RECIPE: Strawberry-Rhubarb Bars With Cream Cheese Frosting

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Strawberry rhubarb bars, ready for dessert or a cup of tea (photo courtesy Adore Foods).

Strawberries & Rhubarb

Strawberry and rhubarb, spring produce for a spring food holiday (photo courtesy Dessert First Girl).

June 10th is National Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie Day.

This year, instead of a strawberry rhubarb pie, how about bar cookies?

Food Trivia: Bars, from brownies and lemon and oatmeal bars to Rice Krispie Treats, are cookies, not cake. The dividing line is finger food vs. something that must be eaten with a fork.

RECIPE: STRAWBERRY-RHUBARB BARS

There’s also National Rhubarb Pie Day, on January 23rd. While fresh rhubarb is available only in the spring months, frozen rhubarb can be found year-round (the history of rhubarb is below); here’s the history of strawberries).

As to why people persist in creating holidays of foods that are out-of-season, we have no idea.

For this recipe, prep time is 20 minutes, cook time is 45 minutes. The recipe is from Adore Foods, adapted from Southern Living.

Ingredient For 20 Bars

For The Crust

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • ¼ cup powdered sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ stick butter, melted, plus more to grease the pan
  • 1/3 cup toasted slivered almonds, coarsely chopped
  • For The Strawberry-Rhubarb Filling

  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • 3 rhubarb sticks, cut into ½-inch-thick slices
  • 15 fresh strawberries, cut into ½-inch-thick pieces
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • For The Cream Cheese Batter

  • 1 package cream cheese (8 ounces), room temperature
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • ½ tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Optional garnish: powdered sugar* or a strawberry slice

  • *Frankly, we can’t understand why people garnish baked goods with powdered sugar. It just flies off and lands on one’s clothing. Centuries ago, it might have been a decorative element before icing, or a garnish for an un-iced cake like a bundt. But today we have better garnishes: year-round strawberries, mascarpone, whipped cream, etc. In this recipe, the cream cheese topping is enough. Need a garnish? Add a slice of strawberry.

    Preparation

    1. MAKE the crust. Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C. In a large bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking soda and almonds. Add the melted butter and stir into a crumbly mixture. Press it onto the bottom of a greased pan and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and allow to cool until ready to use (keep the oven on).

    2. PREPARE the pie filling. Stir together the sugar, cornstarch and chopped rhubarb and strawberry pieces in a medium saucepan. Let it stand 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring constantly until the filling starts to thicken. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.

    3. MAKE the cream cheese batter. Beat the cream cheese and sugar with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the egg and beat just until blended. Add the lemon zest and juice, beating well.

    4. ASSEMBLE: Spread a thick layer of strawberry-rhubarb filling over the cooled crust. Gently spread the cream cheese batter over the filling. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until set. Cool on a wire rack for an hour. Refrigerate, uncovered, for about 4 hours or overnight. Remove from the fridge at least 30 minutes before serving and cut into bars while still cold. Garnish as desired.

    RHUBARB HISTORY

    Rhubarb is an ancient plant, cultivated in China since 2700 B.C.E. for medicinal purposes (it was a highly-valued laxative; other species don’t have the same properties).

    Much later (at the end of the 12th century), Marco Polo wrote about it at length in the accounts of his travels in China, suggesting that the plant had not yet made it to southern Europe.

    Different strains of rhubarb grew wild elsewhere, including in Russia. Its genus name, Rheum, is said to be derived from Rha, the ancient name of the Volga River, on whose banks the plants grew.

    Record show that rhubarb was cultivated in Italy in 1608, 20 to 30 years later in northern Europe.

    A 1778 record refers to rhubarb as a food plant. The earliest known usage of rhubarb as a food appeared as a filling for tarts and pies.

    The earliest records of rhubarb in America concern a gardener in Maine, who obtained seed or root stock from Europe sometime between 1790 and 1800. He introduced it to growers in Massachusetts where its popularity spread…and today we celebrate it on National Rhubarb Pie Day and National Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie Day. [source]

    Here’s more about rhubarb, including why rhubarb is a vegetable and not a fruit.

    Source:: RECIPE: Strawberry-Rhubarb Bars With Cream Cheese Frosting

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