It’s not often that you see rhubarb in my kitchen so when it’s around, it feels slightly exotic. I called my friend Susan to join me in the making of these bars (a plea for moral support) and despite her extensive culinary background, rhubarb isn’t a common ingredient in her kitchen, either. When the cashier at the grocery store had to ask me, “what is this?” I fear too many people are missing out on this exceptional plant. Raw rhubarb has a slightly bitter flavor similar to very tart green apples. This tartness proves to be a fantastic base for baked sweets. These bars are summers attempt to show up all those pie dessert bars that pop up in early fall. They do a pretty good job, too.
To start, this is a recipe that’s easier and healthier than traditional pie. The crust, with whole grain flours, vegan butter, and ground walnuts is almost cookie-like in texture.
The crust is used for both the bottom and the crumble topping. Susan found it similar to a Mexican Wedding cookie in texture – not overly sweet, slightly crumbly, and has noticeable bits of softened walnuts. Walnuts are a secret weapon in adding more protein and decreasing the butter – a win for healthy desserts!
This substantial type crust is a perfect way to wrap the sweet and almost tangy strawberry rhubarb rose filling. Xylitol adds a traditional sweetness while the coconut sugar enhances a deeper caramelized flavor. The strawberry and rhubarb pairing is a classic combination of sweet, tart and very summery.
The white icing may not be necessary but it adds a delicious touch of rose essence and extra sweetness. If you weren’t already a fan of the strawberry and rhubarb pairing, try them with this fragrant rosewater icing and these bars will quickly become a summer favorite!
Natural Vegan Strawberry Rhubarb Rose Pie Bars
2 1/4 cups Spelt Flour or White Wheat Flour (or 1 cup White Flour and 1 1/4 cup Whole Wheat)
1/2 cup Coconut Sugar, Maple Sugar, Honey Powder (coconut sugar will make crust appear darker)
1/3 cup Walnuts
3/4 cup Frozen Earth Balance Butter, cubed
2-3 Tablespoons Cold Almond Milk
1 3/4 cups hulled, 1/4-inch sliced Fresh Strawberries
1 1/2 1/4-inch sliced Fresh Rhubarb (about similar size to strawberries)
1.5 Tablespoons FreshLemon Juice
2 teaspoons Rosewater
1.5 Tablespoons Arrowroot or Cornstarch
3 Tablespoons Coconut Sugar + 3 Tablespoons Xylitol or Erythritol
1/4 cup Earth Balance Butter, softened
1/2 cup Powdered Whole Earth Sugar + 2 Tablespoons Arrowroot or Cornstarch
2 teaspoons Rosewater*
1/2 teaspoon Liquid Stevia, to taste
2-3 teaspoons Almond Milk
Prepare a 9×9 baking dish by lining with parchment paper, gently spraying sides with cooking spray and set aside.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a food processor, add the flour and sweetener and pulse to combine. Add the walnuts and pulse. Add the butter and cold milk and pulse until the mixture just comes together. Lay out plastic wrap and gently dump the dough on the plastic. Form a ball and warp with the plastic. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour.
Combine the sliced strawberries and rhubarb in a mixing bowl. Drizzle the fresh lemon juice, rosewater and thickener over fruit and toss to combine. Add the sweeteners and toss to fully coat. Set aside.
Remove cold dough from fridge. Cut dough in half, reserving a more generous half for the crust base. Press cold dough in the prepared pan. Pour the fruit filling over dough. Take remaining smaller half of dough and break off into large chunks. Top the bars with large crumbles. Alternatively, cut dough into other shapes or designs and top the bars.
Bake bars for 22-26 minutes, until the tops have begun to brown and the fruit center is no longer liquidy. The crust edges should be slightly crisp and the fruit centers will resemble a jam. The fruit keeps these bars very moist so please do not undercook. Allow the bars to cool completely before frosting (place in fridge or freezer to speed process).You can enjoy warm but please allow to cool at least 15 minutes before attempting to cut into or frost or they will be difficult to handle.
For the icing, beat the butter, sugar and cornstarch together until creamy. Add all other ingredients. Add icing to a plastic bag or piping bag and pipe onto cooled bars. Bars begin to soften over time so it’s best to store leftovers in the fridge.
*Be sure to use a fresh rosewater. Rose flavor tastes more pronounced when bars are cool.
Recipe inspired from Cooking Classy, Joy the Baker and Ina Garten