Rhubarb Crumble Bars are a quintessential summer dessert recipe: a thick pie crust, a juicy, sweet and tart rhubarb compote, and a crispy crumble on top.
I had high expectations about this dessert as it reminded me of something I used to eat in Sweden, although I couldn’t quite remember what it was exactly or name it. It was like a pie, but like a crumble on top, like bars, but on the pie side… Are you following me? If not, what’s important to remember here is that I was looking for an awesome rhubarb dessert, stuck in my memories, and I was decided to make it happen.
I created crumble bars. Berry crumble bars are very popular lately, and we see them everywhere on food blogs and other food websites. There are countless of raspberry crumble bars for instance, all different from each others. There are the healthy ones, that look slightly flaky and almost too fragile, the ones made with the exact same crust for the top and bottom parts, and the other ones which I find far too sweet (the amount of sugar is just insane).
After browsing many recipes in English, I came to the point that I wouldn’t find inspiration to help me recreate this sweet memory, and I switched to Swedish recipes instead (I feel so lucky I still speak and read Swedish!). Interesting fact: I noticed that Swedish recipes contain most of the time half of the sugar American recipes contain. I am a sweet tooth myself, but when it comes to fruit desserts, I find that too much sugar takes over the actual taste of fruits in a way that you wouldn’t tell the difference between an apple pie and a pear one if you had to do a blind test, except maybe when it comes to the texture.
When using rhubarb, the amount of sugar to sweeten them is even more important. Slightly tart by nature, rhubarb calls for a little sugar to enhance its natural taste. Cooked as a compote, rhubarb tastes amazing and brings a lovely juicy texture. The use of too much sugar however would take over the sweet-tart taste of rhubarb, so you have to find the right amount in order to enjoy them at their best – not too tart, not too sweet.
One would suggest to use half rhubarb and half strawberries. That would do the trick and you can totally consider this as a variation to my recipe. Rhubarb and strawberries go hand in hand together, like for instance in my Meringue Strawberry Rhubarb Pie. Another classic combo is rhubarb and apples. Or if you are interested in the bars but do not have rhubarb at hand, try with any berries of your choice: blueberries, blackberries, raspberries…
Now that we talked about the filling, let’s say a few words about the crust. As I was saying earlier, I found many recipes using the exact same crust at the bottom and top part of the bars. This would have been an easier version for you, I confess. But let’s get out of our comfort zone for a second, because the result is really worth it. The reason why I did not use the same crust is because I wanted a contrast in texture between a rich, buttery bottom, and a oat-crumbly looking top.
Using oats in the bottom part would make the bars more fragile, while I was looking for a thick pie crust instead. In order to do so, I used softened butter (instead of melted butter). On the top part however, I used oats to make the crumble, and in order to hold it all together while creating a crispy effect, I used melted butter this time. If you now have to prepare 2 crusts, you will be happy to know that 1/ you can totally re-use the same mixing bowl after lining the pan with the first crust layer ; and 2/ the crumble mix is easy as an apple pie and won’t take you more than a minute to prepare.
Bake in a square pan if you want to share in squares like I did, or use a regular pie dish if you want to slice it in a more classic way. Both versions work equally well. Serve as is, or with a side of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, and enjoy!
- ½ cup (100g) sugar
- 2 cups (240g) all-purpose flour
- 1 Tablespoon baking powder
- ⅔ cup (150g) salted butter, softened at room temperature
- 1 large egg
- 4-5 long rhubarb stalks (3½ cups / 550g) diced rhubarb
- ⅓ cup (65g) sugar
- 1 lemon, zest and juice
- 2½ teaspoons cornstarch
- 1 cup (100g) old-fashioned rolled-oats
- ½ cup (100g) sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla sugar
- ½ cup (100g) salted butter, melted
- Preheat the oven to 400 F (200 C) and grease a 9-inch square pan. Set aside.
- Mix all the dry ingredients together. Incorporate softened butter and pinch with your finger tips until no lumps remain. Add the egg, and stir well until the dough comes together.
- Transfer the dough to the pan in a thick layer, covering all parts of the bottom of the pan.
- Heat rhubarb with sugar, sugar, lemon zest and juice on medium heat until bubbling. Lower the heat and add cornstarch, stirring well. Let simmer for 5 more minutes, until the mixture thickens.
- Let cool for 5 minutes, then pour over the base in the pan.
- Mix all the ingredients together and sprinkle over the rhubarb compote.
- Bake for about 20-25 minutes, until the top is slightly golden. Let cool completely, then share in square, and enjoy!