It seems that spring is here, but I’m confused; I don’t think there was winter in the way that I am accustomed. So I am skeptical. I am prepared for snow at Easter or Memorial Day. But in the meantime I will cook seasonal spring favorites and enjoy the beautiful weather. Deep red rhubarb caught my eye in the supermarket this week and this tart is the result. I have always loved rhubarb, since the days my sister and I would dunk the ends of rhubarb stalks into a dish of sugar and munch away. I love the beautiful pink shade of cooked rhubarb and its tart, vegetable-like flavor.
Rhubarb is often paired with strawberries or raspberries for pies, tarts, and crisps. It is also a good partner with plums. Rhubarb makes a great savory relish (traditional with French-Canadian tourtiere). I decided I wanted just rhubarb for my tarts, but with a little different seasoning. I added rosewater and cardamom to the rhubarb compote. For texture I made a pistachio crumble, seasoned with additional cardamom. Then, for the garnish, I added honey and rosewater to whipped cream. It all tastes really good. I did have a little rhubarb compote leftover, so I swirled some through the whipped cream (in the style of a fruit fool), and used that for garnish as well. The pastry is a delicate cookie-like dough that is easy to work with and bakes up tender and light. I had enough tart dough, rhubarb filling, and crumble to make a nine-inch tart and four additional four-inch mini tarts. Here is what I did:
For the pastry:
This is a dough that I learned to make at culinary school (hence the metric measures). I did not attempt to convert the measures because I was concerned the results would not be as consistent.
150 grams butter, softened but still cool
95 grams confectioners (powdered) sugar
30 grams almond flour
pinch of salt
250 grams flour
If your butter is not too hard this dough is easy to mix by hand. Cream the butter, sugar, and almond flour together in a medium bowl with a sturdy spatula or wooden spoon. Add the egg and mix until smooth and well blended. Add the flour and salt and mix until the dough comes together, it will be soft. Now turn the dough out on the work surface and, with the heel of your hand, smear sections of the dough forward on the counter. This is known as “fraisage”.
The fraisage technique decreases gluten formation and helps ensure a tender pastry. Gather the dough into a ball and flatten into a thick, round disc. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least thirty minutes, or until firm.
For the Rhubarb filling:
2 pounds rhubarb stalks
1 cup sugar
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon rosewater
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
pinch kosher salt
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Rinse the rhubarb stalks and trim the ends. Cut the stalks into half-inch pieces and place in a large non-reactive saucepan. Add the sugar and toss the mixture together with the rosewater and cardamom. Let the rhubarb macerate at room temperature for 20-30 minutes, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Cook the mixture at a gentle simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the rhubarb pieces are tender, but not mushy. Mix the cornstarch with a little water to make a slurry and add it, a little at a time, to the rhubarb mixture. Let it bubble and cook until the texture is firm enough to mound slightly. It should be able to hold its shape once it is placed into the tart shell. Adjust the seasoning with a pinch of salt and additional rosewater and cardamom, if you like. (Be cautious with the rosewater, a little goes a long way). Cool the mixture before filling the tart shell.
For the Pistachio Crumble
This is another culinary school recipe. We used it atop an apricot tart with a creme brulee disc. It was quite beautiful and delicious.
50 grams pistachios, lightly toasted and cooled
50 grams butter
50 grams almond flour
50 grams brown sugar
50 grams flour
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
Place all the dry ingredients and the nuts in a food processor and process until the nuts are finely chopped. Add the butter and pulse until the crumble comes together in clumps. Transfer to a bowl and chill until needed.
To Assemble and Bake the Tarts
Preheat the oven to 375F
Lightly flour your work surface and roll the chilled dough out quickly. It will become quite soft as it warms up, so replace it in the refrigerator if necessary. Line the tart shell(s) and trim the excess dough. Mark the dough with a fork or pastry docker and return to the refrigerator to chill until firm.
Line the pastry shell with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 15 minutes for the large tart, then remove the paper and beans and bake an additional 5 minutes, until firm on the bottom. The small tarts take about 10 minutes initially and an additional 5 minutes with the paper removed.
Cool the tart shells slightly, then fill with the rhubarb mixture. Scatter the pistachio crumble over the top, making sure some of the pieces are slightly larger, for textural interest. Leave some spaces for the lovely pink rhubarb to peek through. Now return the tarts to the oven and bake until the crumble is slightly golden brown and set. Remove to a rack to cool.
When you are ready to serve your pastries, whip a quantity of heavy cream to soft peaks. Sweeten to taste with honey and add a few drops of rosewater. Serve atop or alongside the rhubarb tart. If you have rhubarb leftover, enjoy it for breakfast with some thick yogourt or swirl it through the whipped cream and serve with the tarts.