There are times in life where a great slice of cake is just what you need. A bad day at work, it's been raining and you've left the washing out or unexpected expenditure all seems insignificant, smaller somehow, when you're eating sponge and jam. These problems can even disappear completely if it's a cake fresh from the oven. There are those other times though. When cake just can't cut the mustard and it's the bite of a biscuit that you need.
You will need:
400g plain flour
100g sugar and a little extra
300g butter, at room temperature
2 tbsp chopped, toasted hazelnuts
6 small sticks of rhubarb
Chop the rhubarb into chunks and put in a pan with a sprinkling of sugar over a low heat with the lid on. Leave it to soften while you make the shortbread. Cream the butter and sugar together, this always takes longer than I think it will, then stir in the flour and hazelnuts. Mix together until it forms a dough.
Grease and line a baking dish; mine was about 30cm by 20cm. Take two thirds of the shortbread and press into the baking dish. Prick the top all over with a fork and put in the oven at 170C for 20 minutes. Check on the rhubarb, it should be soft by now. Remove the lid and let the rhubarb cook until most of the moisture has evaporated and it's a thick pink jam. If you remember the Teletubbies, it looked a little like Tubby Custard.
Take the shortbread out of the oven and pour the rhubarb over. Crumble the remaining shortbread mixture over the top. Return to the oven for 15-20 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the rhubarb has bubbled slightly up over the top. Mark into portions while still hot.
When it had been out of the oven for about ten minutes I couldn't wait any longer and put the kettle on to make a big cup of tea. I eased a piece of the shortbread out. Oh my. I don't like to toot my own trumpet but this was magnificent. The bottom of the shortbread had the rich, buttery crunch you expect from it with a very slightly gooey layer where shortbread meets rhubarb. It was sort of a shortbread sandwich; crunch on either side with jammy fruit in between.
At that moment in time (and for many moments afterwards as I made 16 squares) there was nothing else in the world except me and the shortbread. Time for pure indulgence and bliss with sweet, crisp biscuit and sharp, sticky rhubarb. Wonderful.