Delicately sweet strawberry rhubarb curd sits atop a thick and buttery shortbread crust in these summery strawberry rhubarb bars (which are adapted from my "famous" lemon bars)!
If you've ever had a slice of strawberry rhubarb pie, then you already know that the sweet strawberries balance the tart rhubarb for a deliciously fruity flavor that's perfect for a summertime picnic or cookout. I'm on a bit of a strawberry rhubarb kick this year*, so I wanted to know if I could adapt my lemon bars (one of my all-time favorite desserts!) to create strawberry rhubarb bars. (*Side note: if you haven't tried my strawberry rhubarb margaritas yet, what are you waiting for?!)
If you saw me whining about this recipe on my Instagram story, then you already know that my first attempt at testing this recipe didn't go as planned. I simmered strawberries and rhubarb to extract the fruits' juices, and substituted 6 Tablespoons of the resulting strawberry rhubarb juice for 6 Tablespoons of lemon juice in my lemon bar recipe. The resulting bars actually tasted fine, but they were mostly just sweet with no discernible strawberry rhubarb flavor. So the recipe testing continued.
Ultimately, my goal was to pack as much strawberry rhubarb flavor into the filling as I could. Strawberries and rhubarb don't pack the same punch as acidic lemon juice, but I still wanted the strawberry rhubarb flavor to come across loud and clear. So instead of extracting the fruits' juices, I used the whole fruit. I simmered strawberries and rhubarb once again to break down the fruit, but this time I threw the entire mixture into the blender and pureed it. I also more than doubled the amount of fruit, using 1 cup of puree instead of 6 Tablespoons of juice. Adding some extra flour to the filling helped to balance out the additional liquid from the fruit. The resulting flavor is delicately fruity, sweet, and delicious!
The strawberry rhubarb puree is a gorgeous shade of pinkish-red, but unfortunately the egg yolks in the curd filling mute the color. I opted to leave it alone, but you can always add a drop or two of food coloring if you want your bars to have that bright berry color!
Other than those tweaks to the filling, these strawberry rhubarb bars are just like my lemon bars. They have a thick, buttery shortbread crust that holds up the luscious fruit filling. A final dusting of confectioners' sugar gives these bars their signature look!
Strawberry Rhubarb Bars
for the strawberry rhubarb puree:
1 ½ cup hulled and sliced strawberries
1 ½ cup chopped rhubarb (1 inch pieces)
¼ cup water
for the shortbread crust:
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup plus 2 T confectioner’s sugar
1 ¼ cup unsalted butter, room temperature and cubed
for the filling:
2 cups granulated sugar
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
1 cup strawberry rhubarb puree
for the topping:
make the strawberry rhubarb puree:
In a medium saucepan, simmer the fruit and water over medium heat until the fruit is completely broken down. Transfer the mixture to a blender and puree until smooth. Place the puree in the fridge to chill while you make the crust.
make the crust:
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 9×13-inch baking dish with parchment paper. Spray the parchment paper around the edges of the pan with nonstick spray. (The butter in the crust will keep the bottom of the bars from sticking to the parchment paper, but the filling will stick to the sides of the parchment paper if not sprayed.)
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and confectioners’ sugar. Add the cubes of softened butter and cut the butter into the flour mixture using a pastry cutter until a slightly crumbly dough forms.
Spread the dough into the pan and gently press the dough into the bottom of the pan to create a solid crust. Make sure the crust reaches all the way into the edges and corners of the pan and that there are no holes in the crust.
Bake the crust for about 25 minutes, just until golden. Remove the crust from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 300°F. Let the crust cool slightly while you prepare the strawberry rhubarb filling.
make the filling:
In a large bowl, gently beat the eggs. Add the sugar, flour, baking powder, and puree and beat well until smooth and slightly thickened. Pour the mixture over the still-warm crust.
Return the pan to the 300°F oven and bake for 30 minutes or until the top is lightly golden and the filling doesn’t jiggle when you wiggle the pan. Place the pan on a cooling rack and let rest for 5 minutes.
After 5 minutes, gently slice the bars in the pan while they’re still warm. (Use a towel to wipe your knife clean between each cut to keep your bars looking nice.) Sprinkle the bars generously and evenly with confectioner’s sugar. (Tip: The easiest way to get an even sprinkling is to place the confectioner’s sugar into a sifter and to hold the sifter 6 inches above the bars while moving it around the surface of the bars, gently tapping the sifter with your hand.)
Let the bars cool completely before removing from the pan and serving.
Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.