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Shortbread Custard Bars with Rhubarb and Citrus

by roselevit

I take a lot of pride in creating original recipes, and when I do take inspiration from others I make sure to cite my sources, so to speak. You’ve taken the time to read this particular blog, so I want to make it worth your time and give you recipes unlike anything you’d find elsewhere.

Rhubarb gave me a bit of a challenge. I’ve had some sitting in the fridge for about a week now, but I’ve been at a loss for what to do with it. What could I do with rhubarb that wasn’t overdone and therefore didn’t involve strawberries? I’ve been thinking about it way too much.

Eventually, I decided to take a risk and pair it with citrus. Orange zest and lemon juice provide the same tang and sweetness that strawberries normally do, but they also supply a bright, unexpected flavor that goes perfectly with the rhubarb. I offset all that tanginess with a buttery shortbread base, a rich custard filling, and a layer of decadent pastry cream that tastes like the world’s best vanilla pudding.

I apologize in advance for the sheer quantity of egg yolks you’ll need for this recipe, but I’m actually not sorry at all – it’s fucking delicious. And hey, it’s bad to waste food, so you can use the egg whites for meringues, macarons, or making omelettes for people who haven’t read a nutrition book since the 80’s. Uncooked egg whites freeze beautifully, so you can save them for a future project if you wish.

I admit that this recipe isn’t quite up to the aesthetic standard I usually set for myself. I’m not even close to a perfect baker, and sometimes I get a little chaotic with powdered sugar or I don’t have the right equipment for a certain recipe. I think these bars would have worked better as a tart with shortcrust pastry, but I didn’t have a tart pan. Luckily, Williams Sonoma has quick shipping, so prepare for some prettier tart recipes to come.

If you have a tart pan, I recommend using it. If not, don’t worry – these bars still taste spectacular, so it’s okay if they’re a bit messy. I figured they tasted good enough to be worth sharing even though they could be a bit neater. Substance over style, right?

Shortbread Custard Bars with Rhubarb and Citrus

These bars have a buttery shortbread base flavored with orange zest, a tangy rhubarb and citrus custard filling, and a layer of rich pastry cream on top.
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 50 mins
Chilling Time 3 hrs
Total Time 4 hrs 20 mins
Servings 12 bars



  • 250 g (2 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter chilled and cut into pieces
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 tsp fresh orange zest


  • 1 ¼ lbs fresh rhubarb cut into small pieces
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar divided
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 ½ tsp fresh orange zest
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 5 tbsp unsalted butter

Pastry Cream

  • 2 cups milk whole or 2%
  • ¼ cup + ⅓ cup granulated sugar divided
  • 1 whole egg
  • 2 egg yolks
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • A dash of vanilla extract about ½ – 1 tsp


  • Powdered sugar for dusting
  • Zest of 1 lemon



  • Preheat the oven to 325º F and wash your hands.
  • Add the shortbread ingredients to a bowl and use your fingers to work the cold butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture is crumbly and well-combined. Don't overwork.
  • Press the dough firmly and evenly into a baking pan. Prick all over with a fork.
  • Bake for 35 minutes or until light golden brown, then remove from the oven and turn the heat up to 350º F. Meanwhile, prepare the custard.


  • Add the rhubarb, ¼ cup of the sugar, and the water to a saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered, stirring often, until the rhubarb is very soft and mushy, about 10 minutes.
  • Transfer the rhubarb mixture to a blender or food processor, add the orange zest, and process until smooth. Add to a small saucepan along with the rest of the sugar, egg yolks, and lemon juice. Whisk over medium heat until thoroughly combined.
  • Add the butter and whisk constantly until it's fully melted and incorporated. Remove from heat and pour over the baked shortbread. Return to the oven (now at 350º) and bake for 15 minutes or until the custard is set.
  • Cool in the pan to room temperature, then put in the fridge to cool completely.

Pastry Cream

  • Stir together the milk and ¼ cup of the sugar in a large saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Meanwhile, in a separate heatproof bowl, whisk together the egg, egg yolks, cornstarch, and the rest of the sugar.
  • When the milk mixture is simmering but *not* rapidly boiling, remove from heat and pour half into the egg mixture, whisking constantly so the eggs don't scramble. Pour this mixture back into the rest of the milk and whisk constantly over medium heat until it thickens.
  • Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and vanilla until the butter is melted. Transfer the pastry cream to a cold bowl and let sit at room temperature until the cream is no longer warm to the touch.
  • Spread the cream evenly over the chilled shortbread bars. Freeze for one hour to harden.
  • Top with a sprinkle of powdered sugar and the zest of one lemon. Use a sharp knife to cut into individual bars.

Pastry cream recipe from The Stay at Home Chef. Everything else original.

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