Hungarian Shortbread with Rhubarb Jam

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I love rhubarb.  It’s tartness is the perfect compliment to many desserts, drinks, and even savory dishes.  Unfortunately, it’s season is somewhat short lived (late-spring, early-summer – conveniently in tune with strawberry picking season).  So fearing I’d miss out on one of my favorite summer ingredients, I dived into my collection of cookbooks to pick a winning recipe.  I found what I was looking for in Julia Child’s “Baking with Julia” – a simple shortbread with homemade rhubarb jam. 

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I was given this cookbook for Christmas when I was 6 or 7 years old, and immediately fell in love with her easy to follow recipes and beautiful pictures.  I made everything from Challah, to croissants, to the most decadent chocolate cake you can imagine.  Yes, I was 7 – my love for cooking and baking started very early on.

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Given my history with Julia, I knew this recipe wouldn’t disappoint.  So armed with a grocery list, I set out to the farmer’s market for rhubarb.

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But no! I realized I might be too late – 2 farmers markets, and 3 grocery stores (including Whole Foods) were lacking the key ingredient.  Finally, feeling very discouraged, I checked one more store and lo and behold, the gorgeous burgundy stalks were in stock.  I must say, the long hunt was worth it, this recipe is the perfect combination of sweet and tart, with the buttery, tender shortbread and beautiful, pink rhubarb.

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It seems more like a crumble than a shortbread, and it’s not overly sweet, so could be perfect for a breakfast pastry as well.  Julia, as always, it’s a pleasure working with you.

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Note: This recipe requires you to grate the frozen dough into the pan, but if you don’t have time to freeze, I’m sure you could press the prepared dough into the pan, which would result in a less crumbly consistency.  Be warned, this dough is irresistibly delicious, so if you decide to take a taste, it may be very difficult to stop. If you can’t find rhubarb in your local grocery store, this recipe would be just as good with your favorite cherry or strawberry jam (you can even make your own).

Hungarian Shortbread with Rhubarb Jam

Adapted from Julia Child’s “Baking with Julia

Ingredients:

Shortbread:

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1//4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 sticks (1 lb) butter, at room temperature
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting

Rhubarb Jam:

  • 1 lb rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 vanilla bean or 1/2 vanilla extract

Recipe:

Shortbread:

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl and set aside.  In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter until light and fluffy.  Add the egg yolks and granulated sugar, and beat until combined.  On low speed with your mixer, beat in the dry ingredients until all the ingredients are incorporated (mixture will still be a bit crumbly).  Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and split in half.  Form each half into a ball, and cover in plastic wrap.  Freeze for at least 30 minutes (or up to a month if you’re thinking ahead).

Rhubarb Jam:

While your Shortbread is freezing, add the rhubarb, sugar, water and vanilla to a medium saucepan.  Bring to a simmer over low heat, stirring often, and cook until rhubarb softens and is broken down (about 10-15 minutes depending on the type of rhubarb).  Cool the jam at room temperature.  This jam can save in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Assemble the shortbread:

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Grease a 9×12 baking pan.  Take one ball of dough out of the freezer, and grate into your baking pan, like you’re grating cheddar cheese.  This is your base layer.  Pat the dough gently into the corners, but don’t press down.  (You can also put your frozen dough into a food processor, a few chunks at a time, to crumble it evenly – be sure not to overwork!).  Spread the rhubarb jam over the entire base layer.  Repeat the grating with the 2nd ball of dough.  Press it lightly to distribute evenly on top.

Bake for ~40 minutes until golden brown.  While it’s still warm, sift powdered sugar over top so it is completely covered.  Once cool, cut into 1 to 1 1/2 inch squares (I like mine bite sized).  These will keep for 2 days.

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