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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.

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