Recently I gave myself the challenge of recreating a divine rhubarb tart I had enjoyed in Paris. Dissecting the parts, I knew four elements were needed: a very rich tart which tasted almost like a cookie; a light pastry cream; cooked rhubarb; and a red fruit glaze. Easy enough? Well, yes, after all the pre-testing was completed.
For one, I didn’t know how to make the rhubarb as normally, it dissolves when cooked. I queried Jan Hazard, a former magazine food editor, and she suggested experimenting with two processes to see which one worked best to keep the fruit’s color and shape: poaching in water with no sugar; and then baking it. The later worked the best. My mistake was cooking it too early as I baked the fruit the night before. By the time I assembled the various parts of the tart the following day, the rhubarb had shed quite a bit of its juices and lost some of its shape. However, once decorated with other smaller fruits, its reduced shape was not detectable.
Get ready. While this tart is a delicious, show stopper, it is a commitment of time to make. Luckily, several of its parts can be made ahead. Doing it in stages reduces stress and allows you to focus on the fun of making a dessert to wow your friends and family.
1 A. For the Rich Tart Pastry (adapted from New Recipes for the Cuisinart by James Beard and Carl Jerome)
2 cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup frozen butter, cut into 1- Tablespoon pieces
3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
3 hard-cooked egg yolks
2 Tablespoons grated lemon peel
1 Tablespoon cold water
½ teaspoon salt
2 A. For the Pastry Cream (adapted from NYT Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipe for Apricot Tart with Pistachio Frangipane)
4 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon corn starch
1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
4 egg yolks
1 ¼ cup whole milk
2 Tablespoons sweet butter
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 A. For the fruit:
8-10 Rhubarb stalks. (Select same size stalk so that they will cook evenly.)
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar (I used lavender-flavored sugar.)
4 A. For the glaze:
¼ cup red fruit jelly
2 Tablespoons water
5 A. For decorating the tart:
½ cup fresh strawberries
½ fresh blueberries
¼ cup goose berries
¼ cup finely chopped Pistachio nuts
1 B. Cooking directions for the dough: This recipe makes two rounds for a 9-inch tart pastry shell. I used a rectangular-shaped pan (4 X 13 ½ inches). You can make the dough in advance and even freeze it.
1. With metal blade in place, add flour, butter, sugar, egg yolks, egg, grated lemon peel, water and salt to the food processor’s beaker.
2. Process, turning the machine off and on for approximately 15 seconds.
3. Then continue processing until a ball of dough is formed.
4. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and allow it to rest in the refrigerator for at least two hours.
5. Preheat oven to 375 ⁰F
6. Roll out the dough to ¼ inch thickness keeping a rectangular shape.
7. Transfer the dough to the pan and carefully lay inside.
8. Double over the excess dough around the edges.
9. Cover the pastry with parchment paper or aluminum foil and add a handful of dried beans to work as a weight.
10. Place pan on a baking sheet and cook for 20 minutes.
11. Remove from the oven; remove the parchment paper with beans; then prick the edges and bottom of the crust with a fork.
12. Return the crust to oven and bake an additional 10-15 minutes until a golden color.
13. Remove and allow to cool.
2 B. Cooking directions for the Pastry Cream:
1. Whisk together, in a bowl, 2 Tablespoons of the sugar, cornstarch, flour and egg yolks until smooth.
2. Add milk, butter, vanilla, and remaining 2 Tablespoons of sugar to a sauce pan and heat over a medium flame until mixture is warm but not boiling.
3. Remove milk mixture from the heat and continue to whisk.
4. Pour a third of the hot milk mixture into the egg yolk mixture and whisk well.
5. Return this mixture to the pan with the milk and return to a low-medium heat
6. Stir constantly, whisking vigorously. Mixture will bubble and eventually become nice and thick.
7. When the proper consistency of a pastry cream is reached, remove from heat and allow to cool for five minutes.
8. If you’re making ahead of time, put pastry cream in a bowl, cover it with saran wrap and refrigerator overnight.
3 B. Cooking directions for the fruit:
1. Preheat oven to 375⁰F
2. Wash and dry the stalks of rhubarb.
3. Cut into 4- inch pieces to eventually fit into the pan.
4. Spray a cookie sheet with Pam.
5. Place rhubarb pieces on the sheet one inch apart
6. Sprinkle with the sugar.
7. Cook 12-15 minutes, checking periodically to make sure it does not overcook.
8. Remove and allow to cool.
4 B. Cooking directions for the glaze:
1. Put the fruit jelly in a ceramic dish and add water.
2. Microwave in 20 seconds zaps until jelly melts.
3. Whisk to smooth out any lumps.
4. Put aside.
5 B. Directions for assembling the tart:
1. Whisk the pastry cream until smooth and then, with a spatula spread evenly over the baked pastry shell.
2. Carefully lay the stalks of cooked rhubarb vertically over the pastry cream.
3. Decorate with strawberries, blue berries and goose berries.
4. With a fine brush, paint the fruit with the glaze.
5. Sprinkle the chopped pistachio nuts.
Take the rhubarb tart to the table to the delight of your applauding guests.
Wine suggestions: An Asti spumante, a Moscato from Piedmont, or a semi-sweet Vouvray from the Loire Valley