Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Rhubarb Shortbread

Summer feels like pie season to me. While I do make seasonal fruit pies all year long, it's only in the summer that it feels so right. Maybe its rolling out the dough with a warm summer breeze blowing into my kitchen, or showing up to a BBQ with a freshly baked pie, or the oodles of fresh fruit that I tote home from the market that beg to be eaten with a flaky crust; that make pies such a summer friendly dessert. 
However as I'm sure we can all agree, sometimes you just don't have time to make pie and in those (hopefully) rare moments you can make this fantastic shortbread instead. It's one of those staple recipes you can adapt with any fruit for any occasion. It feels light enough to eat more than one piece, but decadent enough to satisfy your sweet tooth on a belly full of a summer supper. 

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, who's recipe uses brown butter and peaches. I honestly haven't yet found the time to try using brown butter, and think these squares taste fantastic as is. The peach version was wonderful and I can't wait to try this again with berries or cherries as well.

1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 3/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter
1 large egg
3-4 stalks of rhubarb, sliced thinly

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Combine sugar, baking powder, flour, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl. Chop butter into pieces and add to bowl. Using fingers or a pastry cutter cut butter into flour mixture until it forms a coarse meal. Add egg and mix well, until mixture feels crumbly but moist. Pat 3/4 of mixture into a shallow baking dish. Top with sliced rhubarb and sprinkle remaining crumb mixture over top. Bake for about 30 minutes or until topping begins to golden.
Let cool completely before cutting and serving.

I decided to balance the tartness of the rhubarb with a dark caramel that I drizzled over top, with more details below. It turned out great, but I wouldn't recommend it for all fruits. Maybe just apples, pears or rhubarb. Berries and cherries will taste better just using the recipe as is.

Optional caramel topping:

1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream
pinch of salt

While shortbread is baking, heat white sugar over medium heat in a small saucepan. Let sugar begin to  caramelize (melt) without stirring too much. Check out David Lebovitz's great tips on making caramel here. Once the caramel becomes dark (without burning) add the salt and a small amount of cream to the pan and stir well to combine with sugar. When the cream is added the mixture will bubble rapidly, wait until the bubbling has subsided a bit before adding more cream. Continue slowly until all cream has been added then remove from heat.
Once shortbread comes out of the oven drizzle spoonfuls of caramel over top.Pin It

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