Rhubarb Cardamom Shortbread Bars

Rhubarb Cardamom Shortbread Bars recipe

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Rhubarb is one of those rare foods that is next to impossible to find off-season. I actually find it kind of reassuring that there are still some things in this world that you can only get your hands on in their actual growing season. For the most part, our current food system allows us to eat pretty much anything year-round, whenever we please. But there is something satisfying about having nature call the shots. When rhubarb finally presents itself, all pompous and leafy in the garden, it’s such a joyful and precious thing. All that patient waiting is generously rewarded. That’s why when rhubarb season is in full swing, I tend to lose my mind a little: I want to eat it every single day, and incorporate it in every imaginable dish.

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I have my long-standing favourites: rhubarb polenta cake, strawberry rhubarb sorbet, and plain old wonderful rhubarb sauce over yoghurt and granola, mmm. As a kid, my preferred way to enjoy it was a mouth-puckering raw, peeled, and dipped in copious amounts of brown sugar. What’s your favourite way to eat rhubarb? Please do tell!

Last year, a friend from Salt Water Farm blogged about her own most cherished rhubarb recipe: Hungarian Rhubarb Shortbread. It captured my curiosity, in large part because it calls for a lot of butter (which in my books translates as “must be delicious”), but also because of the unusual way this shortbread is assembled. The dough is frozen and then grated into the pan! This results in a delightfully chewy and slightly crumbly texture.

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I was instantly sold and this unique shortbread has now firmly positioned itself way ahead of the pack in my repertoire of most treasured rhubarb concoctions.

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I use part spelt flour in my version because I like the heartiness it brings to the shortbread. But feel free to use your own baking flour of choice.

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I also add cardamom because I believe cardamom and rhubarb were made for one another. In this case, the tart rhubarb sings an exquisite little love song when it is sandwiched between buttery layers of sweet cardamom-perfumed shortbread.

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Well folks, I know we’re nearing the end of rhubarb season, and maybe you’re even a little tired of it already, but if you’re like me and want to savour every last moment of rhubarb glory, you should definitely try this recipe. And if your rhubarb is on it last legs, you can substitute the filling with jam: apricot or raspberry would be lovely.

Next week, I’ll be back with another video recipe, starring basil and strawberries. In the meantime, enjoy your rhubarb!

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Rhubarb Cardamom Shortbread Bars

Rhubarb Cardamom Shortbread Bars recipe

Try this rhubarb cardamom shortbread bars recipe for dessert. The tart rhubarb is sandwiched between buttery layers of cardamom-perfumed shortbread.

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Ingredients

  • Dough:
  • 1 cup unbleached white flour
  • 1 cup light spelt flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1/2 pound (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 cup cane sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • Filling:
  • 2 cups chopped rhubarb
  • 1/2 cup chopped strawberries and 1 tbsp red wine (both are optional but will add lovely depth of color and flavor to your filling)
  • 1/3 cup cane sugar
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (or a vanilla bean)

Directions

  1. For the dough: Sift all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, cream the butter until smooth and fluffy. Add the eggs yolks and sugar and mix well.
  2. Gently add the dry ingredients mixture and combine the two until a soft dough has formed.
  3. Being careful not to over-handle the dough, form into two balls, one just slightly smaller than the other. Wrap these in plastic wrap and freeze them for a minimum of 30 minutes. You can also keep the dough in the freezer for longer, to use at a later date.
  4. For the filling: On low heat, bring the rhubarb, sugar, and water to a slow simmer, stirring often. Add the chopped strawberries and red wine if you wish (optional).
  5. Cook gently for 10 to 15 minutes or until the rhubarb softens and begins to thread. The sauce should be on the thick side. If you find that the sauce is too runny after 10 to 15 minute of cooking, you can always add a teaspoon or two of tapioca flour or cornstarch to thicken it. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Allow the filling to cool down completely.
  6. Assembly: Preheat your oven to 350 F.
  7. Remove the largest of the two balls from the freezer and using the larger holes of a box grater (the side usually used for grating cheese), grate the dough directly into a greased 10 inch springform pan. Gently pat the dough into the pan.
  8. Now spread the rhubarb filling evenly over the dough, leaving a little half inch edge around the perimeter.
  9. Remove the second ball of dough from the freezer and grate evenly on top of the rhubarb. The rhubarb should be evenly covered, but you will see the red filling poking through.
  10. Gently pat the top layer down a wee bit before tucking into the oven.
  11. Bake until golden, about 30 minutes.
  12. Allow the shortbread to cool completely in the pan before slicing into pieces.

Tips/Techniques

Adapted from Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan

Aube Giroux is a food writer and filmmaker who shares her love of cooking on her farm-to-table blog, Kitchen Vignettes.

Aube is a passionate organic gardener and home cook who likes to share the stories of how food gets to our dinner plates. Her work has been shown on television and at international film festivals. In 2012, she was the recipient of Saveur Magazine’s Best Food Blog award in the video category.