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As I mentioned previously, one of my finds at the farmer’s market this weekend was rhubarb, another later-in-life love. I don’t think I ever had it until well into adulthood, but as with cranberries, I fell hard and completely, and when it’s in season, I snatch up all I can and freeze some for the rest of the year. For the inaugural rhubarb recipe of 2006, I decided a bar cookie might be nice, with a sweet-tart layer of rhubarb sandwiched between two buttery layers of cookie dough.

In order to develop this recipe, I combined and modified components from two separate recipes. On the one hand, I had a recipe for a strawberry-rhubarb bar in The All-American Cookie Book, but the oat-and-nut-fortified dough from a raspberry bar recipe in my latest cookbook acquisition, The New Best Recipe by the America’s Test Kitchen chefs, sounded much better than the plain short pastry dough in the original cookie. I decided to combine the two and hope that the combination of the superior elements would result in a superior bar cookie.

The end product of this tinkering was not perfect, because the filling was a bit too loose and the cookies don’t have quite enough structural integrity to cut as cleanly as I’d like. The flavor is great, though, and I like the firm but tender texture and the toasty nuttiness of the dough. Next time, I may fiddle with the amount of thickener, or possibly try a different kind of, or slightly less, jam. With a bit more work, this could go from a very nice but homey cookie to a refined and suitable addition to a springtime tea tray.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Bars
Makes 24 1×2-inch cookies

1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 lb rhubarb, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 10-oz jar (1 1/4 cups) strawberry jam
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Grated zest of one orange

Crust and Streusel Topping
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups rolled oats
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, slightly softened, cut into 12 pieces

In a heavy, nonreactive saucepan, stir together the sugar, cornstarch and cinnamon until evenly distributed. Stir in the rhubarb, jam and orange zest and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring frequently, until the rhubarb begins to soften, approx. 6-8 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Place the oven rack in the lower two-thirds position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with two strips of parchment paper or nonstick aluminum foil, letting the strips overhang the edges of the pan to serve as a sling for removing the cookies later.

In a mixer, mix the flour, oats, granulated and brown sugar, baking soda, salt and walnuts at low speed for 30 seconds. Add the butter, continuing to mix on low speed until the mixture is well
blended and resembles wet sand.

Press two-thirds of the dough into the bottom of the pan and bake until it starts to brown, about 20-25 minutes. Spread the strawberry-rhubarb filling over the crust and sprinkle the remaining crumb mixture evenly over the filling. Bake until the filling bubbles around the edges and the top is golden brown, approximately 35 minutes, rotating once during baking.

Cool on a wire rack until room temperature, approximately 1 1/2 hours. Remove the cookies from the pan by lifting the edges of the foil or parchment, and cut into squares.