Rhubarb and the Tart

I took the knee pads off and baked a tart -- all dolled up in baggy soil-stained jeans, hunter boots with not a trace of 'urban cool' left in them, and a thermal (with a few holes), I'm less 'tart' than I used to be.  So I'll stick to tarts of the pie variety. We had a friend over for dinner recently, which if you know me personally, you already know, gave me an excuse to bake. I had Strawberries in the fridge (it was a tad too early for the local varietals, though I have harvested 2 syrupy sweet strawberries from my garden this week), but a perusal of the garden during another round of Spinach picking yielded several spears of bright red Rhubarb.  I finely sliced the Rhubarb (just the stems folks, this temptress of a plant has poisonous leaves!) and Strawberries and set them in a colander doused with sugar and a bit of lemon rind to extract all the liquid I could and then pressed them into a handmade tart shell and popped it into the oven.  I made a glaze from the reserved juices by heating them with a small bit of gelatin, waited for the tart to cool, brushed on the glaze, and garnished with a few twists of lemon rind. We enjoyed it and the clear night by our roaring outdoor firepit, topped with a scoop of Tillamook Vanilla Bean.  It was even better for breakfast the next day.

Here's my stab at the recipe.  Don't hold me to it.  I'm a 'little bit of this, little bit of that' kind of girl.  It's not what you think.

Pate Brisee Tart Dough

1 cup unsalted butter (cold - this is key)

2 1/2 cups flour

1 tspn salt

1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water

Cut up cold butter into small cubes (I aim for 16 from one stick).  Mix salt into flour.  Toss in salted flour and work with your fingertips as little as possible to blend in the flour.  Don't fuss about getting even crumbles- it's fine to have some sandy bits and some chunky bits- that's what makes the crust flaky.

Mix in cold water, just enough to pull the butter and flour mixture together, and quickly mound together until it just holds.  Don't overwork the dough.  If it doesn't look perfect that's totally fine, you can patch it up with a little water once in the shell.  If you have time, chill the dough in the refrigerator before rolling (wrap tightly in plastic wrap).  Overnight is fine if you want to prepare in advance, but even 30 minutes helps.

Now it's time to roll out the dough.  If you've made the recipe as above, reserve half the dough and freeze.  You'll only need half to the tart shell.  I use a pastry rolling sheet or this fancy wood contraption covered with pastry fabric that aids in getting the rolled out dough off the board (it splits in half), but even a cold granite countertop will suffice (if needed) with flour dusted on it. Dust flour on the rolling surface, and quickly (this is all about working the dough as little as possible), roll out the dough into a shape that will accommodate your pan.  I've used a 10 inch square tart shell but a slightly different size or shape would be fine.  Once rolled out, fold the dough over your hand for easy transporting into the shell.  Press into the shell and trim off any excess.

Relax. The hard part is over.  If you're all about ease, buy a premade tart shell, but it's not going to be quite the same.  Something about a homemade crust that makes the dessert for me. Try it once.

The Filling

Several stalks of Rhubarb depending on thickness - ideally about 1 1/2 cups once sliced (diced or thin diagonals, just make sure thickness is consistent and not more than 1/2 inch)

Strawberries, hulled, sliced in quarters (more if large)- about 1 1/2 cups

1/4 cup sugar (I prefer unrefined)

1 tspn lemon zest

Mix Rhubarb and Strawberries in a colander set over a bowl with sugar and zest.  Allow to sit for at least 10 minutes to extract excess juices.  Be sure to reserve the drained off juice.  It's delicious as a glaze later.  In case you're wondering, we're extracting juices so you don't have a soggy tart and both fruits are quite watery.  Ideally do the fruit first so it can sit while you make the tart shell.

Layer fruit mixture into the prepared tart shell.  If you're feeling gluttonous, spread a few dabs of butter on top.

Bake at 350 degrees until the fruit juices just begin to bubble - generally 25-35 minutes.  Set aside to cool.  While cooling make the a glaze with the reserved juices by adding a small bit of gelatin (1/2 tspn).  Let the gelatin soften by sitting on top of the juices for 5 minutes.  Then heat over low-medium heat until the mixture noticeably thickens.  Brush or drizzle the glaze on the tart once it reaches room temperature.

Serve with ice cream or a whipped cream with a bit of lemon zest (or bourbon if you're a real tart :)

Note: You can guarantee a non soggy tart if you add a small bit of tapioca to the fruit mixture.  Don't go nuts, 1 tablespoon is plenty.  This will help 'gel' it all together, but the texture will be different than without it.

Bonus: This recipe makes 2 tart shells or a top and a bottom for a traditional pie.  If you have extra, gently coerce into a round or square, cover tightly in plastic wrap, and freeze in a freezer bag.  Defrost in the refrigerator for the next use.  Use within 6 months.

Happy Rhubarb eating ! In about a week I'll have another round to harvest so I may try out a more savory route like this (thank you Lila for the post):

http://threetoone.wordpress.com/2011/06/12/shaved-rhubarb-salad/

This was also delicious (I substituted the sour cream for greek yogurt and used half the butter and added 3 ounces of half and half):

http://www.finecooking.com/recipes/cinnamon-rhubarb-muffins.aspx