Strawberry-rhubarb bars herald the start of a summer full of fruit desserts, put together and baked when the temperatures dip in the evening or when a cold front comes through, ready and waiting to be topped with ice cream or served with a chilled glass of white wine when temperatures rise.
I made these several times in the past few weeks, and they’ve been a big hit with my family. While the combination of fruit, a buttery just-sweet-enough crumb base, and a nutty textured streusel topping lends itself well to experimentation and different combinations, there are a few things that I think work well here:
First, the combination of fruit to bar: I used three-quarters of the basic mixture to press into the base of the bar (rather than a 50/50 split), which helps these be bars once they’re cut, rather than a crumbly mess that you can’t eat with your hands.
Second, the fruit mixture has a few ingredients that give it a bit more complexity than more standard strawberry-rhubarb fare. I minced some fresh ginger and added it to the boiling rhubarb, and there’s lemon for its brightness and acid, too. The combination of rhubarb, ginger, and lemon could be overly tart, but this recipe has the right amount of sugar to balance things out without being overly sweet. In fact, if you like sweet desserts, you might want to bump up the sugar in the rhubarb mixture.
Finally, the hazelnuts in the topping help to give a little heft to the streusel (allowing more of the butter mixture to be used for the bar base), and the flavors complement the strawberries and rhubarb without dominating. Be sure to leave the hazelnuts out of the mixing bowl until the very last step – it could be easy to simply mix all the dry ingredients together to form the dough, but I wasn’t really wild about incorporating the hazelnuts uniformly throughout the bar and topping layers.