There are moments that are so vivd in your memory that you can remember the smell, sound, or even the taste of something. Let me take you back to 16-year-old me visiting Chicago for the first time. An avid foodie even then, Chicago started as a family vacation and quickly turned into a food tour, researched and meticulously mapped by yours truly. Among the many food adventures we embarked upon during our time in Chicago, the most distinctive experience was without a doubt, lunch at the Polo Lounge.
The nuanced collection of framed photos lining navy walls, the caramel leather booths and pressed white tablecloths – I felt transported to an alternate world. One, that I might add, served personal strawberry-rhubarb pies a la mode. Eyes as wide as saucers, I marveled at this freshly-baked specimen. One bite in and I was forever changed. Perhaps it truly was the best pie I had ever tasted, or perhaps it was made infinitely better by the company. Either way, that miniature pie became the litmus test for every other pie I have ever tasted. I should note that I have yet to try another that holds a candle to the one that I ate that day.
Never once did I even consider making a strawberry-rhubarb pie, knowing full well that it would likely pale in comparison to the one on the Polo Lounge menu. However, should you really go 6 years without at least attempting to make something pays homage to one of the best meals of your life? Needless to say, I answered this question for myself by transforming the classic strawberry rhubarb pie into bars with an oat crumble topping that is absolutely scrumptious.
Better yet, these bars are gluten-free and refined-sugar free making them a guiltless treat you can enjoy any time of day!
What’s In these Bars:
- Gluten-Free Oats: For all the oat-y goodness that makes a crumble absolutely irresistible. You can use regular rolled oats if you are not gluten-free and it will not affect the final product.
- Gluten-Free Flour: I like to use a gluten-free flour as opposed to almond or oat flour mainly because it helps bring the dough together for the base and prevents these bars from becoming too crumbly. While other flour alternatives will work, substituting the GF flour will affect the texture and structure of the bars.
- Fresh Strawberries: Yes, you can probably use frozen strawberries, but part of the joy of making these bars in the Spring and Summer is that the strawberries are incredibly ripe and sweet.
- Rhubarb: Fresh rhubarb is another ingredient that you can find in the Spring and Summer months, however if you find that you have trouble getting your hands on some, look for it in the frozen aisle. Or, double the amount of strawberries and add some lemon zest to make them strawberry-lemon crumble bars!
- Maple Syrup: Pure maple syrup adds the perfect amount of sweetness and enhances the natural sweetness of the fruit in these bars. A little goes a long way.
- Lemon Zest and Juice: Lemon gives these bars the right amount of *zing* and brings out the flavor in the strawberry and rhubarb to make these bars perfectly-balanced and not overly sweet.
- 1 1/4 cup strawberries
- 1 1/4 cup rhubarb
- Zest and juice of one lemon
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 1/4 cups gluten-free flour
- 1 1/4 cup oats
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 stick melted butter
- 1/3 cup coconut sugar
- Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees and lining a square baking dish with parchment paper, then spraying with nonstick spray.
- Then, proceed to making the filling. Sliice the strawberries into quarters and dice the rhubarb.
- Add the strawberry and rhubarb to a bowll with the lemon zest and juice, maple syrup, vanilla, salt, and cornstarch and mix to combine. Set aside.
- Now, make the pie base/crumble topping by first melting the butter. Mix the coconut sugar, butter, and vanilla together into a smooth consistency. The coconut sugar might sink to the bottom slightly but it's perfectly alright and will not affect the outcome.
- Whisk together the GF flour, oats, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Then, pour in the butter and sugar mixture and use a spatula to bring the dough together.
- Take 2/3 of the dough and firmly press into an even layer on the bottom of the baking dish. Pressing firmly ensures that the base will not fall apart when you go to serve them.
- Then, add the fruit filling in an even layer and top off with the last 1/3 of the crumble mixture.
- Bake the bars for 30 minutes until the filling is bubbling and the crumble topping begins to turn a golden-brown color.
- Once you remove the bars from the oven, allow them to cool completely. This is an important step, and I actually like to put mine in the fridge overnight before cutting them. Once you are ready, you can slice them into 9 even bars and enjoy!