Monday, June 4, 2012

Spiced shortbread with rhubarb curd


I don't usually care that much for rhubarb - I generally prefer fruit that I can eat raw and I'm not crazy about the amount of sugar that usually goes into rhubarb desserts. But I can't deny the fact that the arrival of rhubarb signifies that spring is here, and that growing season in Massachusetts has officially begun! So when I saw rhubarb at the local farmers' market on Saturday, I decided to pick some up and do some baking to distract myself from the clouds and rain outside.

I found this recipe in The Food52 Cookbook - it was the winner of a rhubarb-themed recipe contest and looked like a nice change from a more standard rhubarb pie or crisp. I also saw a similar recipe by Amy at Savory Moments, which convinced me that making a bar cookie with rhubarb was definitely the way to go. To add a little bit of nutritional value to these bars, I used whole grain spelt flour for the shortbread, which came out wonderful. The shortbread has some ginger, cinnamon, and cloves in it, which I loved - the spices are subtle, just enough to be detectable but not enough to overpower the flavors. The touch of spice complements the rhubarb curd very well. And speaking of the curd - unfortunately, it didn't come out pink like the picture in the cookbook...oh well. It tastes great though - it's got enough sugar to temper the natural tartness of the rhubarb, but it's not overly sweet at all. Overall, these bars are a very enjoyable little spring treat that I'd be happy to serve to guests, although truth be told, I'd be just as happy to eat them all myself!

Spiced shortbread with rhubarb curd
Adapted from The Food52 Cookbook
Makes 16 small bars

I suspect that whole wheat pastry flour or white whole wheat flour would work well in this recipe, but I haven't tried it. Let me know if you do.

For shortbread:
12 tbs (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar, plus more for dusting
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups whole grain spelt flour (or all-purpose flour)
1/4 tsp powdered ginger
1/4 tsp powdered cinnamon
Pinch of ground cloves

For curd:
3/4 lb. rhubarb, washed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup plus 1/3 cup plus 2 tbs sugar
4 egg yolks
3 tbs unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 tsp lemon zest
2 tsp lemon juice

Make shortbread: preheat oven to 350 deg F. Using a food processor, pulse together all ingredients until mixture has the consistency of coarse meal, with a few larger chunks of butter. Dump the dough into an 8x8-inch or 9x9-inch baking pan and press it very firmly into the pan using a spatula or your hands (the dough will seem very crumbly at first, but it will set together when it bakes). Bake for 30 minutes, until golden. Remove pan from the oven and set it on a rack to cool. Leave oven on.

While shortbread bakes, make the curd. In a small saucepan, heat the rhubarb, 1/4 cup sugar, and 1/4 cup water over medium heat. Cook until rhubarb falls apart, about 15 minutes. If the rhubarb sticks to the bottom of the pan, you can add more water, 1 tbs at a time. Puree mixture with an immersion blender, food processor, or food mill.

Put a couple inches of water into the pot of a double boiler (I use a small saucepan with a metal mixing bowl on top instead of a real double boiler). Heat water over medium heat. In the bowl of the double boiler, whisk together the egg yolks, the remaining 1/3 cup plus 2 tbs sugar, butter, lemon zest, and lemon juice until the sugar is dissolved (the butter will not be fully incorporated). Mix in the warm rhubarb puree one spoonful at a time, whisking constantly. When all of the rhubarb has been mixed in, set the bowl over the pot (the water should be simmering). Cook for about 5 minutes, whisking constantly, until the mixture is warm and slightly thickened. Remove curd from heat and press through a fine-mesh strainer (this will ensure that the curd is very smooth).

Spread the curd evenly over the shortbread. Bake at 350 deg F for 10 minutes, then set on a rack to cool. When pan has cooled to room temperature, place it in the fridge for 20 minutes, or until the curd sets up enough to slice. Cut into 16 equal bars and dust with confectioner's sugar before serving.

Tips: Store bars in the fridge until right before serving, as the curd may get runny if it warms up too much. Also, if you find that the curd doesn't firm up enough after a night in the fridge, the original recipe says that you can bake it for 10 more minutes.


  1. What an interesting way to use rhubarb. I always just think of it in pies with strawberries!

  2. This looks great - I like the spice in the shortbread. I'm glad to see that another person's rhubarb turned this beige color, rather than pink! :-)

  3. As a total rhubarb FIEND, I desperately need these in my life! And I'm ashamed to say I have the Food52 cookbook and haven't spotted these yet...obviously I haven't been scouring it hard enough.

  4. This is SO up my alley. I love rhubarb, but I most like my mom's strawberry rhubarb because she uses so little sugar. I do dislike when it's oversweetened. This curd sounds so interesting.


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