rhubarb apple tart & tulips on the table
we all bring something to the table. what are our gifts? what of ourselves do we decide to grow and then share? what love language do we speak? do we learn to speak another’s? how well do we listen?
my husband learned years ago that i love flowers. in the beginning he would order elaborate flower arrangements (full to overflowing) and have them delivered to the door. then, somewhere along the line, he learned i like simple, and all of one thing. and now, he brings me bundles wrapped in paper, wound with string, carried in his own man arms. and sometimes, after days away, blooms are there, welcoming me home again.
if you’ve been with me awhile, you’ve heard of my fear of pie. (more truly, it was fear of a colossal-y failed crust.) i’ve done truly brave things in my life (i’ll even cop to a “reckless” act or two) but pie crust? why and how this fear (irrational to begin with) grew to be such a beast, you might guess. but for years i steered clear of the rolling pin. then, only fairly recently, i decided to stand toe to toe with that tiger, stare unflinching into his golden eyes.
that tiger walks beside me now, purring like a kitten. and finally (and this is reason enough to take on a tiger) i can make my love his apple pie.
Apple Rhubarb Tart
I’ve shared my recipe for a tart shell in an earlier post. (see French Lemon Tart if you want to be tempted!) I’ll include the crust recipe here too, at the end of the post. I’d like to be humble about this, but after years of being humble, to finally be proud seems like something worthy of sharing. So here’s the un-softened, un-humble truth. This crust is a.w.e.s.o.m.e.
A word about the filling: I grew up eating and loving rhubarb. To me, it’s a thing of spring. So as a base for this pie is a thick rhubarb “compote” of sorts – the liquid cooked out of it and nothing but the essence of the fruit remaining, lightly sweetened, imbued with the scented seeds from a vanilla pod and touched with a hint of cardamon. Apples, rolled in melted butter and brown sugar twirl across the top. Serve as is, warm from the oven, with or without ice-cream or crème fraîche. Or serve it chilled. It’s not too sweet for brunch or tea.
- 1 pound rhubarb stalks
- 2/3 cup dark brown sugar or muscavado
- 1/3 vanilla bean
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 2 apples – Granny Smith or Pink Lady are good (or any other apple that will hold its shape while cooking)
- 2 Tablespoons butter
- 2 Tablespoons dark brown sugar or muscavado
Wash the rhubarb stalks. Split in half lengthwise, then cut into pieces about 1/2-inch or smaller. Put in a medium-size heavy pot. Split the piece of vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds, adding both the pod and seeds to the pot. Drop in the brown sugar and cardamom.
Place the lid on the pot and cook over low heat for 15 minutes or until saucy. (No water in this compote – the low heat will encourage the rhubarb to release its own moisture.)
Remove the lid from the pot, raise the temperature to medium and continue cooking at a spunky boil until the sauce is thick and a spoon leaves a “trail” on the pot’s bottom.Remove the vanilla pod. Cool to room temperature.
Peel and core the apple. Slice thinly and toss in a bowl with the melted butter and sugar.
Assembling the tart
Preheat oven to 400°F (205°C).
Spoon the cooled rhubarb evenly into the baked and cooled tart shell. Beginning at the outside edge, carefully place the apple slices in a ring, each piece overlapping the previous by about 1/4-inch. Place a second ring in the inside, using a couple other pieces beneath them to elevate the inner ring of apple slices if necessary.
Bake in a preheated oven for approximately 20 minutes or until the apples are soft and gently browned. (Depending on the thickness of your slices, more time may be required. If in the process the apples begin to brown too much for your liking, place a sheet of parchment paper or aluminum foil over top for the remainder of the baking time.)
Remove from oven and cool (either slightly or fully) on a cooling rack.
Tart Pastry Shell
- 1½ cups flour (185 g)
- ½ cup (110 g) OR ¾ cup (170 g) cold butter, cut into pieces (see NOTE on the Pastry)
- ¼ cup sugar (55 g)
- 2 egg yolks
- ½ teaspoon vanilla (optional)
NOTE on the Pastry: Two options are given for the quantity of butter to be used. The lesser amount will result in a shortbread-like pastry that rolls out cooperatively and forms nice smooth sides. The option using more butter results in a much more fragile and delicate crust (one that absolutely melts in the mouth) but is more difficult to handle and will need to be patched in places and pressed into the pan.
Mix the flour and butter with your fingers, or in the food processor, until it resembles fine crumbs. Mix in the sugar. Using your fingers, now blend in the two egg yolks and vanilla (if using) just long enough for it to come together into a ball. Flatten the ball into a disk about 5 or 6 inches across. Wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for at least 30 minutes or overnight. (If overnight, allow it to sit on the counter for 20 to 30 minutes before rolling.)
Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). Roll out on a floured surface. (A bench scrape or long off-set spatula will help you to “unlock” it from the board if it gets stuck.) Roll it to a diameter of 2½ inches beyond the size of your tart pan.
Gently fold in fourths, place in tart pan, then unfold and press in place. Trim the top “waste” and make repairs where necessary.
Chill for a minimum of 30 minutes. (Important to do this.) Then line the chilled crust with parchment paper cut to several inches larger than pan. Fill to brimming with dried beans.
Place the shell in its pan atop a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Place in the oven and bake for 12 minutes at 400°F (200°C). Remove from the oven, and lifting the parchment by the 4 corners, lift the beans from the shell. Return the shell to the oven, reduce temperature to 350°F (180°C) for 15 minutes or until it’s a golden brown and smells like heaven.