Thursday, June 3, 2010

Nick Malgieri's Rhubarb and Orange Tart


I've taken long enough with this post that rhubarb is just about out of season. Just about, but maybe not completely. I think, though, this recipe, from Nick Malgieri's How To Bake, is so neat and adaptable that it may not matter. Other, more seasonable fruits may inspire you.

I originally made this for Easter, in an effort to find an alternative to strawberry rhubarb pie, a family favorite that I--heretically--find a bit too sweet. And while this tart isn't actually that, um, tart, at least the sugar that's needed to take the edge off of the rhubarb doesn't end up in the final product. Rather, the rhubarb is very gently candied in syrup and the syrup is drained off (the better to make fancy cocktails or sweeten iced tea with). Not only does that keep things from getting too sweet, it also, as Malgieri points out, keeps the richly orange-scented custard nice and creamy since it's not watered down by rhubarb juices.

The whole thing comes together with a crumb topping. Lovely as it tasted, though (and the rhubarb and orange were really good together) it got me thinking about what else could be done with citrus- (or something else-) custard and lightly candied fruit. The nice thing about the how gently the fruit is candied/sugar poached is that it would work with all but the most delicate fruits. Sugar syrup is brought to the boil, and then the fruit is added off the heat. While the syrup cools, the fruit trades a bit of excess juice for just the right amount of light sweetness. So it might not work with, say, raspberries (though maybe it would) but I bet blueberries or cherries would be just perfect. Pair whatever fruit strikes your fancy with orange, lemon or even grapefruit zest in the custard, and you have a tart for all seasons.

CRUST

1 cup all purpose flour
3 tbsp sugar
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
4 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut up in small pieces
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together. Add the butter and pinch the butter into the dry ingredients quickly with your fingertips (or pulse it briefly in the food processor) until it's well combined. Add in the egg and mix with a fork. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and fold the dough 3 or 4 times, then form into a disc. Refrigerate for at least an hour.

FRUIT

1 to 1 1/2 lbs fresh rhubarb (or blueberries, or cherries or whatever) cleaned and cut into smallish pieces
1 cup sugar
2 cups water

Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a shallow pan large enough to hold the fruit as well. Remove the pan from the heat and add the fruit. Cover the pan and let it cool to room temperature. Drain the fruit well, saving the syrup for some other good purpose.

Preheat oven to 350

CUSTARD

2/3 cup heavy cream
scant 1/4 cup sugar
zest of 1 medium orange (or lemon or grapefruit or maybe ginger?)
1 tsp vanilla
4 egg yolks

Whisk the custard ingredients together. If you feel like making it extra smooth, strain it through a mesh strainer before adding the zest.

CRUMB TOPPING

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup white or brown sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 stick unsalted butter, melted

Combine dry ingredients. Stir in melted butter and combine. Form into a ball.

ASSEMBLY

Roll out the dough and line a 9-10 inch tart pan with it. Spread the fruit in the pan and pour the custard over it. Break the ball of crumbs into pieces and scatter them across the top.

Though it probably won't overflow, it's not a bad idea to put a cookie sheet underneath the tart pan. Bake the tart for 40 minutes or until the filling is set and the crumbs have browned.

1 comment:

maplematt said...

I'd love to see a cross section of this tart with the fruit and custard layers overlain by the crumb topping. It sure reads good and to be honest, I'm not a big fan of rhubarb (too many soggy, sweet midwestern rhubarb desserts as a kid?) but this method of sweetening rhubarb might be the ticket to finding the right place for rhubarb in my dessert repertoire.