Oh Rhubarb!

“Oh rhubarb!” is one of TD’s favorite four-letter-word replacement idioms.  Though, in order for it to have full effect (at least according to TD), it must be exclaimed using a high Ms. Doubtfire falsetto as such: “oooooooh rhuuuubaaaaaarb.”

I haven’t worked with rhubarb very much and even more rarely have I seen it divorced from its almost constant mate, the strawberry.  So, this recipe for rhubarb bars in Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery cookbook piqued my interest.

Fair warning–this recipe isn’t a whip together on a weeknight sort of endeavor. Remember those SNL skits where “Martha Stewart” knitted her own dental floss after whittling a toothbrush (quite often topless)?  This recipe is sort of like that.  In fact, about halfway through the process I found myself thinking, ‘what the rhubarb?’

But, if you have some time and are in the right frame of mind, this is a fun recipe.

There are four distinct components to this concoction, beginning with curing the rhubarb.  Here, it is cured in grenadine for at least eight hours.

While the rhubarb cures, the base for the bar, a pate sucree, is pulled together.

Keller recommends using the frasier technique of combining the dough.  This was my first time trying it out, so I hope the experts forgive my simplified explanation.  To fraiser is to combined the ingredients for a dough by smearing them with the palm of your hand.  The dough is then folded and the method repeated until the dough is smooth.  The idea is that the process, much like making a laminated dough, creates a texture that allows the butter to steam while cooking creating a flakey result.

The dough did turn out nicely and whether it was because of the frasier method or any number of other factors,  there was something very satisfying about smearing the dough around with the heel of my hand.  This recipe makes enough for dough rounds of pate sucre.  You will only need one for the bars.

Once the dough is chilled, it is rolled-out into a quarter-sheet (or 9X13) pan.  So that the pastry does not puff-up, it is blind-baked.  Keller recommends using rice.  I prefer beans.

The result is a nice, even base for the bars.

About the time you pop the uncooked dough in the fridge to chill, its also time to make the brown butter filling. This twist on the almond-based  frangipone calls for brown butter, which is kind of fun.  And time consuming.  I’ll let you in on a little secret–I actually made the dough (up to chilling it in the fridge), cured rhubarb and brown butter filling the day before assembling everything to bake.

So, once you have all your components, all that’s left is the building and baking.

The filling recipe was spot-on in terms of rhubarb to almond cream ratio.

The the bars bake until golden brown.  In my opinion, this would be lovely as-is with a hearty dusting of confectioner’s sugar.  Ever the superlative chef, Keller takes it a step further an adds an almond streusel.  I’ve included the recipe below however, next time I make these bars, I’m not going to bother with the fancy accessory.

These would be lovely for a shower (baby or wedding), a tea or any other rites of spring celebrated during rhubarb season.


I was all over the place during the three days it took to complete these bars.  Highlights include Indigo Girls, Wilco, Jimmy Buffet and the Eagles.

Rhubarb Bars

adapted from Rhubarb Tart, by Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel in Bouchon Bakery

note–this is actually four (five if you count browning the butter) recipes assembled into one.  I’ve organized them separately and then provided instructions on how to put everything together at the end.

Cured Rhubarb


  • 15 young rhubarb stalks (about 2 lbs)
  • 1/2 C (100 grams) superfine granulated sugar
  • 1/4 C + 2 TBS (120 grams) grenadine (you can find grenadine in with the mixers in the adult beverages section of the market)


  1. Trim the rhubarb so that it will fit into a 9X13 inch baking dish lengthwise.
  2. Using a paring knife, pull-off the strings and any tough peel running the length of the rhubarb.
  3. Arrange the rhubarb in the baking dish.  Sprinkle with sugar and drizzle with grenadine.
  4. Cover in plastic wrap and let cure for 24 hours, turning the stalks every 8 hours or so.
  5. When ready to use, allow to drain on paper towels first.

Pate Sucree

note: this makes enough for two tart shells, you will only need one.  Wrap the second tightly in plastic and freeze for up to two months.


  • 2 2/3 C (375 grams) all purpose flour
  • 1/4 C + 3 TBS (46 grams) confectioner’s sugar PLUS
  • 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)


  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Add the eggs and mix on low for 15-30 seconds.
  6. 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.
  7. Wrap each in plastic wrap and chill until firm (about 2 hours but as always, preferably overnight).

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 (recipe here)


  1. Whisk together the almond and all-purpose flours, set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, combine the eggs and sugar and mix on medium for about 2 minutes.
  3. Reduce mixer to low, slowly add the milk and cream.
  4. Add the dry ingredients and mix on low for a few seconds until combined.
  5. With the mixer running, slowly add the brown butter and mix to combine.
  6. Transfer to a pastry bag.

Almond Streusel Topping


  • 3/4 C + 2 TBS (120 grams) all purpose flour
  • 1 C + 1 TBS (120 grams) almond flour
  • 1/2 C + 2 TBS (120 grams) granualted sugar
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 4.2 ounces (120 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch pieces


  1. Combine the all-purpose and almond flours, sugar and salt in a bowl.  Whisk to break-up lumps.
  2. Add the butter and toss to coat the pieces.  Work the mixture with fingertips breaking the butter into pieces no larger than 1/8 inch and combining it with the flour mixture.
  3. Transfer the streusel to a covered container or resealable plastic bag.  Refrigerate for at least two hours (can be frozen up to 1 month).
  4. Preheat oven to 325 degrees
  5. Spread the streusel in an even layer on a sheet pan.
  6. Bake for about 12 minutes, turning the streusel with a metal spatula every 4 minutes until it is golden brown and dry.
  7. Place pan on cooling rock, allow to cool completely.
  8. Pour the streusel into a food processor and pulse to the consistency of brown sugar.

To Assemble

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. 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.
  3. Arrange the rhubarb, rounded side-up on top of the filling, running lengthwise in the pan.
  4. Pipe the fillings around the stalks, filing in any gaps, then spread any remaining filling over the top of the rhubarb (it may not be completely covered).
  5. Bake for 40 minutes, rotate the pan.
  6. Reduce the oven temp to 325 degrees and bake for an other 10-15 minutes until the filling is set and golden.
  7. Set the pan on a cooling rack and cool completely.

To serve

  • Cut 12 bars or 24 squares and garnish with streusel topping.

Tart (if you don’t eat the citrus first)

I began looking for them in January.  Every trip to the market I’d cruise through the citrus section on the hunt for the smallish sunset-colored fruit.

It wasn’t until Valentines Day that I first spotted some in a high-end grocery store.  I paid a king’s ransom for half a dozen.  And then we promptly ate them.

A couple of weeks later they began to appear in the farmer’s markets.  I bought another bag.  We ate that one too.

It wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago that I finally took the time to buy (and not promptly eat) a dozen or so blood oranges and make them into a tart.

Rustic and simple, this recipe made a lovely dessert for a Sunday dinner.

If you like this you might also like these

Blood Orange Cheesecake

Salty Screw

Blood Orange Tart

Zoe Nathan for Food and Wine


  • 1 C all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1/4 C plus 2 TBS granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 stick plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, the stick cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled
  • 3 TBS ice water
  • 8 to 10 blood oranges (about 5 ounces each)
  • 1 large egg yolk mixed with 2 tablespoons of water


  1. In a food processor, pulse the  flour with 2 tablespoons of the sugar and the baking powder and salt. Add the stick of cold butter and pulse several times, just until it is the size of peas. Sprinkle the dough with the ice water and pulse just until moistened crumbs form. Turn the crumbs out onto a work surface, knead once or twice and pat the pastry into a disk. Wrap the pastry in plastic and chill for 30 minutes (can be chilled overnight).
  2. On a floured work surface, roll out the pastry to an 11-inch round, about 1/4 inch thick. Transfer the pastry to a parchment paper–lined flat cookie sheet and refrigerate for 15 minutes, or until chilled.
  3. Meanwhile, peel the blood oranges, removing all of the bitter white pith. Thinly slice 2 of the oranges crosswise; remove the pits. Transfer the orange slices to a plate. Working over a sieve set over a bowl, cut in between the membranes of the remaining oranges, releasing the sections into the sieve. Remove the pits and gently shake out as much juice as possible without mashing the sections; you will need 1 cup of sections. Reserve the orange juice for another use.
  4. Arrange the orange sections on the pastry, leaving a 2-inch border all around. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the sugar over the oranges. Using a paring knife, thinly slice the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter over the oranges. Fold up the pastry over the oranges, leaving most of the oranges uncovered. Brush the pastry with the egg wash and sprinkle lightly with 1 tablespoon of the sugar. Arrange the orange slices on top, leaving a 1-inch border of pastry all around. Sprinkle the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar on top. Freeze the tart until solid, at least 4 hours or preferably overnight.
  5. Preheat the oven to 375° and position a rack in the center. Place a baking sheet on the rack below to catch any drips. Bake the tart directly from the freezer for 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the fruit is bubbling and the pastry is deeply browned. Transfer the cookie sheet to a rack and let the tart cool for 30 minutes. Carefully slide the parchment paper onto the rack and let the tart cool completely.

Warning: these may cause marital…conflict

Here’s how it went down.

Committees are a necessity of working in higher education.  It’s how we roll.  There are weeks when I spend more time in committee meetings than in my office.  I know the same is true for my colleagues.  So, for the committees I chair, I try to bring something good to eat when we meet.  Most of my committees are small; a dozen cookies or a loaf cake more than do the job.  But, if everyone shows up, the committee I chair the first Wednesday of every month can be a beast.  A handful of cookies would only agitate them.

So, it was with good intent that I set out to make some chocolate chip oatmeal cookies to go alongside another treat for March’s meeting.

When the cookies were done, I set aside exactly the number I needed for my meeting and gave TD the rest.  To be clear, I handed over at least a dozen and a half of these guys.

The bag of cookies was never seen again.

The evening before my meeting, I set out the cookies and cake I’d made so that I’d remember to grab them on the way to work.  When I got up, only a handful remained.  I stood there for at least two minutes trying wish the cookies back into existence.  There wasn’t time to make another batch and I was kind of irritated that someone who didn’t make the cookies and didn’t need them for a meeting had decided to eat them (and we aren’t talking about the Kitchen Gods).

The reply when asked about the missing cookies: “But I was hungry.”

To this I asked, “What about the bag of cookies I gave you?”

“They’re gone.”

“But that was two days ago.”

“So?  They were my cookies.”

“You knew these were for a meeting”

“But I was hungry.”

The good news is that this must be a pretty decent oatmeal cookie recipe.

The bad news?  If you are TD, revenge will be mine when you least expect it.  Sleep with one eye open my friend.

Great minds think alike.  While the recipe below is totally respectable, if you are looking for an oatmeal cookie recipe that’s a little more exotic, try out Ann’s Cranberry Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies. The addition of wheat germ is genius I tell you.


adapted from Bouchon Bakery, Thomas Keller & Sebastien Rouxel


  • 1 C + 1 1 /2 TBS (153 g) all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp (2.3 g) baking soda
  • 3/8 tsp (1 g) ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 C + 3 1/2 TBS (138 g) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 C + 1 1/2 TBS (75 g) lightly packed dark brown sugar
  • 7 1/2 ounces (212 g) unsalted butter at room temp.
  • 1 egg (52 g)
  • 1 3/4 C (134 g) old fashioned oats
  • 2 C chocolate chips
  • 1 C coarsely chopped pecans (optional)

Note: the original recipe makes 6 very large cookies using a #10 (2 1/2 inch) ice cream scoop.  I needed more than 6 cookies (though, that’s what I ended up with) and so used  a 3/4 inch scoop to yield about 3 1/2 dozen cookies.


  1. Sift flour, baking soda and cinnamon together into a medium bowl.  Set aside.
  2. Add butter to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and cream the butter on medium speed until it is the consistency of mayonnaise and holds a peak when the paddle is lifted.
  3. Add the sugars and mix for 3-4 minutes until fluffy, scraping down the bowl as needed.
  4. Add the eggs and mix on low for 15-30 seconds until just combined.  It’s okay if the mixture looks broken.
  5. Add the dry ingredients in two batches, mixing on low for 15-30 seconds after each.  Scrape the bottom of the bowl to incorporated all ingredients.
  6. Add the oats, chocolate chips and pecans and incorporated by hand.
  7. Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes.
  8. Preheat oven to 325 degrees and position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven.
  9. Scoop cookies to desired size and place on parchment-lined half sheets leaving at least 2 inches in between cookies.
  10. Bake until golden brown–14-16 minutes rotating sheets halfway through.  Remove from oven and let sit in pans for 5 to 10 minutes then transfer cookies to cooling rack to cool completely.