Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Cake of the Week: Rustic Rhubarb Tarts

I cannot get these Rustic Rhubarb Tarts out of my head. Maybe my judgment is clouded by the consumption context (stoop-time on a perfect summer evening with three of my absolute favorite people after eating pesto pizza), but I really think this is the best dessert I’ve ever had. 

LLC has been winning at dessert baking recently, which means that as the primary eater of her efforts, I’ve been winning as well.

Let’s start with the crust. If I could eat this crust – encasing everything from fruit to vegetables to cheese to eggs  – every day for the rest of my life, I would be completely content. It is hands-down the lightest, buttery-est, most delicious thing in the world. It has corn flour and a little bit of fine cornmeal, which I suspect adds to the texture and buttery flavor (you know how good fresh corn can taste like butter?).

(before cooking)
And then the filling. Well, we all know how I feel about rhubarb, so clearly it’d be hard to go wrong with this. The original recipe is an only rhubarb compote, but LLC went with strawberry rhubarb instead. Strawberries and chunks of tart rhubarb-y goodness. Not too too much sugar, so the tarts stay tangy.

And, in notes from the baker: “rustic” is the best adjective to put in front of any dessert you ever make. It’s like a baking free pass. Those cookies aren’t shaping up the way you expected? Call them rustic. Worried the crust won’t turn out perfect? Rustic. Plus in this age of farmers markets and foodie-isms, “rustic” is a shabby-chic adjective that is sure to draw a crowd.

No rolling pins, no tart rings, no damn-this-crust tears when it doesn’t come out perfect (ok maybe that’s just me). And the name is alliterative (ok, again, maybe just a thing for me): Rustic Rhubarb Tarts. Do it.

Rustic Strawberry Rhubarb Tarts

(Adapted from Smitten Kitchen.)
Corn Flour Crust
  • 1 cup corn flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup fine cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher or coarse salt
  • 1 stick (4 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 batch Strawberry Rhubarb Compote (recipe below)
If you’re using a food processor: Combine the dry ingredients in the work bowl of your food processor. Add the butter and pulse in short bursts, until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Add heavy cream and egg yolks and pulse until combined; it will look crumbly but it will become one mass when kneaded together.
If you’re using a stand mixer: Whisk the dry ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, add the butter and turn the mixture speed to low (you’ll want to lock the top, so the mixture doesn’t fly about) and mix to break up the butter. Increase the speed to medium and mix until the butter is as coarse as cornmeal. Add the heavy cream and egg yolks and mix until combined. The dough will look crumbly but when pinched between your fingers, it will come together.
By hand: The butter can also be blended into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender, or you fingertips. The cream and egg yolks can be mixed into the butter mixture with a wooden spoon. You’ll likely want to turn the dough out onto a counter to gently knead it into one mass.

Strawberry Rhubarb Compote
  • 1 lb strawberries, rinsed and hulled
  • 1 lb rhubarb, trimmed
  • 1 lemon
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar 
  1. Select about 4 ounces of the smallest strawberries and cut lengthwise into quarters. These will be added raw to the cooked compote; set aside.
  2. Cut the remaining larger berries in halves or quarters so that the pieces are about the same size. (You should have about 2 1/2 cups.) Place them in a medium saucepan.
  3. With a paring knife, pull away and discard the strings that run the length of the rhubarb stalks. Cut the stalks into 3/4-inch pieces (you should have about 3 cups) and add to the saucepan.
  4. Use a fine grater or a Microplane to zest the lemon. Add 1 teaspoon of the zest to the pan. Squeeze 1 tablespoon of juice and add it to the pan. Add the sugar and stir to coat the fruit.
  5. Place the pan over medium-high heat and cook, stirring often to dissolve the sugar. By the time the sugar has dissolved, the fruit will have released a lot of juice. Boil for about 4 minutes to reduce the liquid somewhat, then reduce the heat and simmer for another 2 minutes, or until the rhubarb is soft. Don’t worry if some of the rhubarb falls apart.
  6. Take pan off the stove and stir in reserved strawberries. Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate in a covered container until cold. (This makes about 4 cups of compote, but the extra will keep for a couple of weeks and is delicious for breakfast.)
Shape the tarts: 
  1. Divide the dough into 10 equal pieces. Lightly flour a work surface and using the heel of your hand, flatten the dough into a rough circle. Continue flattening until it is approximately 5 inches in diameter. Try to work quickly, so the dough doesn't get too warm and soft, making it harder to handle. For more elegant edges, gently flatten the outer edge of the circle with your fingertips, making it thinner than the rest of the dough.
  2. Spoon 3 tablespoons of the Strawberry Rhubarb Compote into the center of the dough. 
  3. Fold the edge of the dough toward the compote and up, to create a ruffled edge; continue around the perimeter, letting the ruffles be their bad irregular selves. 
  4. Slide a bench scraper or spatula under the tart and transfer it to a parchment-lined (or cooking-sprayed) baking sheet. Continue with the remaining dough. 
  5. Freeze the tarts on their tray for at least 1 hour or up to 2 weeks, wrapped tightly in plastic.
Bake the tarts: Preheat over to 375°F. Bake tarts, still frozen, for about 35 minutes or until the edges of the tarts are brown and the rhubarb is bubbling and thick. Serve warm or at room temperature. The tarts keep in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

(I ate mine with a dollop of Greek yogurt. If only we had whipped cream or ice cream...)