Rhubarb tarts

Finally, there’s something else to harvest from the allotment other than weeds: rhubarb! I blanched one plant by covering it with a black bucket and it was ready for harvest on Sunday. Every year I carefully consider the first rhubarb recipe of the season, but this year there was little competition: like many before me I fell hard for these free-form rhubarb tarts from Kim Boyce’s brilliant cookbook “Good to the Grain, baking with Whole-Grains”.

And now I can testify that they’re not only really pretty, but also really delicious. The dough that gets its golden color from cornflour is (though barely sweet) delicious on its own (and Kim Boyce suggests baking it as cookies too), but is just perfect with rhubarb. I did not change much, but substituted the suggested hibiscus flowers in the compote with orange zest. I did not have any hibiscus and knew that orange offsets rhubarb perfectly. Also, for the benefit of those preferring scales to cups, I added weights.

Rhubarb tarts

Adapted from Kim Boyce: Good to the Grain
Makes 10 individual tarts

120 g (1 cup) corn flour
150 g (1 cup) all-purpose flour
70 g (1/2 cup) fine cornmeal
50 g (1/4 cup) sugar
1 teaspoon Kosher or coarse salt
115 g (4 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1 cm (½ inch) pieces
90 ml (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) heavy cream (I did not have any and used whole milk)
2 egg yolks
1 batch Rhubarb Compote (recipe below)

Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl. Add the butter and bland it into the flour using your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Add the cream and egg yolks and mix until combined.

This dough is best shaped right after making, as it hardens when refrigerated. If the dough is chilled first, let it come to room temperature before shaping.

To shape the tarts, 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. For more elegant edges, gently flatten the outer edge of the circle with your fingertips, making it thinner than the rest of the dough. (I confess that after shaping 2 tarts in this fashion, I just got the rolling-pin and rolled the rest out into a circle – seemed a lot faster to me and they still looked plenty rustic, but do as you please).

Spoon ¼ cup of the Rhubarb Compote into the center of the dough. Fold the edge of the dough toward the compote and up, to create a ruffled edge. Slide a bench scraper or spatula under the tart and transfer it to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Continue with the remaining dough. Freeze the tarts on their tray for at least 1 hour or up to 2 weeks, wrapped tightly in plastic. (Since I don’t have a freezer, I just put them in the fridge for about 2 hours – it seemed to be enough).

Preheat oven to 185°C (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. (Because my tarts weren’t frozen, they were ready after 25 minutes). Serve warm or at room temperature. The tarts keep in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

Rhubarb Compote

1 kg (2 pounds) rhubarb stalks
250 g (1 ¼ cup) dark brown sugar
zest of 1 orange, finely grated

Rinse the rhubarb stalks and trim the very ends. Unless they’re very slender, cut them in half lengthwise and then on the diagonal into 2 cm (3/4-inch) chunks. You ‘ll have about 6 cups. Set aside about 1/3 (2 cups) of the rhubarb and put the rest of the rhubarb into a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Add the brown sugar and orange zest and turn the heat to medium low. (You want to start at a low temperature to encourage the rhubarb to release its liquid.) Cook the rhubarb mixture, covered, for about 15 minutes, or until the mixture is saucy. Remove the cover and increase the heat to medium, cooking an additional 15 to 17 minutes, or until the rhubarb is completely broken down and thick enough that a spoon leaves a trail at the bottom of the pan. Add remaining rhubarb chunks to the compote. Pour the compote out onto a large plate to cool.

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