First, I want to thank all of you for your NYC comments and emails packed full of suggestions. I received so much good stuff that I’m sure I’d have to spend another month to get to try everything. Thank you for your kindness and tips. But now, let’s talk about spring. Spring came to a slow start here in Vancouver. April and May were cold and rainy with only a couple sunny days to spare. The sad thing is that the past few months have been so busy that I haven’t made it out to our local farmer’s markets and so I felt that all the bounty of spring produce: asparagus, ramps and rhubarb were passing me by. Luckily, I found some gorgeous stalks of rhubarb in my local Chinatown market and remembered a recipe passed along by my amazing friend in Seattle. The original recipe calls for blood orange and vanilla bean in the rhubarb compote. My friend subbed in ginger and my god, ginger! I did the same, but snuck in meyer lemons instead of orange because that’s how I roll. So the meyer lemon and ginger? Revelatory!! So damn good.
I should warn you that this recipe is a bit of a time suck. First you make the compote. Then you make the brown butter crust which requires you to freeze the brown butter before you go any further with the rest of the crust directions.But wait, there’s more! There’s the brown butter filling which requires more brown butter but thankfully no more freezing. So don’t be like me and decide to make these bars at 10pm because you won’t be pulling the final result out of the oven until nearly 1am. Also, if it isn’t obvious from the recipe, there is a ton of butter involved which makes these bars super rich. So slice ’em small and give them away. A few small slices fit nicely into a pretty jam jar and your friends will be thankful for the treat.
But if you want to skip the hassle and time of making these bars as is, I have a suggestion. One, make the rhubarb-ginger compote. Put it over ice cream. Dollop it over yogurt and granola. Eat it with a spoon. It’s pink and it’s perfect, it really is. Second suggestion, the brown butter crust is amazing. It smells like Christmas and tastes even better. It’s crisp and brown-buttery. See the close up photo above? Flecks of vanilla bean in the filling but the brown butter is flecked with it’s own magic too. Magic you can see and taste.
elsewhere: Over at ReadyMade I’ve got 2 recent posts. Hanger steaks – what are they? I’ve even got a recipe that includes a whiskey sauce. Yup. And I know I’ve got a lot of granola recipes already, but who couldn’t use another? Salty & sweet and oh-so delicious. Get the recipe.
brown butter rhubarb ginger bars
(adapted from the The Big Sur Bakery Cookbook)
1 scant cup sugar
Grated zest and juice of 2 meyer lemons
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
4 rhubarb stalks, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar along with the lemon juice and zest together over medium high heat until it starts to bubble and slightly caramelize (ie, faintly turns golden). Add in the ginger and rhubarb and let bubble and melt for 15 minutes, turning down the heat to a simmer. Set aside to cool.
brown butter shortbread crust
1 c unsalted butter
1/2 c powdered sugar
1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 t kosher salt
In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat the butter separates and the milk solids turn brown, stirring occasionally. Don’t let the butter over-brown, you want it to smell nutty and turn golden. Turn off heat and pour into a shallow dish to freeze until solid, about 30-45 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Meanwhile, whisk together the powdered sugar, flour and salt. When the brown butter has solidified, cut into small pieces and use your hands to mix the butter into the flour mixture until well blended and the mixture resembles oats. Press this mixture into a buttered 9×13″ baking dish and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Then, bake in the oven until golden – about 20 minutes, and let cool, but keep the oven on.
brown butter filling
3 large eggs
1 c sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 T all-purpose flour
1/2 t salt
1 vanilla bean
1/2 c unsalted butter
Tired yet? Keep going we’re almost there! Whisk together the eggs, sugar, flour and salt together in a bowl. This will be a gorgeous sunny, silky lemon colour (beautiful, right?). Set aside.
In a small sauce pan, heat the brown butter and the scrape the inside of the vanilla bean into the butter. Add in the pod too and let the whole shebang get brown and nutty. Since the mixture is already dark because of the vanilla, keep a close eye on things so the butter doesn’t burn. Remove from heat and remove the vanilla pod. Slowly whisk the butter into the egg mixture, stirring constantly until combined.
Pour half the filling onto the crust and spread just over half of the compote mixture over top with a rubber spatula in a relatively even layer. Pour the remaining filling overtop and use a spoon to drop small dollops of the remaining jam randomly over the top of the bars. Bake for 30 minutes or until the top is golden and the filling has set. Let cool completely before cutting into squares.