Last time I went to the allotment, our neighbor, a gardening veteran, kindly asked whether I would like some rhubarb. I couldn’t help laughing because the 15 odd plants in our garden are enough even for me and my passion for the red stalks. But the guy replied that then I’m clearly not eating enough of it. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t read my blog because anyone who does, could hardly accuse me of not eating enough rhubarb. I would rather expect them (you) to complain about my not being able to shut up about it. But rhubarb is a very seasonal fruit/vegetable and in just a few weeks it will be time to move on to other produce and then I won’t mention it till at least April 2014.
Because rhubarb is one of the few things that come fresh from the garden at the moment, it’s lucky it is so versatile. It can be breakfast, it can be a homey tea time treat, but it can be elegant, too.
This tart with the golden crisp crust + white cream cheese filling + pretty red rhubarb is definitely worthy of crowning a dinner party.
I changed the recipe somewhat, mainly reducing the sugar in the filling and fat in the pastry (yes, there was a lot more) and using more rhubarb (we need to use up this rhubarb, you know). Nobody eating it could ever think that it was in any way lacking. In fact it was so good, I am currently plotting another dinner party just to have a reason to make it again.
For dinner parties, the rule is to get all you can done in advance. I made the pastry the evening before, baked the tart shell and the rhubarb in the morning, then prepared the cream-cheese filling. All I had to do before dinner was assemble the tart and that was easy enough.
Rhubarb cream cheese tart
Adapted from Nigella Lawson: How to Be a Domestic Goddess: Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking
For the filling:
750 g (1 pound 10 ounces) rhubarb (trimmed weight)
150 g (¾ cup) sugar
150 g (1 cup ) all-purpose flour
1 tbsp sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 tbsp grated orange zest
100 g (7 tbsp) cold unsalted butter, diced
3 tbsp creme fraiche (or cold heavy cream) to bind
For the glaze:
6 tbsp reserved rhubarb juice
200 g (7 ounces) cream-cheese
125 ml (½ cup) cold cream
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp rum
Preheat oven to 185 degrees Celsius (375F). Cut rhubarb into 2 cm (¾ inch ) pieces and place in a shallow ovenproof dish. Pour the sugar over the rhubarb and mix so that the sugar is evenly distributed. Cover with foil and bake for about 40 minutes, or until tender. Take the rhubarb out and put a baking sheet in the oven. Let rhubarb cool, then strain the juice.
Meanwhile, make the pastry (this can also be done in advance). In a medium bowl, mix the dry ingredients. Add butter and rub with your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Bind with creme fraiche and form into a disk. Wrap in foil and chill for at least 20 minutes. Roll the dough out on a floured surface and line a 24 cm (10 inch) fluted tart pan with it. Put the pan in the refrigerator for another 20 minutes.
Remove from the refrigerator and line with foil. Fill the pastry shell with dried (or baking) beans and put in the oven. Bake for 15 minutes, then carefully remove the foil and beans and bake for another 5 minutes or until it’s golden.
In a small saucepan, boil the reserved juice until it thickens – it only takes minutes.
In a medium bowl, whisk the cream cheese to soften it, then add the cream and whip until it thickens slightly – do not overbeat though, you want it to be voluptuous. Add sugar and rum and stir until reaching a mascarpone-like consistency. Fill the tart shell with the cream-cheese mixture, top with the rhubarb and drizzle the reduced juice on to.