It’s not tooo too often that I will go back and update recipes on here. I’ve read a bunch of places of people going back and re-shooting old posts, updating recipes, etc. I totally understand adding in extra SEO (because we are all slaves to google), but for me, I kinda love going back and seeing my old photos in recipes. It’s amazing to see how far I’ve come - something that I was so proud of then may look so different to something I’m proud of now, but I think, for me, that it’s nice to leave up old photos to kind of see where I started from. I’m a huge believer in “good for you, not for me”, and can totally see why people do it, I just love looking back at old stuff!
I will however, tweak recipes. If I am riffing off of a recipe (which I do a lot - looking at you, brioche dough), and I make a little change that I think makes the recipe better, or find a wee trick that makes things easier (like the mac post to end all mac posts with everything we have discovered so far), i’ll edit it. Or in the case of this Rhubarb Shortcake Bar recipe - i’ll go back and change an element to the re-tested one, because it’s easier to work with and makes the recipe better on a whole. Fun for the whole family.
These Rhubarb Shortcake bars (we call them a ‘slice’ in Nz) have been floating round in my head for a while now, and I’m so glad that I finally made them. They are a riff on this recipe, which is a version of something that I swear every Grandma in NZ had an epic recipe for - apple shortcake. Unlike shortcake in the states, this shortcake is more of a sweet, short pastry, which encases a fruity layer. You make a vanilla bean short pastry (a pate sucree), which you divide in two. You then roll it out, and place the first piece in the tin, then top it with a fruit mix, thickened with a little starch and sweetened with a little sugar. You then place the second piece of pastry on top as a lid, and bake the whole thing as one - the pastry has a teeny bit of leavener in it, which gives it a bit of rise, and the fruit filling goes somewhat like a pie filling - soft and tart and slightly thick, which is just so perfect against the pastry. These are an absolute fave of mine. I always loved the apple version as a kid, and the apricot version is so good when it is peak stone fruit season (can’t wait to make it with peaches!), but rhubarb is my forever favourite.
These are super easy to make, and I found a few wee tricks that worked for me to make them pretty foolproof. The main one is the pastry - I initally made the pastry from the apricot version (which I’ve now updated to be the same as this), and found that it wasn’t as easy to work with as I would have liked. There wasn’t enough of it, it got weird holes in it, and it was just stressful. So I changed up the method a bit, making it in the stand mixer rather than by hand, increasing the quantity, and working out a method for rolling it out and trimming it down which makes it super, super easy to make. I’ve made my fair share of rollout cookies, and always find that freezing the dough before you cut it gives you the cleanest edge, so I applied that method to this too, rolling the dough out on a piece of parchment rather than on the bench, which means you can pop it in the freezer, then once firm, trim down to exactly the right size for your pan. This means that there is no scary transfer with rolled fragile dough on a rolling pin - you can just plonk the piece of dough right down, and you are good to go!
A few wee tips:
I like to give the pastry a wee bit of time to chill, so that it is easier to roll out.
The method I have found to be easiest to roll this out and to get a nice clean cut is to roll it on a piece of parchment. I roll it out once, then kind of trim a square the size of the tin, then cut the excess off, and squish it back onto the square, and re-roll to make it a bit thicker. Probably not technical, but it is the least wasteful way, and you end up with as thick of a piece of pastry as possible!
Because of my squish and roll technique (that’s the technical term), the bottom of the piece of pastry is probably going to be the smoothest, so once you have trimmed it, you can flip it if you want to make sure the smooth piece is facing up. This isn’t as important on the bottom, but I like to have the top piece with it’s neatest part showing, so I just pop another piece of parchment on top, and flip it before I transfer it. If your dough is cold, this is easy - pop it back in the freezer for a bit if you are worried.
If you’re good with pastry you probably don’t have to muck around with my freezing and scoring, but it means that you get a super straight edge, and it’s all as neat as possible. Takes a bit of fluffing around, but it’s so satisfying!
I used a little stencil I made on the laser cutter when I was dusting these - you could use an old piece of lace, or just a solid dusting of powdered sugar is great too! Funny wee story - I was racing light when I made these and didn’t have any powdered sugar, so what you see is corn starch! hahaha. We just blew it off once we were done before we ate them!
Rhubarb Shortcake Bars
- Makes 12 large bars -
190g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
450g all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
750g trimmed rhubarb, chopped into 1/2” pieces
2 Tbsp tapioca starch
1/2 tsp salt
Powdered Sugar to dust
- PROCESS -
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar for 2-3 minutes, until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing to combine before adding the next. Scrape down the bowl. Add the vanilla and mix to incorporate.
Add the flour, baking powder, and salt, and mix just to bring the dough together. Turn out onto a work surface, and bring the dough together lightly with your hands. Divide evenly into two pieces, flatten into rough square shapes, wrap tightly in plastic, and rest in the fridge for an hour.
FILLING AND ASSEMBLY
Preheat the oven to 350°f / 180°c. Line a 9” square baking tin with two pieces of parchment paper, forming a “sling” so that you can easily remove the bars.
Roll out the first piece of pastry on a piece of parchment paper. Measure the size of the tin against the pastry, then trim the edges, and place the excess onto the piece of pastry, and roll out again to smooth - this ensures that your pastry is as thick as possible. Transfer to the freezer for 5 minutes, or until firmed up slightly. Remove from the freezer, and using the tin as a guide, trim to a 9” square. Place in the bottom of the baking tin, trimming if needed.
Combine all the filling ingredients in a large bowl, and toss to combine. Place on top of the pastry in the baking tin, flattening down with your hands or the bottom of a glass.
Repeat the rolling process with the second piece of pastry, and place on top of the rhubarb mixture.
Bake for 45-50 minutes, until the pastry is golden and the fruit is bubbling. Allow to cool completely in the tin before removing using the slings. Dust with powdered sugar, then slice with a sharp knife.
Store at room temperature covered lightly with a cloth or paper towel - they will go soggy if stored in an airtight container.