Saturday, June 5, 2010

Rhubarb streusel bars with ginger icing

I think you've heard me talk about my sister here before. She sometimes comments as MisterJary--an inside joke that would only be pointless and even more exclusionary to explain--the way inside jokes always are. She's older than me by four years, and by some great stroke of luck, we have always been good friends. That's not a given, you know. Plenty of siblings just tolerate each other, or worse.

We're different in plenty of ways--she's much more educated than me (the girl has a Ph.D. from Brown), and she married youngish (27--compared to me getting hitched at 31). She has two kids (Mischievous Pug and Scrappy) and lives in New Jersey, working as a curator at a museum. Overall, I would say we have pretty different personalities. But we have a lot in common too, besides DNA and a shared childhood experience. We both swim, we both married southern boys, and we laugh at the same things. If I had to, I would trade all my friends for my one sister. Of course that's absurd; on what occasion would such a sacrifice be required? I sometimes like to envision extreme scenarios, though, just to imagine what I would do, and that's one of them. The point is, she's the best friend.

We talk on the phone every few weeks, marathon sessions until my phone starts beeping that it's about to die. We talk about the usual--work, husbands, kids, dog. But a lot of what we talk about is food.

She's a great cook, and in many ways is more adventurous in the kitchen than me. She'll often casually mention that she's started cooking something that I would never consider--like, Indian food. I go out for Indian food, I don't make it at home. But when you live in Princeton, NJ, your options are a little different than they are in San Francisco. If you want good Indian food, maybe you need to make it yourself.

Recently we've been discussing rhubarb. She mentioned a rhubarb cake that some German neighbors made for her that she had fallen in love with, in part because it wasn't as cloyingly sweet as some rhubarb desserts can be. I was interested in learning more about that. But when she mentioned rhubarb streusel bars with ginger icing, I was done. What a  brilliant combination! Plenty of sugar, I was sure, in comparison with the Germans' cake--I mean, streusel AND icing? That's something only an American would come up with. In fact, an American company did come up with it: the recipe is from a Penzeys catalog.

Although the bars have three steps (cookie base, fruit layer, icing), don't let that intimidate you. They are all extremely simple. The result is a perfectly sweet but not too sweet dessert that tastes like a fruit crumble in bar shape. The oats and brown sugar form a great chewy crust, and the rhubarb...well, you know about rhubarb. It's bright, tangy, and delicious. And the color is to die for.

So thanks, Jen, for passing on this great recipe, which has gone straight into my regular repertoire. I love it. I hope my readers like it, too. And I'll talk to you next Sunday.

Rhubarb Streusel Bars with Ginger Icing
From Penzeys


1 1/2 c. quick-cooking oats
1 c. flour
3/4 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. butter


1/4 c. sugar
2 T. flour
1/2 t. powdered ginger
2 c. sliced rhubarb

Ginger icing:

3/4 c. powdered sugar, sifted
1/4 t. powdered ginger
3-4 t. orange juice or milk (I used orange juice)

Preheat oven to 350.  Line an 8-inch square pan with heavy aluminum foil extended over the pan's edges.  In a large bowl, stir together the oats, flour, and brown sugar.  Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Scoop out 1 c. of the mixture and set aside.  Press the remaining mixture into the prepared pan and bake at 350 for 25 minutes.

In a medium bowl, stir together the sugar, flour, and ginger.  Add the rhubarb and toss to coat.  Spread over the hot crust.  Sprinkle with the reserved crust mixture and press lightly.  Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the top is golden and the filling is bubbly.  Cool completely on a wire rack. (This is important to do, otherwise the icing will melt away.)

For the icing, in a small bowl, combine the powdered sugar, ginger and enough liquid for a good drizzling consistency.  Drizzle over the bars while still in the pan.  Lift the foil from the pan and cut into bars.  Serve right away.   Store leftovers in fridge or freeze.

Serves 16  (Seriously? Maybe 8 or 9)


  1. How sweet. I wish i was close with my sisters. But at least I have cake LOL. This looks like a lovely one. And hey, I totally know what you mean about suggested serving sizes. Yeah, like maybe if you are feeding it to Barbie, ya know?!
    Hope you are having a great weekend.
    *kisses* HH

  2. Yum! I love the idea of rhubarb and ginger - the tang, the spice... sounds delectable!

  3. Well, anything rhubarb will do me in! Copied the recipe before I even commented!

    Isn't it grand to have a fun sister you get along with so well? My sister is 6 years older and lives in Michigan while I'm in Florida, but we email or talk every day and I usually spend a month with her in the fall. Lucky us!

  4. That looks gorgeous. What great photos! For me, rhubarb is the ultimate in summer flavor.

  5. LOL I love your commentary on the serving size! :) Awesome! I love rhubarb and love what you did here with this dessert!

  6. I am making this ASAP!! Or at least as soon as I get some rhubarb! - Pete

  7. HH: A good cake might be a good enough substitute for a good sister! Hope you are having a great weekend too.

    camille: yeah, turns out rhubarb and ginger are a fabulous combination!

    Barbara: I thought you might like this recipe!

    agrigirl: thanks! Yes, rhubarb=summer.

    Chef Aimee: Glad to know I am not alone in rejecting these ridiculous serving sizes.

    Pete: Let me know what you think!

  8. Your comments about your feelings towards Jen warmed my heart many times over! Imagine what Dad's reaction would have been! And, if I ever go to a potluck during rhubarb season, I will whip up a pan of these bars! Love, MOM

  9. i wish i had a sister (and some of those delicious-looking bars!). as it is, i'm sandwiched between two brothers, and neither one is very keen on having heart-to-heart conversations. :)

  10. I wish I could have a piece of that streusel right now with my morning coffee! Rhubarb is so good, I'm definitely going to make these. Love the story about your sister too, its really sweet.

  11. Oh boy, these bars are really crying out to me. WOnder if I can find any rhubarb at the moment. Might just make the ginger icing and eat it straight.

  12. Mom: you would like these...give them a try!

    grace: well in absence of a sister, a girlfriend can be just as good!

    Sophie: I was interested in the rhubarb and ginger combo...never had that before.

    Connie: I did indeed eat these for breakfast two days in a row. Nothing like dessert for breakfast (it has fruit so it's "healthy".)

    shaz: The ginger icing would be good on all kinds of things--pound cake, cookies...yum.

  13. Oh, that's so sweet that you're so close with your sister. I have four siblings and I'm close to my younger sister but I can't say we gab all the time. We do have a lot to talk about when we see each other in person. And that rhubard bar looks interesting, it almost looks like a pink rice crispy bar.

  14. I'll have to re-read my last catalog for that recipe. Oh wait, I think I could just copy it here :)

  15. Glad you liked the recipe, and thanks for the sweet write-up! I'd make the same friends-for-sister trade too, of course...don't know why I was surprised to learn that you also compel yourself to imagine these critical yet highly unlikely scenarios. Perhaps for the same reason we used to sort Dad's socks furiously as if our lives depended on it? This weekend I'm planning to make Rhubarb Fool: stay tuned!

  16. Ben: wow, four siblings! Lucky you.

    tamilyn: Give it a go!

    Jary: It's a great recipe, and I think you could swap out almost any fruit. Why did we both end up with the need to create dire and unrealistic scenarios? There's something to be analyzed there, I'm sure.

  17. Did you say ginger icing?? I could put that on everything. Yum!

  18. I love everything and anything made with rhubarb. The tart and sweet combination is sooooo good. And streusel, don't get me started on my love for streusel. Thanks for sharing!

  19. CJ: Yes, I could see plenty of uses for the ginger icing!!

    Crazy Sweet Life: I love how many people love rhubarb! It seems like such a special fruit since it has such a short season. Hope you give this one a go.

  20. I love streusel/crumble bars. I STILL have yet to try cooking with rhubarb! But it's in season right now, so I should get to it!

  21. Jessica: Then these bars are definitely for you! :)