Spring is synonym with a lot of great produce like peas, asparagus and morels but let’s not forget the tender stalks of rhubarb that are at their best right now. Here’s a variation on Bouchon bakery rhubarb bars, they are essentially sugar & grenadine-cured rhubarb stalks baked in a brown butter filling on top of a sweet pastry dough and topped with a fine crumble. It’s delicious stuff but since I prefer just about anything with a fluffy toasted meringue on top I made the substitution and I actually like it better than the original. I knoww, I’m so predictable.
It’s not one of those recipes that can be whipped up at a moment’s notice because it requires “curing” the rhubarb for 8 hours and making a dough and a brown butter/almond cake but nothing is difficult. It just requires a little bit of planning. The best way would be to make the components a day ahead and leave the baking for the day you plan on serving it.
Enjoy and happy Spring!
Rhubarb Meringue Bars
- Serves 12
- Adapted from Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery
- 15 young rhubarb stalks (about 2 lbs)
- 1/2 C (100 grams) superfine granulated sugar
- 1/4 C + 2 TBS (120 grams) grenadine
- 2 2/3 C (375 grams) all purpose flour
- 1/4 C + 3 TBS (46 grams) confectioner’s sugar
- 3/4 C + 1 TBS (94 grams) confectioner’s sugar
- 1/4 C plus 3 TBS almond meal/flour
- 8 oz (225 grams) unsalted butter at room temp.
- 1/2 vanilla bean split down the middle
- 1 extra large egg (56 grams)
Brown butter filling:
- 1/2 C + 3 TBS (75 grams) almond flour/meal
- 1/2 C + 2 tsp all purpose flour
- 2 eggs (150 grams)
- 1 C + 1 TBS (210 grams) superfine granulated sugar
- 1/4 C + 1 TBS (75 grams) whole milk
- 1/4 C + 1 TBS (75 grams) heavy cream
- 3/4 C + 1 TBS (165 grams) brown butter
- 4 large egg whites, at room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 pinch cream of tartar
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the cured rhubarb:
- Trim the rhubarb so that it will fit into a 9X13 inch baking dish lengthwise. Using a paring knife, pull-off the strings and any tough peel running the length of the rhubarb. Arrange the rhubarb in the baking dish. Sprinkle with sugar and drizzle with grenadine.Cover in plastic wrap and let cure for 24 hours, turning the stalks every 8 hours or so. When ready to use, allow to drain on paper towels first.
For the pate sucree:
- In a medium bowl sift in the flour plus the first 46 grams of confectioner’s sugar. Sift-in the almond flour, breaking up any lumps in the sieve. Whisk to combine and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or a hand mixer), add butter and cream on medium until it has the consistency of mayonnaise. Sift in the remaining confectioner’s sugar and mix on medium low until the mixture if fluffy (about 60 seconds).
Scrape down the sides of the bowl and scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the mixture. Mix on low for 30 seconds to distribute evenly.
Add dry ingredients in two additions, mixing for 15-30 seconds after each and until just combined. Scrape down the bowl to incorporate any ingredients that have settled on the bottom of the bowl.
Add the eggs and mix on low for 15-30 seconds.
Transfer the dough to a work surface. Using the heel of your hand, smear the dough and work it together. Divide the dough in half and form each into a 4X6 inch rectangle about 3/4 inches thick.
Wrap each in plastic wrap and chill until firm (at least 2 hours).
- Preheat oven to 350’F. Roll out one half of the dough (you can freeze the other half for another use) and fit it in a greased quarter-sheet pan (9×13). Cover with a piece of parchment paper and fill with pie weights or beans. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the paper with the weights and bake for 15 minutes more, or until lightly golden and set. Cool.
For the brown butter filling:
- Whisk together the almond and all-purpose flours, set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, combine the eggs and sugar and mix on medium for about 2 minutes.
Reduce mixer to low, slowly add the milk and cream.
Add the dry ingredients and mix on low for a few seconds until combined.
With the mixer running, slowly add the brown butter and mix to combine.
Transfer to a pastry bag.
For the Swiss meringue:
- Fill a medium saucepan one quarter full with water. Set the saucepan over medium heat, and bring to a simmer.
Combine egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar in the heatproof bowl of electric mixer, and place over saucepan. Whisk constantly until sugar is dissolved and whites are warm to the touch, 3 to 3 1/2 minutes.
Transfer bowl to electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and whip, starting on low speed, gradually increasing to high until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 10 minutes. Add vanilla, and mix until combined. Use meringue immediately.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Pipe enough of the filling into the crust to cover the bottom with a 1/4 inch-thick-layer and spread it evenly with a small offset spatula.
Arrange the rhubarb, rounded side-up on top of the filling, running lengthwise in the pan.
Pipe the fillings around the stalks, filing in any gaps, then spread any remaining filling over the top of the rhubarb.
Bake for 40 minutes, rotate the pan.
Reduce the oven temp to 325 degrees and bake for an other 10-15 minutes until the filling is set and golden.
Set the pan on a cooling rack and cool completely.
- To serve cut 12 bars or 24 squares. Place the Swiss meringue in a pastry bag with a round tip and pipe little mounds or patterns on top of the bars. Lightly toast the meringue with a torch.