A couple of weeks ago I put on an apron and pieced through my pantry.
There was a big jar of brown rice flour and a bag of millet flour. Later I picked up a bag of gluten-free oat flour, hoping the three together would be the right combination.
I was considering one of my favorite desserts, shortbread, wondering if there was a way to adapt it into a gluten-free crust to act as the base of a bar incorporating rhubarb, which is in season with gusto right now.
It worked, and with only honey as a sweetener, which was one of my goals.
These bar cookies, and others like them on the table at the bake sale, sold well. I think it’s because layered bars are pretty and something people don’t often make for themselves or as a last-minute contribution to a potluck. They’re time consuming. Biting into one, with its satisfying mush and crunch, is proof.
A layered bar is an easy analogy for a lot of things but there are two that spring to mind right now. An innovative new building is one, with substructural integrity, flow and function and enough architectural flourishes to entice people to come inside. It’s analogous to a healthy community, too, one with good policies, public involvement and beauty integrated into the everyday.
The Procession of the Species, our 19-year-old celebration of the natural world, is a piece of that beauty. It brings people in our community (several thousand of them) out into the open, where we gather like we’re settling into a vast dining space, with a table of chalked streets and course after course of daring, far-fetched, silly, sublime creations.
Watching as part of the crowd, it feels like icing on the cake, as they say. Here is the physical proof that this place we’ve landed is packed with interested, persistent and active people. It’s affirmation that community begets community: cheering for the swaying giraffe and the enormous whale, I feel like I’m also being cheered on, too. Anything I dream up will find its audience, raise some eyebrows or be met by a fierce and glorious encouragement.
Rhubarb Ginger Honeycakes
Make these bar cookies the day before you plan to
serve them. They have a weird, springy texture straight
out of the oven, but let them sit and they’ll firm up. I’ll
incorporate some pecans or gluten-free oats into the
topping next time.
6 stalks rhubarb
2 tablespoons cane sugar
2 teaspoons brown rice flour
1 teaspoon grated ginger
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 cup brown rice flour
1 cup gluten-free oat flour
½ cup millet flour
2 sticks butter
2/3 cup raw honey
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ cup cane sugar
¾ cup brown rice flour
1/3 cup butter
pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 325°. Butter and flour a 9 x 13-inch baking dish (using brown rice or other gluten-free flour).
For the filling, chop rhubarb into ½-inch pieces. In a medium bowl, toss with the cane sugar and flour until coated. In a small bowl, combine lemon juice and grated ginger. Add to rhubarb mixture and stir to incorporate well.
While the rhubarb sits, cream honey and butter in a stand mixer. Scrape down the sides and add vanilla.
Sift flour and salt together or stir with a whisk to incorporate. Add flour mixture to the mixer bowl and mix until smooth.
Combine ingredients for the topping in a small bowl and cut with a pastry cutter, a fork or your fingers until the flour and sugar have been worked into the butter completely and small lumps are forming.
Pour batter into the buttered pan and smooth to the edges with a rubber spatula (it will take some coaxing). Top with the rhubarb mixture and crumb topping.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the edges and the bottom are golden brown.