Having a rhubarb plant has its advantages: you get great-quality rhubarb, for free, for the first few months of spring. And you get a lot of it. But it can get a bit boring only using it for tarts or compote.
Every year I try to come up with more interesting ways of cooking with rhubarb to save it from its otherwise inevitable freezer fate. This year, these streusel bars have been my recipe of choice.
These strawberry-rhubarb bars are great for serving a crowd and have a less "formal" vibe than, say, a tart or pie. This makes them great for snacking on during the day or bringing to a casual event.
It's also pretty easy to swap in whatever other berries you may have around. I went for strawberries this time because the rhubarb and strawberry pairing is so classic, but blueberries or raspberries (frozen are fine!) work equally as well. You could of course go all out and use 100% rhubarb for the fruity filling, but I find that can make them incredibly tart; I like mixing in the berries help to tone down the sharpness.
Really, what more could you want from a dessert? There's a buttery, slightly cakey pie crust base with a sweet-tart filling and crisp topping. All good qualities in my book! I was pleased to find out that my entire Maths class was in agreement after I brought a batch into school for them to try, and returned empty handed. That, to me, was a sign that this recipe was one to add to my permanent rhubarb recipe collection.
Strawberry-Rhubarb Streusel Bars
Makes 16 (2-inch) square bars
(1 1/2 cups) strawberries, hulled and thinly sliced
(2 cups) rhubarb, cut into roughly 1/3-inch-thick pieces
turbinado sugar, divided (plus a little extra for sprinkling)
2 3/4 cups
(12 1/3 ounces) all-purpose flour, divided
(12 tablespoons) cold, unsalted butter
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 8-inch square pan with nonstick spray. Line it with parchment paper (so you'll be able to lift the bars out later for cutting) and spray again.
Combine the sliced strawberries, sliced rhubarb, lemon juice, and 1/4 cup of the sugar in a large bowl. Set this aside to macerate while you make the crust and streusel.
Place 2 1/2 cups of the flour into the bowl of a food processor. Cut the butter into 5 large chunks and add to the flour along with the cream cheese, salt, and remaining 3/4 cup of cane sugar. Pulse to combine the mixture until moist and crumbly, with no chunks of butter remaining.
Remove 1 2/3 cups of this crumbly mixture from the food processor and set it aside for the streusel topping.
To the rest of the mixture still in the food processor, add the remaining 1/4 cup of flour, egg, baking powder, and vanilla. Blend until it just starts to come together to form a dough.
Press the dough evenly into the lined pan (it's easier to do this if your hands are slightly damp). Bake for 10 minutes until slightly risen.
Strain the macerated fruit to remove the excess liquid. Spread the fruit in an even layer over the surface of the partially baked crust. Sprinkle the reserved streusel topping over the surface of the fruit and then sprinkle on a little more turbinado sugar. Bake again for 40 to 50 minutes until the topping is golden-brown.
Let cool for 20 minutes before lifting the pie bars out of the pan using the parchment paper. Slice into 16 squares. Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
Blueberries or raspberries (fresh or frozen) can be swapped in for the strawberries. Or the strawberries can be omitted and the total amount of rhubarb increased to 14 ounces (3 1/2 cups).