I love rhubarb. And so does my son. And since I was going to his for Sunday lunch, I offered to make a Rhubarb Tart for dessert. Last week, after I’d found some rhubarb in Whole Foods, I made a crumble. But this week my son was barbecuing some steak and making a salsa verde to accompany it with roasted new potatoes and a rocket salad, so something a little more sophisticated than a crumble felt in order. [And that’s why I said I made a ‘dessert’ rather than a ‘pudding’!] Anyway, one of my favourite treats to buy in our local Paul Bakery is their Rhubarb Tart and I’d been thinking for a while that I should make one myself – so I did!
When I was a child growing up in Kent, we had a huge clump of rhubarb growing in the garden and I can still picture pulling it up – a great big tug! -and then washing it, chopping it and cooking it. It’s very versatile, you can make pies and crumbles, rhubarb fool, and here on the blog I’ve made ice cream with it and a gorgeous Rhubarb & Almond Cake. One of the things I love about it – apart from its lovely tart taste – is that it’s seasonal. It’s so nice to still have some foods that have a season! Generally you’ll only find it from about April until September if you’re buying the ‘field’ variety – that grown outdoors, like in my childhood garden. However, the delicate and delicious ‘forced rhubarb’ is available from about December until March.
This is really another version of the Tarte aux Abricots I made a couple of years ago. I used the same Crème Patissière recipe but a slightly less sweet shortcrust pastry from my Simple French Apple Tart recipe. I love these French-style fruit tarts, sometimes with the crème patissière underneath the fruit, sometimes with fruit purée on the bottom, or just layers of fruit. I used to be a big dessert/pudding fan, often making extravagant rich, cream-filled concoctions, but my tastes have changed a lot and I now prefer something simpler and less rich … well, unless it’s cream in the form of gelato or a Tiramisu 😉
I made the tart in the morning, ready to take over for a late lunch. You wouldn’t want to serve it hot or even, I think, warm. It should definitely be cooled but served at room temperature, not straight from the fridge. I’ve been using some Sharpham’s Park Heritage Flour a lot for its nutty, wholesome flavour and made the pastry with it. It tasted good but was quite crumbly and the tart started to break up as I was removing it from its baking tin, so I left it on the base. If I was making this again and wanted it to look a bit posh on a nice plate, I would use ordinary flour – or their simple plain white spelt flour, which is my go-to flour.
- 500g rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 2.5cm pieces
- 2 dessertspoons caster sugar
- 225g plain flour
- 140g butter
- 1 tablespoon icing sugar
- 1 egg yolk
- a little water
- 3 egg yolks
- 30g caster sugar
- 2 rounded teaspoons custard powder (or cornflour)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla paste
- 250ml milk
Wash the rhubarb, trim the ends and cut into roughly 2.5cm (1 inch) pieces. Put in a bowl and sprinkle over the caster sugar. Mix with hands and leave the rhubarb to macerate while you make the pastry.
Once the pastry is made (see below), lay the rhubarb with any residual sugar on a baking tray and put in a preheated 200C/180 Fan/Gas 6 oven for about 15 minutes or until tender – test with the tip of a sharp knife; it should easily go through but the rhubarb pieces still be intact.
Leave to cool. Keep the tray once you’ve transferred the rhubarb to the flan case later as the juice will make an excellent glaze for the tart at the end.
To make the pastry put all the ingredients in a food processor and blitz until it all comes together in a ball. Remove, wrap in cling film and leave in a cool place for about 15 minutes, or while the rhubarb cooks.
Grease a 24cm loose-bottomed flan case. Roll out the pastry and line the tin. Scrunch up some greaseproof paper and put it gently over the pastry. Pour in some baking beans if you have them, or some dried beans. When the rhubarb comes out of the oven and is left to cool, put the pastry case in. Cook for just 5 minutes, take out and remove the paper and beans, then pop back in for another 5 minutes to dry out the base.
Make the crème patissière: Put the egg yolks in a bowl with the sugar and whisk until the mixture is thick, pale and creamy.
Add the custard powder (this helps stablise the mixture so it doesn’t separate when you cook it) and vanilla. Whisk again. Heat the milk until you see bubbles at the edge and it’s hot but not boiling. Pour carefully over the egg mixture, beating all the while. Now tip back into a clean pan and over a medium heat, stirring all the time, bring to the boil and it will thicken nicely. If at any time it goes lumpy, just remove from the heat and beat well until it’s smooth again. You want a nice thick custard. Leave to cool a bit before putting in the flan case.
Tip the crème patissière into the flan case and smooth over.
Lay the cooked rhubarb carefully over the top. Don’t press down but just sit each piece on the custard. I didn’t worry too much about making a beautiful pattern – I just wanted to fit on as many pieces of the rhubarb as I could and in fact nearly used them up. The couple of pieces left over were cook’s treat – straight into my mouth! Return to the oven and cook for about 20 minutes until starting to go a pale golden colour at the edges. Paint the pieces of rhubarb with the leftover juices – or melt a little jam for a glaze.
I went over to my son’s mid-afternoon. With two young boys (and a baby), we tend to eat at a time that might be termed ‘late lunch’ or ‘early supper’. There’d been a little rain earlier and it was quite chilly, but then it warmed up and the sun shone on their south-facing patio making it warm enough to eat outside. Jonathan had bought two huge rump steaks which he barbecued and served with a fabulous salsa verde. I’m not totally sure of the ingredients but there were lots herbs (parsley, tarragon, basil, mint), garlic, capers, anchovies, red wine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. Whatever it was, it was great and gave a brilliant flavour to the meat.
We had a bit of a gap before dessert while the baby was fed and the two older boys ran off some steam in the garden. They rushed to sit down again when the dessert was brought out. I served it with just some single pouring cream.
Apart from the crumbling pastry, which I was trying not to mind too much about, the tart was gorgeous. The slightly tart but tender rhubarb had a delicious flavour and was matched perfectly with the sweet creaminess of the crème patissière. We all loved it. The boys, Freddie (6) and Ben (3) wanted seconds … there wasn’t much left by the end … total success.