rhubarb-vanilla bean shortbread bars

Rhubarb is a hardy, frost resistant crop that is similar in appearance to celery, except for its red or pink color.  Its fleshy and, sometimes, stringy stalks are the edible part, while the leaves are not eaten because they contain large amounts of oxalic acid, a stomach irritant, which can be toxic. When purchasing rhubarb, look for crisp, glossy stalks; the more intense the color, the sweeter they will be.  Rhubarb has a strong tart and bright flavor, and is best cooked with sugar as a compote, chutney or pie filling.

I have only recently discovered rhubarb, and I am an absolute fan.  The blood orange-rhubarb compote I made last month turned out so well, so I wanted to find other recipes using my new favorite ingredient.  Since the rhubarb’s tartness, in a way, reminded me of meyer lemons, I wondered if I could make rhubarb curd. Well, the answer is a resounding YES!  Thanks to Google, I not only found a recipe for the curd, but also one to use the curd to make rhubarb shortbread bars. What a clever idea!

As rhubarb grows in cool climates, it is not often found in Southern California and is only carried sporadically here at farmers markets and gourmet grocery stores like Whole Foods.  For now, I am resigned to using frozen rhubarb from the freezer section of my local grocery store, but someday I would love to find them fresh.


The rhubarb curd was awesome! It was so tasty and very pretty, as well.  The curd had a nice silky smooth consistency, thanks, to my immersion blender.  I love the beautiful pink color, with little brown flecks from the vanilla bean.  It was pleasantly tart, reminiscent of meyer lemon curd.  I liked the buttery shortbread crust, which was a perfect base for the refreshing curd topping.  Next time, though, I would make the shortbread from my meyer lemon-mascarpone bars, which is a little more flaky.

Rhubarb-Vanilla Bean Shortbread Bars
Yields 1 8″x8″ pan

6 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3/8 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
Rhubarb curd (recipe follows), as needed

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the butter, flour, sugar, salt, and almond extract in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Stir ingredients, initially on low speed to keep the flour from dispersing, until the mixture resembles course crumbs. Increase mixer speed and continue to mix until a soft dough forms.

Press the dough into an 8″ x 8″ baking pan and let the dough rest at room temperature for 15 minutes. Bake until lightly golden, about 20 minutes.  Let cool slightly.

Pour a layer of rhubarb curd onto the shortbread crust.  Bake for another 10 minutes, until the curd has set.  Cool to room temperature.

To make it easier to cut smooth and even slices, chill the bars for about 30 minutes. To store, cover and place in refrigerator, for up to one week.

Rhubarb Curd

1 pound rhubarb, preferably fresh, sliced into 1/2″ pieces (I used frozen rhubarb slices)
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
6 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
zest of one lemon
1 vanilla bean, with seeds scraped or 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla bean paste
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes

If using fresh rhubarb, chop stalks into 1/2″ pieces.

Combine the rhubarb and 1/3 cup of sugar together and let stand for 15 minutes.  Place in a medium saucepan with the water and cook over low heat until the rhubarb has softened and broken down.  Turn off the heat and cool to room temperature.  Blend to a smooth purée, if desired.  (I used an immersion blender.)  Set aside.

In a double boiler, whisk the egg yolks, 3/4 cup of sugar, and salt until well combined and warm.  Add 1 1/2 cups of the rhubarb purée and the lemon zest.  Keep stirring until the egg/rhubarb mixture is warm.  Add the vanilla. Adjust to taste by adding more rhubarb purée, if needed.  The more purée is added, the more intense the curd’s color will be.  Remove from heat and stir in the cubes of butter, one at a time, whisking constantly until butter is fully incorporated.  If not using curd immediately, let cool to room temperature and store in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Adapted from Lara Ferroni.

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34 thoughts on “rhubarb-vanilla bean shortbread bars

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    • Christina,

      It really is 3/8 cup. If you look at the original recipe by Lara Ferroni that I adapted, she makes the shortbread on a 9″x5″ pan. I made 1.5 times the shortbread recipe because I used a bigger pan, an 8″x8″. Since Lara used 1/4 cup, 3/8 cup is 1.5 times more. I hope that answers your question.

      Take care,

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  7. I love rhubarb too. Lucky for me I live in Australia and can always find it fresh. You should try making a rhubarb and apple crumble. It is to die for – especially when eaten with some good vanilla ice cream.

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