vanilla and corn starch. Spread on top of the layer of pressed crumble. Top with the reserved two cups of crumble mixture.
Bake for 45 to 50 minutes until the top is golden and the filling is bubbling. Allow to cool completely before cutting into bars. While warm, the rhubarb flavor is a lot sharper and sour, it mellows and sweetens as it cools. These bars are excellent leftover. Cover with plastic wrap loosely to avoid soggy topping.