Thursday, July 2, 2015

Finally Made the Rhubarb Bars

My Painting of Sunflower
It's been a few days since I last posted. I have suddenly gotten into painting. This new interest has been taking up a bit of my time. Last Saturday, the Dacotah Prairie Museum held a "learn to paint" day, called The Great Art Escape. Lora Schaunaman , an artist herself, is the Curator of Exhibits at the museum. This painting day was held at The Granary, and was a great lot of fun. We were all taught to use acrylic paint, make a background in greens and yellows, and then a large sunflower that takes up a large portion of the (11 x 14) canvas. Twenty people (approximately) painted this same image, and there were twenty different interpretations. It is a style of painting I had not really explored before. 

My 2nd Painting
When in high school, MANY long years ago, I did paint two acrylic pictures, both with water and trees. I believe as a younger child I was once given some oil paints to dabble with, but nothing came of that either. I have sketched with pencil, charcoal and pastels and spent most of my time on this, until I was married. At that point, having moved to Guatemala, I had other things to absorb my interests and my artistic ability was expressed in many other ways. I made macrame fast and furiously for a time. I grew plants to pot and put into the macrame holders I'd made. I learned to cook
My 3rd Painting
and expressed myself there. I sewed. I learned to crochet. I learned to paint on ceramics. Back in the US, I continued with ceramics for a time. When I met my current husband, who was well into computers at a time when they were really just coming into being, and the internet as we know it did not yet exist, he taught me to use a computer. Once Windows came into being, it was not too long after that I got my first Corel Graphics Suite, and the rest is history. This has occupied my time for these many years since. 

Parchment helps lift the whole dessert from pan
Since I knew I "could" paint. I figured going to the Granary would be interesting. It certainly taught me a few things, one of which is that this form of artistic expression is far from over, for me! I turned around on Monday and went to buy a few paints and canvases and got to work, turning out two more small paintings in two days. I have another in the works, but was busy elsewhere yesterday. Hopefully today I can get back to it!

Meanwhile, I had bought some rhubarb for a second week in a row at the Farmers' Market, and had some of it left in the fridge. With my blood glucose numbers soaring, I had been avoiding desserts, but I had so wanted to make the rhubarb into bars, as I did with the Raspberry Bars, a month ago. In examining the recipe as I had made it, I felt that I could cut back some of the butter and the one egg yolk. I feared to cut back on sugar - rhubarb is tart. As it turns out, the amount of rhubarb I had was less than I imagined, so I added in some blueberries to the fruit mixture. My preference would have been all rhubarb, just to see how it tasted. I had only 3 cups of rhubarb, once cut, instead of the 4 cups I'd hoped for. It was certainly yummy, no matter which fruit goes into it!

Rhubarb Blueberry Bars
One thing I am really enjoying at the moment is lining the 13 x 9-inch pan with parchment. It takes a little tiny bit of time to do, but then completely allows for lifting out the entire dessert. It certainly makes for some great photos! It also means nice, neat slices, with no having to "dig" to get that first, stubborn slice to come out cleanly. The parchment has to be cut so there is a small bit of overhang (it doesn't really "hang" but only stick up above the edge of the pan slightly). This allows the whole dessert, once cooled, to be lifted via this parchment overhang and set on a flat surface. Whether to leave it on the parchment is then up to you. It does not keep the pan clean, so that is not the purpose. Still, I have been doing this now, and like the result. 

Rhubarb Blueberry Bars, sliced

Rhubarb Blueberry Bars

makes one 13 x 9-inch pan

3 cups rhubarb, sliced thinly
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
pinch of salt 
1/2 teaspoon blackberry flavoring (or vanilla extract)
1 cup blueberries 

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup/8 ounces) cold, unsalted butter
2 whole eggs

1/2 cup sliced almonds

If using parchment to line the pan: cut the parchment so there will be at least 1/2-inch of overhang. Cut diagonally into the corners of the parchment so it can overlap and lay smoothly into the corners. I also trim the points of the parchment at the corners so the points don't blacken too much in the oven. Lightly spray the parchment with nonstick spray and set aside. If not using parchment, spray the pan with the nonstick spray. Preheat oven to 375 degrees (350 on Convection). 

Place the sliced rhubarb into a bowl and press or crush it before adding the sugar, cornstarch, salt and flavoring. Mix well and allow to macerate while preparing the crust and topping mixture.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the all-purpose flour, sugar, baking powder and salt and stir together. Using a large holed grater, grate the cold butter into the dry ingredients. If you do not have a large holed grater, simply cut the cold butter into very small pieces. Using either a pastry cutter or hands, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it will hold small clumps. If using hands, rub the mixture between palms repeatedly until this result is achieved. Whisk the two eggs together in a small bowl, and then pour all at once into the crumbly mixture. Use a fork to quickly toss and dampen most of the crumb mixture. It will not be perfectly wet through.  Some dry will remain.

Divide about 2/3 of this mixture into the parchment lined pan and gently spread to the edges, pressing only very gently. Bake this bottom crust for 12 to 15 minutes, or until it has just begun to turn golden on the higher spots. Remove from oven. Gently mix the blueberries into the rhubarb mixture, which should now be quite juicy.  Pour the whole fruit mixture over the partially baked crust, gently easing the fruit evenly over the crust. Mix the sliced almonds into the remaining crust mixture and sprinkle this (now topping) mixture over top of the fruit. Bake the bars for about 20 to 25 minutes, then reduce heat and bake for 13 to 15 minutes more, or until nicely browned on top and the fruit is bubbly and thick.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.