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critics choice rhubarb curd tartlets

June 14, 2013

tartlet collage 2013bFor last weekend’s annual Rhubarb Bake-Off at Kingfield Farmers Market, I was determined to again enter something that lets the rhubarb sing. (Sorry strawberries. You’re delicious, but you chew scenery better than the original Captain Kirk.) Our new favorite rhubarb sweet, rhubarb curd shortbread, served as a jumping off point for something more dainty for this year’s entry: the rhubarb curd tartlet.

That was the idea at least. After three failed attempts at tartlet shells, and 2 near misses with a tassie shell recipe, I was about ready to call it quits.  The very last place I looked for some guidance was an actual “Book of Tarts.” A book that has been sitting in my cookbook collection for nearly twenty years… As it turns out, I should have started with Chef Rubin. A quick google of his tart shell recipe will tell you everything you need to know. It’s been vetted by Martha, called a miracle, and flawless. Better yet? It’s described as EASY and doesn’t call for a food processor. You could even work it with (gasp!) your warm hands if you wanted to! And the butter? The butter SITS OUT for 15 minutes before you get started. This. This, is my type of crust recipe. As it turns out, it also laid the groundwork for this year’s Rhubarb Bake-Off’s “Critic’s Choice.” Thanks Chef Ireland! (I love your restaurant, and am still a bit giddy that my little tart got some priase from you.)

rhubarb curd tartlets with a dot of caramelized rhubarb sauce

rhubarb curd adapted from the amazing Food 52′s rhubarb curd shortbread recipe 
tartlet shell adapted from the genius “Book of Tarts”
caramelized rhubarb adapted from Martha’s recipe

for the rhubarb curd:

step 1

  • 3/4 pounds rhubarb (about 3 cups), washed, trimmed and diced
  • 1/4 C water
  • 1/4 C sugar
step 2
  • 6 pullet* egg yolks (or 4, if you are working with standard, large eggs)
  • 1/3 C plus 1/8 C sugar
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon zest
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp butter

STEP 1: Put rhubarb, water and sugar in a small saucepan. Stirring often, heat over medium until the rhubarb is falling apart, with no whole pieces left. When the rhubarb mixture is completely cooked out, take off heat, puree with an immersion blender and set aside.

STEP 2: The next step of the recipe calls for a double boiler, but don’t let not having one stop you. I use a medium pot with a few inches of water & my favorite Le Creuset saucier. Put a few inches of water over to boil. While your’e waiting for the water to boil, add all of the “step 2′ ingredients to the pan and whisk to combine. When water boils, reduce heat to simmer and put the pan on top of it. Continue whisking. When the sugar has completely dissolved, slowly add in the rhubarb mixture (one spoonful at a time) while you’re still whisking. After all of the rhubarb is incorporated, keep whisking until the mixture begins to thicken (4 – 6 minutes). At that point, take it off the heat. keep whisking as it cools down a bit. Tranfer it to a fridge safe bowl and cover with plastic wrap (put the plastic wrap right against the curd, just like you would if you were making pudding and didn’t want the skin to form).

NOTE ON CURDS & SIEVES… To sieve or not to sieve? At this point, the recipe calls for passing the mixture through a sieve to get a pudding-y texture. I’ll be honest. I haven’t used one since the first time I tried the recipe. It steals too much of the curd, and vexes me no end with how long it takes to get said curd through said sieve. I’ve been quite successfully at creating silky smooth curd with only the immersion blender for step 1 & obsessive whisking in step 2. But if it looks like your curd has lumps, and you have the patience for it, by all means sieve away.

NOTE ABOUT THE PULLET EGGS: This spring we’ve been fortunate to source local pullet eggs (eggs from chickens that are under a year old and still getting the hang of the whole egg laying thing) from both Sunshine Harvest Farm & Waxwing Farm. To say that those little egg yolks pack an extra rich punch is an understatement. I will miss them when they’re gone.

Chef Rubin’s tart dough

  • 13 TBSP butter, cut into tablespoon sized pieces
  • 1/3 C powdered sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 TBSP heavy cream

Cut the butter into tablespoon sized pieces and sit out at room temp for 15 minutes or so.

Put the powdered sugar in the bowl of your stand mixer. Add the butter and toss them in the powerdered sugar until they are evenly coated. Using the paddle attachment, combine the sugar and butter (medium speed), until the sugar and butter are completely incorporated.

Scrape with the bowl and add the egg yolk. Mix again until you can’t see the yolk any longer.

Scrape down the bowl again. Add half of the flour, and mix until the dough is crumbly.

Add the remaining flour, then the cream. Mix until the dough forms into a sticky mass.

Take the dough out and form it into a thick disk. Wrap it in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. (Don’t skimp on this part. The dough should be a uniform temperature before you start to roll it out)

Prep your tart pan by lightly buttering it. (in lieu of an actual set of mini tart pans, I used a mini muffin tin. This recipe makes enough dough for 2 pans.)

After your two hours are up, take the crust dough out and roll it into a 10″ log. Cut it in half, rewrap and rechill for 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375°

Working with one piece at a time, put the dough log onto a floured worksurface circle side down. Squish it down, then roll it out to a 10″square. Using a cookie cutter (or in my case, a wine glass), cut out circles a bit bigger than your mini muffin cup holes. Poke a few fork holes in each circle, then gently form it into a muffin cups (if you have one, the mini tart shaper works really well). After you’ve cut as many circles as you can from that piece, gather the scraps, mash them together, refrigerate for 10 or 15 minutes (until they are cooled through enough to roll out again), and start all over again. Continue until all the muffin cups are filled. When the muffin pan is full, refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.

Bake for 8 -10 minutes (or until the tart cups are lightly browned).

Remove from the oven and let them cool completely before you begin to fill them. (if you need to save them from one day to the next, do so at room temp. DO NOT refrigerate them.)

caramelized rhubarb sauce

this recipe will make much more than you need as a flourish for the tarts. luckily, it goes with everything from Martha’s breakfast blintzes to morning toast with cheese.
  • 4 TBSP butter
  • 3/4 pounds rhubarb (about 3 cups), washed, trimmed and diced
  • 1/2 C sugar
  • 3 TBSP brandy
  • up to 2 TBSP honey

Fill your sink with a couple inches of ice and water (or use a large bowl if you have one)

Melt the butter in large saute pan (medium heat), then sprinkle the sugar over the butter and cook until the sugar has dissolved and starts to brown.

Add the rhubarb and stir to coat the rhbarb evenly with the caramelized sugar. Continue stirring and cook until the rhubarb is tender and starting to fall apart.

Add the brandy to pan, stir, and cook until liquid comes to a boil, about 30 seconds. At this point, taste and feel your way forward with the honey. Also, as we wanted a family friendly caramelized rhubarb, we cooked longer so the essence of the brandy was there without the alcoholic bite.

When the rhubarb sauce is to your liking, remove it from the heat, and transfer it to a small bowl. Set the bowl into the ice bath to prevent it from cooking further.

assembling the tarts:

Using a pastry bag, pipe the cold curd into the room temp shells and top with as big or small a dollop of the caramelized rhubarb sauce as you’d like.

March 10, 2013

It’s been a little quiet around here in part because we’ve been prepping for EJ’s trip to Senegal. A whirlwind two weeks abroad for him through USAID & the National Cooperative Business Association’s CLUSA program where he puts his grassroots organizing and outreach experience to work helping the farmers there engaged in conservation farming. He’s halfway through the trip now but with much left to accomplish in the coming days. This is probably my favorite of his week one dispatches from the field.

Senegal Dispatches

Day 3: Tuesday, 5 March 2013
Toubakouta, Fatick, Senegal

Simply put, one of the most extraordinary days of my life.

After breakfast, and after having accidentally put instant coffee in my yogurt mistaking it for brown sugar, I checked out and walked the few short blocks to the CLUSA offices. About an hour later, and having a migraine begin to emerge, we were picked up by the Wula Nafaa truck and taken to the their offices. We made a quick stop at the pharmacy were I got some sort of tablet. Not knowing it was for dissolving into water, I popped the giant tablet into my mouth and immediately felt it dissolving on my tongue. For the next few minutes I drank as much water as I could until it was gone. The headache never totally went away, but it was pushed way into the background during the days events.

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Tonight’s dinner

February 6, 2013


Homemade tomato soup & gnocchi with grated asiago. Good comfort food for a February night.

Breakfast for dinner tonight

January 30, 2013


A cold January night calls for a warm plate of baked Irish rice pudding. Hat tip to @ModernFarmette.

sugar and spice pumpkin seeds

October 24, 2012

I realized as I was looking at our growing list of pumpkin recipes that I gave a shout out to our all-time favorite seed recipe last year without circling back to share the recipe. (As it was one of the very first recipes that entered my binder* from the internet over a decade ago, it seemed only appropriate to place it back on the internet. full circle and all that jazz.)

sugar and spice pumpkin seeds

adapted from Martha’s Sweet & Spicy Pumpkin Seeds

  • 1.5 C pumpkin seeds
  • 8 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Line a jelly roll baking sheet with parchment paper.

Separate out the seeds from the innards of the roasting pumpkins you just prepped. (I’m partial to the two bowl method of rinsing seeds. Put the seed filled innards in a bowl and fill with water. The seeds will more or less float to the top (you may need to squeeze some free of their pumpkin entrails. If you have a kitchen spider skimmer – the utensil, not the arachnid – use that to skim up the seeds. The pumpkin guts will stick to the mesh, allowing you to easily transfer them to the second bowl. When you’ve got all of the seeds transferred to bowl 2, dump the guts in your mulch bin (or maybe feed it to the worms you are dying to adopt!), and rinse the bowl out. Fill bowl 2 with water and skim the seeds back into bowl 1 to make sure you’ve ditched all the stringy pumpkin.

Spread the seeds out evenly on the baking sheet.

Bake for about an hour, stirring occasionally.

Let the seeds cool while you assemble the spices. Put 5 tablespoons sugar, salt, cumin, cinnamon and ginger into a medium sized bowl.

Heat peanut oil in a large skillet over high heat.

Add pumpkin seeds and the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar.

Cook until sugar melts and pumpkin seeds begin to caramelize (a minute or so).

Transfer the seeds to the bowl with spices. Stir well to coat all of the seeds with the sugar and spice mixture.

Resist the temptation to pop one in your mouth until they’ve cooled.


* Bonus points to you if you now snicker (or roll your eyes) at the concept of someone having a binder. No matter your political stripe, I love you a bit more for paying attention to current events.

Recipe for Living

October 19, 2012

Yesterday started out miserably. Well, except for the part where I get to wake up next to my soul mate. But after she left for work and I began mine, I was constantly reminded of the change in my professional fortune over the past few years.


Riding upright to enjoy the scenery

Things began to look up with a webinar to sharpen my grant writing. Things improved further when I hopped on the bike for the 10 mile ride to the offices of the organization on whose board I sit. These meetings invigorate me. It is such a worthwhile organization that does so much good and is so unsung. A one hour Development Committee meeting and then the two hour Board meeting. I am humbled to be in the same room as my fellow board members. Every one of them committed to the cause and willing to truly work.


Find out more:

Finally, the meetings ended, I ride the 10 miles home in the dark. I love this too; riding at night exercises all of the senses — keeps them all alert. Like grapes on the vine that develop more complexity when stressed a bit, I arrive home feeling revitalized. It helps too that the first thing I see when I walk in is the aforementioned soul mate ensconced on the couch being creative.

The rest of the evening is spent together on that couch enagaged in the busy work we both need to do, whilst occasionally stealing glances and smiles at each other and holding hands when one isn’t needed for our chores.


This is how we roll.

That was the arc of the day. I am thankful that it ended on a higher plane than where it began.

prize winning pumpkin roll (with a bonus recipe for pumpkin spice syrup)

October 18, 2012

The people (of Kingfield Farmers Market) have spoken, and they loved it! (yay!)

The critic (Dan of Butter Bakery) weighed in with a positive review as well. (yay!!)

Those two things combined to make this next recipe a double winner at Kingfield’s season-ending bake-off! (Peter, of Peter’s Pumpkins even proclaimed it better than the beloved prize-winning pumpkin whoopie pies of 2010!) Not too shabby for a recipe I found and tried for the first time the day before the bake-off. If you’ve ever wanted to try your hand at a roll, I highly recommend this one. Beyond the perfection of cream cheese paired with pumpkin spice cake, the cake is actually a snap to roll, and is especially good straight out of the freezer. (hello, homemade dessert for last minute guests!)

pumpkin roll

adapted from this recipe
Cake Ingredients:
  • 3 eggs
  • 2/3 C pumpkin puree*
  • 1 tsp lemon juice, fresh squeezed
  • 1 C granulated sugar
  • 3/4 C flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg

Frosting Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 4 Tbsp butter, softened
  • 1 C powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste

To make the cake:

Preheat the oven to 375°

Sift together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger & nutmeg; set aside.

Beat eggs for at least 5 minutes (they should be light yellow and frothy).

Add pumpkin puree, lemon juice and sugar to the eggs & beat until combined.

Add dry ingredients & beat until combined (scrape down the sides of your bowl well).

Spread the batter evenly in a jelly roll pan lined with silpat or parchment paper.

Bake at 375° for 12-14 minutes. (Cake will spring back to the touch when it’s done.)

When the cake is done, flip it upside down & turn it out onto another piece of parchment paper. Remove the parchment from the exposed ‘bottom’ of the cake. Roll the cake up starting on the short side (I use a clean dish towel to wrap it in after it’s rolled into a log to help it keep that shape as it’s cooling).

While the cake is cooling, make the frosting by whipping together the cream cheese & butter, then adding the vanilla & powdered sugar.

When the cake is cool, carefully unroll it and spread the cream cheese filling evenly.

Roll the frostinged cake back up, and wrap it in plastic wrap.

Freeze overnight (the recipes differ here. many said it was sufficient to refrigerate for an hour. we much preferred it after being frozen).

To serve, unwrap & slice off the ends. Dust with powdered sugar.

Et voila!

* And now, a note about our feature ingredient, PUMPKIN!

All of the recipes I saw called for canned pumpkin. I’m sure canned pumpkin would make a fine version of this roll. I’d be remiss, however, if I didn’t put in a plug for roasting your own pumpkin (especially since one of the things that was praised over the weekend was the unmistakeable pumpkin taste). It’s incredibly easy, if a bit time consuming. It makes the house smell like the essence of autumn warmth, and yields MUCH better pumpkin flavor. (this can perhaps be tied to a trend of canned pumpkin being all kinds of squash other than actual pumpkin.) We covered roasting pumpkin last year, but it bears repeating.

It’s as easy as picking up a pie pumpkin or three (don’t use a carving pumpkin), scooping out the seeds, cutting it up and roasting it (preferably in a dutch oven so it steams instead of caramelizes) for 90 minutes at 350°. Easy peasy. For this go-round, we roasted three smallish pie pumpkins in the 6.75 quart dutch oven. It yielded nearly 4 cups of pumpkin & 2 cups of pumpkin juice. The one thing  we did differently this year was to let it strain through cheesecloth for an hour after we pureed it with the stick blender. This drains off a fair amount of liquid, and gives you a pumpkin puree closer in water content/consistency to store bought. As a bonus, you can use the liquid:

pumpkin spice syrup

  • 2 C roasted pumpkin juice
  • 2 C sugar
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp whole cloves

Combine pumpkin juice, sugar and spices in a saucepan. Heat over medium heat until boiling. boil for 1 minute. Take off heat and cool. Use to sweeten your hot caffeinated drink of choice. (I’m sure it would work for coffee, but so far we’ve only used it in tea).

What to do with the leftover pumpkin, you ask? Freeze in ziplocks in increments of your favorite pumpkin recipes for use throughout the winter!