We interrupt our Sicily posting for a detour to “rhubarbia.” Since rhubarb is at its peak right now in the Northeast U.S. and disappears for the rest of the year, you’ve got to take advantage of this short season.
This tart is made with a shortbread crust and a frangipane filling (almond flour, eggs, etc.) from a recipe I found here. But what sets it apart is the lattice top. Caveat – it’s a bit tricky to get the strips right. I tried making this last year but made the mistake of buying rhubarb that wasn’t wide enough and the strips were just too flimsy and hard to handle after poaching. Numerous strips also meant more weaving, and each time you move the strips, you run the risk of ripping them, so the fewer strips you have, the easier this is to make.
You can also make this in a round tart pan, but I recommend this long, thin one that measures about 13″ x 4.” You only need three strips lengthwise, if they’re hefty strips. The short ones aren’t a problem, it’s the long ones that will need to be raised over and over again to make the lattice, risking a tear each time you lift one.
You also risk cutting yourself if you use a mandolin and you’re not careful (guilty as charged). The strips were sliced to about 1/16 of an inch, which is thick enough to hold together while it softens in the poaching liquid, but not so thick that it’s hard to bite through a piece.
Measure your strips against your tart pan to be sure you have the right length and enough strips for the width too. My long pieces were just a little too short, but that gap can be covered up with a short strip at each end.
You’ll poach the strips in a sugar/water liquid for about five minutes or until soft enough to poke a fork through. If you let it poach too long, the strips will disintegrate.
Carefully remove them with a long spatula (I used a fish spatula that has slots to let the water drain). Don’t throw away the water. You’re going to reduce it to form a glaze. Lay the strips on paper towels to drain.
This is the tart pastry (that was “blind-baked” using beans on aluminum foil to weigh down the shell) and the frangipane filling after it’s baked.
Now comes the fun part (also the part where you can easily break a strip – remember, I did warn you it was tricky). The recipe tells you to weave it on parchment paper and transfer to the tart, but with only three long strips, I decided to do it right on the frangipane filling. Lay the lengthwise pieces in first.
Then lift each lengthwise strip and weave the short pieces over and under the long strips.
After you’ve reduced the liquid to form a glaze, spread it over the top with a spoon or a pastry brush.
This photo was taken the morning after we had already eaten the rest of the tart, so the glaze has sunk in and it doesn’t appear as glossy. But it didn’t affect the taste one bit.
There was enough pastry left to make a mini tart, but not enough frangipane. So I took the odd bits of rhubarb and boiled it with some sugar and water until it became mushy, then added a bit of bergamot juice (I know you won’t have this so just use lemon juice. I wanted to make use of the one bergamot I brought back from Sicily) First though, I set aside some nice pieces for the top that I poached gently in a separate sugar-water solution. After the mushy part cooled, I filled the pastry shell with it, then decorated with the smaller poached pieces, finishing it with a glaze from the reduced sugar-water solution.
If you don’t want to make a smaller tart, the leftover cooked rhubarb is absolutely delicious over ice cream or yogurt.
- For the Tart Crust:
- 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
- ⅔ cup powdered sugar
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon heavy cream
- ½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste (extract can be substituted)
- For The Filling:
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- ¾ cups almond meal
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon dark rum
- ½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste (extract can be substituted)
- ½ teaspoon lemon zest
- ¼ teaspoon almond extract
- a pinch of kosher salt
- For the Rhubarb Lattice Topping:
- 8-10 stalks fresh rhubarb
- 1 cup water
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- To make the Shortbread Crust:
- Place the flour, powdered sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine.
- Add the butter, and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
- Combine the egg, cream, and vanilla in a small bowl and add to the flour/butter mixture, while running the machine.
- Continue to process until the dough comes together into a ball.
- Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for a minimum of 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
- Roll the dough to a thickness of about 3/16-inch.
- Place it in the tart pan, trimming away any excess.
- Line with foil and ceramic pie weights or dried beans.
- Bake for 15 minutes or until just beginning to turn golden.
- To make the Frangipane Filling:
- Place the butter in a small pan and cook over medium heat until nutty-brown. Set aside to cool slightly.
- Place the almond meal, sugar, egg, rum, vanilla, zest, almond extract, and salt in a bowl and stir to combine.
- Mix in the browned butter, and transfer the mixture to the partially baked tart shell. Bake for an additional 30 minutes, or until golden brown and set.
- Cool completely and top with rhubarb lattice.
- To make the Rhubarb Lattice Topping:
- Using a mandolin slicer or vegetable peeler, slice the rhubarb long-ways to a thickness of about 1/16-inch.
- Place the water and sugar in a pot and bring to a boil.
- Reduce to a bare simmer, and add 4 or 5 slices of rhubarb.
- Cook until slightly softened, then drain on paper towels.
- Repeat, until all the rhubarb is cooked. Reserve the remaining syrup.
- Line up slices of cooked rhubarb side-by-side on a sheet of parchment.
- Fold alternating slices up, and place perpendicular slices over, in a lattice pattern.
- Repeat until the sheet of lattice is big enough to cover the entire top of the tart.
- Flip the sheet onto the top of the cooled tart, and peel the parchment away.
- Trim off any overhang with kitchen shears.
- Using a silicone pastry brush, dab the remaining poaching liquid over the lattice to glaze.