Saturday, May 23, 2009

Rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb....

Here are my neighbour's chickens enjoying our recent delightful weather....I took some of their wonderful eggs with yolks that were almost orange....
...then I picked some of the vast amount of rhubarb we have growing at the back of the house....
...then I proceeded to combine said rhubarb with varying amounts of sugar, eggs and butter in varying combinations until I came up with a recipe for rhubarb meringue tarts with rhubarb, mint (also from our garden) and lavendar sorbet...my path to this dessert was rather wobbly and treacherous and took me via some grand failures including marshmallows (which deserves it's own post!!), rhubarb and mint gelees/jellies/pate de fruits and rhubarb and mint jam/jelly which actually ended up more like candy and tasted too caramelized for my delicate tastebuds. Brits LOVE rhubarb thus my insistence on including it in this blog but rhubarb and custard is kind of boring as is rhubarb crumble....
Here are my wee tart shells which came out SO WELL especially so as I didn't use any weights to bake them 'blind' ie without a filling...they are a little thick but boy do they taste excellent..
Here is one of the tarts with it's attendant rhubarb curd which is pale orange because the yolks were so saturated in colour, I was expecting the curd to be pink and was disappointed when it turned out this colour, which is OK but NOT pink........
...and here is the finished dessert in all it's sublime glory...super creamy curd, clodlike, NO not CLODlike...cloudlike meringue and a buttery, shortbready shell with a tangy, smooth, bright sorbet....they combine in a very friendly manner I must tell you!!

Here are the recipes:
THE EASIEST SWEET TART CRUST IN THE WORLD!!! from a cooking demonstration at the Good Table in Belfast by Lindsey Schortz of 'Let Them Eat Cake"...oh do!!!
1 1/2 cups of unbleached, white flour
1/2 cup confectioner's/icing sugar
1/4 teaspoon of salt...if you use unsalted butter
1 stick/4oz plus 1 tablespoon of butter (ie 4 1/2 ozs)...I use salted and thus omit the salt mentioned previously
1 large egg yolk ( from a happy chicken)

Everything should be really cold...even keep the butter in the freezer for a while before you start.
1. Swish dry ingredients together
2. Rub (by hand as I do, the only time I like to get my hands sticky)) or blend in a food prcessor until you get a nice even sandlike texture.
3. Add the egg yolk and blend throughout
4. Gently squush together
5. Here's the great part...tear off pieces of the dough and push them into the tart pans evenly but certainly not perfectly...as I mentioned I made mine too thick but they were still excellent, next time I will make them thinner so they are more tart shelly then cookie like.
6. I put these tiny ones in the freezer for a couple of hours before I baked them off and I didn't use any weights to keep the pastry in place...I just docked/pricked the dough all over to prevent it from puffing up when baking. Then I baked these in a 375F oven for about 20 minutes until they were nicely browned and you couldn't see any of that transparent look that says they are not done yet...LOOK AT THEM....they didn't shrink or pull away from the tins...they baked up exactly how I squushed them in but just got a little thicker...amazing!!! I am a complete convert to this recipe for evermore!! No rolling, no tearing, no screaming when the dough falls apart as you try to transport it to the pan...yippeee....do try it for yourself...you'll be thrilled and it tastes like shortbread!!!

THE RHUBARB CURD:
2 cups of rhubarb cut into small pieces
4 tablespoons of sugar
4 tablespoons of water
4 teaspoons of lemon juice
Combine these four ingredients in a saucepan, preferably stainless steel, and boil together at med-high until rhubarb goes completely mushy...let it cool quite a bit then liquidize in a blender or food processor (if you blend when it is hot it could blow the top off the blender and burn you...I have had this happen before so be cautious and let it cool!!)

4 egg yolks
12 tablespoons sugar
4 ozs butter...again I use salted, if you use unsalted add a pinch of salt
Whisk the yolks and sugar together in the top part of a double boiler with simmering water in the bottom pan. Add the cooled rhubarb and the butter in pieces and stir, stir, stir until it is all combined and starts to thicken...it should already be quite thick because of the blended rhubarb...but let it thicken up some more. Cool completely and again it will thicken some more...this curd tastes infinitely better when it is cold so don't judge the flavour or texture if you taste it when it is warm...when cold it is creamy, a bit caramelly and quite tangy at the end...YUMMY!!!...you can use it for a multitude of things...especially on hot, buttered toast with a spot of tea!!!

THE MERINGUE:
For these little tarts I only did a small amount of meringue..you can double this for a whole pie
2 egg whites...from those happy chickens
4 tablespoons of sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract/essence
1. Whisk egg whites until they hold stiff peaks but are not dry (what does that really mean?)
2. Add sugar 1 tablespoon at a time and whisk well after each addition
3. Add teaspoon of vanilla and blend
4. When you have reached a stiff and very smooth state of meringueness transfer to a piping bag fitted with a large star nozzle and pipe away to your hearts content until you have beauteous tarts.
5. Either pop into a 350F oven and watch like an eagle until the required state of toastiness has occured...approximately 10 minutes, or use one of those mini creme brulee torches and brown the meringue that way...et voila!

THE RHUBARB SORBET: Couldn't be simpler
2 cups of rhubarb
1 cup of sugar
5 big sprigs of mint
1 tablespoon of lavendar flowers in a tea ball

1. Put rhubarb, lavendar flowers, mint and sugar in a pan and add enough water just to cover the rhubarb.
2. Cook until totally mushy and the sugar is melted.
4. Retrieve tea ball and mint sprigs.
3. Let rhubarb cool and blend.
4. Pop into ice cream machine and follow manufacturers instructions...because rhubarb has a lot of pectin it has a sort of jelliness to it naturally and I think this helps it make a really full bodied and smooth sorbet...quite tangy with a hint of mint and lavendar!!!

Assemble as seen in bottom photo above and consume!!!...I'm off for another right now!
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