Curd. What an unappealing, clunky name for something so silky and delicate and delicious. Most of the curd around is of the lemon variety. I've been meaning to make it for some time, and just had trouble finding the initiative to actually do it. Not so with rhubarb curd. It never occurred to me that such a thing could exist, and as soon as I knew it did, I couldn't wait to make it.
Actually, there are about 37,052 rhubarb recipes that I want to try this Spring. I can't believe how versatile this strange stalk is - take a look at this! - and I can't wait to further explore it's many facets.
These bars are heavily adapted from a recipe I saw on Food52 - the curd is completely different, and the flavor of the shortbread is simplified. And they almost didn't happen. I ran into just about every problem possible when making these - I won't bore you with all of the details, suffice it to say I was shocked that they turned out so well. But, oh, how well they did come out... They are wonderful. Light and refreshing, creamy, sweet - but not too sweet. The rhubarb flavor is subtle, and almost delayed in its arrival. With nearly every bite I took, it gently snuck up on me.
This dessert is so unabashedly feminine, it almost seemed wrong to be eating it from the pan with a spoon. Ahem. To really do these bars justice, they should be served on dainty plates with a cup of tea.
The shortbread base is heavily flavored with ginger, and is a lovely complement to the curd. It was, however, incredibly crumbly - as you can see in the photo below; very frustrating. While crumbly is typically a good thing in regards to shortbread, here it made the bars very difficult to remove from the pan. I should have followed my instincts and lined the pan with parchment. Let that be a lesson!
These bars are fantastic, even when eaten with a spoon, and my mind is now reeling with all kinds of new curd possibilities!
Rhubarb Curd Shortbread Bars
For the Shortbread
12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
Line an 8x8 baking pan with parchment, butter parchment, set aside. Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix until just combined. Press into pan (mine was actually rather fluid as my butter was incredibly soft, so in this case, pour into pan), smooth the top and place in freezer for 30 minutes. In the meantime, preheat oven to 350. After 30 minutes, bake shortbread for about 30 minutes, or until evenly golden brown. Cool crust completely. In the meantime, make the curd.
For the Curd
1 cup rhubarb juice (from about 1 pound of rhubarb)*
3/4 cup sugar
6 large eggs
2 tablespoons lemon juice**
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into chunks
heaping 1/4 teaspoon salt
zest from 1 large lemon
Whisk together rhubarb juice, sugar, eggs, lemon juice and salt in a large heavy-bottomed pan until well-combined. Add butter and cook over medium-low heat, stirring without stopping until curd is thick enough that it holds the marks from the whisk. Pour curd into a bowl and stir in zest.
When crust is cool, top with curd and smooth surface. The curd layer should be about the same thickness as the shortbread layer, so if you seem to have a lot of curd, don't feel you have to use it all. Bake for another 20 minutes. Place in fridge for 30 minutes to set curd. Let cool completely before slicing.
*If you don't have a juicer, you can follow these instructions.
** Don't leave out the lemon juice! For some reason, I wasn't going to include it. My rhubarb juice was the most gorgeous shade of dark pink until I added the eggs. Then it turned purple. Then green. It wasn't pretty. I actually turned off the burner and almost gave up. Then I realized that the lemon juice was there to preserve the color as much as to provide additional tang. I had a tad more rhubarb juice, so I added lemon juice to it, and added that to my pan. Thankfully, the color transformed! It wasn't as deep a pink as I would have liked, but at least it was pink! If lemon juice was added from the get go, it would have been a different story. One of the many road-blocks I encountered...