The vibrant pink of rhubarb is popping out of food blogs/Instagram/pinterest left, right and centre at this time of year. So why is it that when cooked at home it invariably becomes an, albeit tasty, brownish mush? That was more often than not the case for me, anyway.
The secret of a beautiful rhubarb creation is forced rhubarb. Forced rhubarb, grown in the dark and most famously produced in the rhubarb triangle of West Yorkshire, has a gloriously pink colour with a white centre. Unforced rhubarb, or field grown, usually has a green centre though this will depend on the exact variety. As we all know, red + green = brown, so when stewed, the green centres combines with the red exterior to turn brown.
If you can only get field grown rhubarb, it is possible to retain a vibrant colour. If you hunt out red stems, and lightly poach them so that they hold their shape, they should retain their colour. I’m lucky enough to have both kinds in the garden at home, but it is reasonably easy to find rhubarb in supermarkets at this time of the year.
This tart really is a spring dessert treat – the perfect combination of buttery shortcrust pastry (a Julie Jones recipe –check her out on Instagram or her recipe book, you won’t regret it), sweet almondy frangipane and sharp rhubarb.
When I was thinking about making this tart on Sunday afternoon, I felt like I almost couldn’t be bothered. The thought of making pastry and frangipane from scratch? TOO much work. As soon as I kicked myself into gear, however, I remembered just how easy it was to make both pastry and frangipane. SO easy. So if you’re looking at this recipe, thinking, I’m not sure I’m up to this – please give it a try. I am certain you will surprise yourself – and you will have the added bonus of gloating over your 100% homemade creation!
This makes a round 8” tart. I used an 8” loose-bottomed cake tin with straight sides to make my tart.
For the sweet shortcrust pastry
(This actually makes double what you need, so you can freeze half to make it even easier next time you make a tart)
230 g plain flour
125 g unsalted butter, chilled and diced
50g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
1 egg yolk
2 tbsp milk
50g ground almonds
75g softened unsalted butter
½ tsp baking powder
100g caster sugar
1 large egg
25g plain flour
Start off by making the pastry as this will need to chill for around an hour.
I always make my pastry in a food processor. Firstly, it is really quick. Secondly, it is easier not to overwork the dough. Thirdly it’s not nearly so messy.
Put the flour and butter in the food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Then add the egg yolk, milk and vanilla and pulse again until the mixture starts coming together. Tip the dough out onto the work surface, and knead until the dough comes together into a ball. Flatten this ball out to about 2 cm thick (this will make it easier when you come to roll it out), wrap in cling film and leave to rest for an hour in the fridge.
After about 45 minutes, preheat the oven to 190°C (fan). After the full hour of chilling, take the pastry out of the fridge. Leave it for about 10 minutes at room temperature, as this makes it easier to roll out. Roll the pastry out into a round about the thickness of a pound coin. Turn the pastry regularly whilst doing this to stop it from sticking to the work surface.
To get your pastry into the tin, place your rolling pin in the middle of the pastry, and wrap half the pastry back over it to make a semicircle. Put the tin/tart dish next to the pastry, then unfold the pastry back over the tin. Gently press the pastry into the corners of the tin and trim of any excess. Don’t worry about doing this too neatly, as you can re trim it after blind baking.
Prick the base all over with a fork. To line the pastry for blind baking, I like to use scrunched up greaseproof paper. Take a piece of greaseproof paper, scrunch it into a ball, then unscrunch it. You’ll find now that it takes the shape of the tart case easily. On top of the greaseproof, pour on baking beans (or uncooked lentils/rice). Bake for 15 minutes.
After this time, take the beans and greaseproof out and push down any air bubbles in the pastry. At this point you can also neaten up the edges, the pastry is still flexible but probably won’t change shape anymore in the oven (carefull though, as it will be HOT). Bake the unlined case for another 5-10 minutes until dry. When cool, remove the cake carefully from the cake tin.
Whilst the case is cooling, make the frangipane. This is the easiest step: beat all ingredients together using an electric whisk until light and fluffy.
I cut all my stems in half lengthways, so one side was red and the other white. If you don’t fancy chevrons, you can easily lay the rhubarb out in stripes or any design you like. If you do want to make the chevrons, I used an isometric grid to get the angles right. An isometric grid has vertical lines and diagonal lines at 30° and 300°. You can easily find one of these online and print off. Line the rhubarb up with the diagonal lines and cut one end off in line with a vertical line (1). Work out how long you want your chevrons to be (eg 6 triangles long) then cut the other end in line with a vertical line (2). You’ll need to do half each way for both the red and the white (3). Hopefully the picture below will help with this step.
If your rhubarb isn’t perfectly straight, and it is interfering with your design, you can poach it for a couple of minutes in some simmering sugar water which will make it a bit more flexible.
Spread the frangipane evenly across the tart base. Then, lay your rhubarb across the top in your desired pattern. I used a sharp knife and scissor to trim the edges of the rhubarb so the lined up with the edge of the tart.
Bake at 180°C (fan) for 30-40 minutes. You should start to see the frangipane rising up through the cracks in the rhubarb.
This tart goes perfectly with a big dollop of crème fraiche. Delicious!