Friday, June 24, 2011
This recipe calls for only a few ingredients and takes less than 10 minutes to prepare. It has many uses: An ice cream, tapioca, or Greek yogurt topping, as a spread on waffles or toast, and as a filling for crepes. It could also be interested on roast pork. It's sweet, tart, and tastes like early summer. I slightly adapted Grandpa Fred's recipe, as written in his own hand, adding some lemon zest for its brightness.
For just over 1 pint (2 cups) of sauce, you will need:
1 quart (4 cups) rhubarb, cleaned, not peeled, all leaves removed, and cut into 1/2 inch pieces.
1/2 cup water
1 to 1 1/4 cups sugar, depending on your desired sweetness
1 teaspoon Angostura Aromatic Bitters, to cut the sweetness and add some depth of flavor
Zest of one small lemon
A few drops of red or pink food color, optional (I was skeptical about this at first, but it really did made the sauce look more appealing.)
Put the water and sugar into a large saucepan over high heat. Dissolve the sugar for a minute or two, then add the rhubarb pieces. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium. Cook for 5-10 minutes, watching carefully and stirring occasionally. (Cooking time will depend on the thickness of your rhubarb stalks.) When the rhubarb is tender, remove from heat immediately and stir in the lemon zest and bitters. The rhubarb will go from undercooked to disintegrated in a matter of minutes, so if you want a chunkier sauce, remove from heat when your rhubarb is still slightly al dente and place the saucepan in a bowl of ice water to cool. You can also puree the rhubarb into a smooth sauce, if desired. Serve warm or at room temperature.
I recently started a new job, and with everything that was going on, I thought I'd missed this year's rhubarb! Rhubarb season comes and goes in a flash and coincides with the first crop of strawberries in late spring. It does well when the weather stays in the 70's and 80's...once it reaches 90 degrees, like it has in New York the past few weeks, the rhubarb wilts and the season is usually over. So yesterday, I was very happy to discover a vendor at the Union Square Greenmarket who still had some fresh rhubarb. (I also discovered that it keeps really well in the fridge - I had some in my vegetable drawer for over two weeks before I was able to get to it, and it stayed firm and crisp.)
Strawberries and rhubarb make a perfect sweet/tart paring. I wanted to put together an easy, casual dessert to show off the tangy rhubarb to its best advantage, and a rustic tart seemed like the perfect choice. "Rustic" means that the tart doesn't use a pie plate or tart pan. You simply roll out the dough, pile on the fruit, fold the edges of the dough back towards the center, and bake on a cookie sheet. (By the way, you can easily make this tart on a pizza stone, in your oven or on a gas grill in the summertime.)
Because the fruit is so delicious, I wanted a crust that tasted good, but was sturdy enough to hold in the rhubarb's copious amount of juice that cooks out during baking. (It's so disappointing to a eat a pie featuring delicious fresh fruit in a tough and flavorless crust!) Cream cheese adds flavor to pie crust, but it tends to make the dough very delicate and lacks flakiness. So in my crust research, I came upon Rose Levy Beranbaum's amazing Flaky Cream Cheese Pie Crust on Epicurious.com. Rose has combined the the delicious flavor of a cream cheese dough and the sturdiness of a typical pâte brisée or shortcrust made with butter and/or shortening, flour, and water. (If you're not familiar with Rose Levy Beranbaum, I highly recommend her The Pie and Pastry Bible. She is the queen of baking chemistry, her recipes are well-tested, and she explains her methods in great, but highly accessible, detail.) I adapted Rose's recipe to fit the needs of this tart and my penchant for simplicity, but the inspiration is Rose's.
NOTE: Because Rhubarb has so much water, a rustic tart with no pan support won't be able to contain a great amount of fruit. Too much filling, and you'll have massive spillover onto the floor of your oven and a soggy crust. If you would like a juicier dessert with more fruit filling, simply double the below filling recipe to make a "rustic pie." You will need to use a 9" or 10" pie plate under the crust to support the weight of the fruit.
For the CRUST of a 10" rustic tart or an 8"-9" inch pie, you will need:
8 tablespoons, or 1 stick, unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 1/2 inch cubes, and put in the freezer until ready to use.
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
3 oz cold cream cheese, cut into 1/2 inch cubes and chilled in freezer for up to 1/2 hour before using
1 1/2 tablespoons ice water
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons sugar, plus more for dusting
Combine the ice water and lemon juice and set aside in the fridge to chill. Pour the flour into a large mixing bowl. Add the sugar, baking powder, and salt, and mix well. Add the chilled cream cheese and butter cubes, toss in the flour, and, working quickly, break apart the pieces of fat with your fingers until you have a mixture the texture of raw oats. Spring the lemon juice and ice water over the flour mixture and stir and squeeze the dough with your hands a few times until the dough holds together when you press it firmly. The dough will be crumbly, and that's ok. However, if it doesn't hold together easily when you press firmly, sprinkle on a bit more water with your fingertips. Dump the crumbly dough on a large piece of plastic wrap and, using the plastic wrap to help you, form a tight ball of dough, then flatten into a disk shape. Pop into the freezer until you're ready to roll it out. If you can let it chill for an hour or more, all the better.
To fill one rustic tarte (double this recipe for a rustic pie), you will need:
1 1/2 cups trimmed rhubarb (Look for bright red, sturdy, plump stalks. Stay away from any that are limp or dried out.
8 oz (1/2 of a 1lb box) strawberries, hulled and halved.
3/4 cup sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch (if doubling the filling recipe for a pie, use 1/3 cup cornstarch)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
Put the strawberry halves and rhubarb pieces in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle on the sugar and gently toss until coated. Add the zest, cinnamon, salt, and cornstarch, and toss again. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
On a well-floured surface, roll out your pie crust into a rough circle until it's about 1/4 inch thick. It should be about 14 inches across. Using your well-floured rolling pin, gently transfer the dough to a cookie sheet covered with a large piece of parchment paper. If there are holes or tears in your dough, simply patch them up. Dump the filling into the center of your circle of dough and spread it out in an even circle 9-10" circle, about 4 inches from the edge of the dough. Sprinkle the filling generously with a couple of tablespoons of sugar. Fold the edges of the dough in towards the fruit, and sprinkle everything with another 1-2 tablespoons of sugar.
Put the tart on the center rack of your oven, and put a large piece of tin foil on a lower rack in case of spillover. Check your tart after 45 minutes. Rhubarb should be tender, and the crust deeply golden, which should take between 50 minutes to 1 hour. Remove from oven, sprinkle with another tablespoon or so of granulated sugar, and allow to cool to room temperature before serving to allow the filling to set.