The abundance of rhubarb desserts on Instagram inspired me to bake several tarts of my own. I almost forgot we're in the height of rhubarb season! It only lasts from April to June, so I made a dash to Whole Foods to fetch a bundle of stalks and start creating.
Rhubarb is a species of plant - but treated as a fruit in the kitchen - with kite-sized leaves and greenish magenta-colored stalks. The stalks are firm, sour and edible, and like gooseberries, rhubarb produces a delightfully sweet and tart flavor when paired with a big dose of sugar. Since rhubarb holds a ton of water, I added a generous dollop of tapioca to absorb the water and avoid having a soupy mess on my hands. I suggest using lots of tapioca when baking rhubarb tarts, pies and crumbles. You will thank me later.
Rhubarb has been cultivated in Western Europe for several hundred years. It made its debut in the United States in the early 19th century and it's been a summertime staple in my life for as long as I can remember - my parents cultivated a large rhubarb patch when I was a kid, and on warm summer days I used to carry armloads of leafy stalks from the garden to the kitchen to help make strawberry rhubarb pies and jams. Yummy!
for the tart shell:
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup bleached cake flour
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 6 ounces chilled unsalted butter, diced
- 1/4 cup chilled vegetable shortening
- 1/2 cup ice water
for the filling & glaze:
- 5 cups rhubarb stalks, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 cup strawberry jam
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup quick cooking tapioca
- zest of half a lemon
- Combine the flour, salt, sugar and diced butter in a food processor. Pulse about 5-7 times.
- Add the vegetable shortening. Turn on the food processor and with the motor running, add the 1/2 cup of water right away, then turn it off. The butter and shortening should look like small peas by now. Pulse 2-3 more times if necessary to break up the butter into pea-sized clumps. Be sure you don't overmix!
- Transfer the pastry dough to a lightly floured work surface. Working quickly, form the dough into a rough ball and then slice it in half with a butter knife. Form each portion of dough into a flat disk. Wrap each disk tightly in plastic wrap and put them in a Ziplock bag. Refrigerate for a minimum of two hours to firm up the butter.
- To form the tart shell, quickly roll out one of the chilled disks on a lightly floured pastry marble or work surface. The dough should about about two inches larger than the diameter of your tart pan.
- Use a pastry cutter to loosen the dough from your work surface, then drape it over the tart pan. Gently press the dough onto the bottom and sides of the tart pan, ensuring it has a solid rim standing half an inch higher than the top of the pan.
- Trim any excess dough that may be hanging over the sides of the pan. Use it to patch up the tart shell, if needed. Then, using a fork, prick the bottom of the tart shell until it is speckled with small holes.
- Now, to make sure the tart shell maintains its structural integrity during the prebake, you'll need to weigh it down. Tear off a sheet of aluminum foil and fold it into a square (it should be a few inches larger than the circumference of the pan). Butter one side of the foil and place it in the tart shell, butter-side down, then fill it with dried kidney beans (this is called a foil pouch).
- Adjust oven rack to middle part of oven and preheat to 450°. Bake the tart shell for 15 minutes, then remove the pouch and bake for several minutes longer until the shell has achieved a pale golden hue. Transfer to a wire rack to allow the shell to cool for at 15 minutes before adding the filling.
- Preheat the oven to 375°.
- To make the glaze, rub the strawberry jam through a fine mesh strainer into a small saucepan. Add 3 tbsp of the sugar and stir to combine. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce heat to low and simmer gently for several minutes until sugar has dissolved.
- Remove the glaze from heat and stir in the tapioca. Set aside.
- Sprinkle the bottom of the tart shell with 2 tbsp of the sugar, then place the rhubarb pieces in the tart shell, one by one, to form a single layer. You can arrange the rhubarb in any pattern you like.
- Brush the rhubarb with the glaze. Use a small spoon to fill in any "cracks" (i.e., tiny bits of space between pieces of rhubarb) with the strawberry glaze, if needed.
- Sprinkle the lemon zest and remaining sugar over the rhubarb.
- Bake at 375° for 30 minutes or until the crust has browned lightly. Allow to cool for 15 minutes before serving.
If you make this recipe, hashtag a pic to #spiceandhutch and post to Instagram, Facebook and/or Twitter. I'd love to see your culinary creations!