Sunday, May 31, 2015

Rhubarb and Apricots and a Rustic Tart

I still had one batch of rhubarb left yet from when my friend Tetiana gave me that huge bag. I have made all kinds of rhubarb things, and all have been really good. Growing up, the only way I ever had rhubarb was in Rhubarb Pineapple Pie. We had a huge stand of rhubarb in the back yard, but I cannot recall ever having eaten it in anything but this pie. And now that I mention this Rhubarb Pineapple Pie, I come to realize that I have not yet set that recipe out either here in this blog, or even in my website! I will try to rectify that sometime soon.

Back to the point. I had some of that rhubarb, already cut up, in a bag, so I absolutely had to do something with it. We still had some of the Rhubarb Raspberry Cheesecake Bars in the fridge until just two days ago, so I surely did not need another dessert around. Yesterday, finally, came the day to do something. I had been planning for more than a week, and while wandering the produce section in the local grocery, I saw apricots. In general, I have nothing strictly against apricots. I am not completely wild about them, but I will eat them. But, because I am not crazy for them, other fruits always get in the way. Still, the idea stayed in my mind, and I was thinking about making something like a pie, or tart, or rustic tart / galette. This may have been the second time in my entire life that I bought apricots. I have had some apricots in past that were quite tiny, maybe ping-pong ball sized, at most. The ones at the grocery yesterday were quite large in comparison, more like a very small peach.
My Apricot Rhubarb Rustic Tart, with pretty sparkling sugar on the crust

Before anything else though, I had to cook the rhubarb. I don't think it had many more days of useful life, so it was imperative. I figured I would cook it into a compote and that way it could last another day or two, if I did not get around to making this proposed tart right away. As it happens I did make the tart, after all, but this compote would be wonderful over pancakes, or ice cream, or cheesecake, or anything that might be enhanced with a delicious compote. And this one was really delicious, I can tell you! I used 1 tablespoon of orange juice concentrate and 1/4 cup of water in here, but substituting 5 tablespoons (1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon) of orange juice would be fine. I got a little exotic with the flavors, adding both Gran Marnier liqueur and orange flower water. Either or both of these can be omitted and instead just use some vanilla extract and/or almond extract.

Rhubarb Compote

Rhubarb Compote

makes about 3 cups

3 1/2 cups rhubarb, cut in small chunks
1 tablespoon orange juice concentrate
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons Gran Marnier liqueur, optional
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch (or tapioca starch)
1/2 teaspoon orange flower water, optional

In a medium saucepan combine the first 6 ingredients and stir together. In a small bow, whisk together the sugar and cornstarch (this will help the cornstarch not to clump when adding to the moist ingredients). Stir the sugar mixture into the pan ingredients and set over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring often. Once the mixture comes to a boil, continue to cook and stir for at least 5 or up to 8 minutes. Once cooked through it will be thickened and semi-transparent. Allow this mixture to cool completely before using.

Once I got the apricots, having selected ones that were very ripe, I went straight to washing and cutting. I wanted to use entire halves in this tart, so once cut in half from stem end, down through the natural crease to the bottom and then removing the pits, I tossed the fruit with some sugar and more Gran Marnier to marinate a bit while I prepared the crust

I have made a pastry with some cornmeal added for my Taco Pizzas, and the crust is delicious with just that tiny bit of crunch the cornmeal gives. I knew that this crust would also be good for a tart, but had not tried it out yet. The recipe for my Taco Pizza makes a very large crust, to fit a 15-inch pizza pan. I knew I would not need a crust that large for my rustic tart, so I clipped back the ingredients a bit. I had absolutely no intention to add sugar to the crust, but somehow, the sugar was out, and open, and I misread something and ended up adding sugar. Sheesh. I leave it up to you to choose whether to use sugar in the crust or not. It is not necessary, but it sure is good!

Tart Crust with Cornmeal

makes one 10-inch rustic tart

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup fine cornmeal
1 tablespoon sugar, optional
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
5 to 7 tablespoons ice water

In a large bowl, whisk together the first 5 ingredients. With a large holed grater (such as a box grater on largest holes), grate the cold butter into the flour mixture and toss to coat the butter. (Alternatively, cut the butter into tiny chunks and add in.) Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter or just use fingers to quickly rub together until the mixture makes pea-sized crumbs. Add in about 5 tablespoons of the ice water and toss quickly with a fork, until it starts to come together. If the mixture will not come together into one mass, use an additional 1 or 2 tablespoons of the water until it will come together in one mass. Do not overwork the dough. Flour a surface and roll out the dough to about 1/8-inch thickness. Cut it into approximately 14 or 15 inch diameter. There will be leftovers, unfortunately. 
Sparkling Sugar

Place a sheet of parchment onto a rimmed baking sheet. Roll the pastry onto the rolling pin, then unroll it centered on the parchment lined baking sheet.

When assembling this tart, I wanted the crust to look really pretty once baked, so I brushed the crust with cream and sprinkled on some "sparkling sugar", This is a coarser type of sugar used to make baked goods look pretty and appetizing, as the sugar does not melt while baking. It is not completely necessary, and on the outside of a pie crust, regular sugar will also work, but this fits with the more rustic look I was going for. I have some white sparkling sugar from the King Arthur Flour site, but it is available from many venues. Wilton and India Tree have 8-ounce jars for a price, and Bob's Red Mill has a much larger bag of sparkling sugar for a much more reasonable price. The decision is in how much you might realistically use, though it does not go bad.

        Rhubarb Compote                |        Compote on the prepared crust           |        compote spread to 10-inches

Apricot Rhubarb Rustic Tart

makes one 10-inch tart

Rhubarb Compote, recipe above
Tart Crust with Cornmeal, 
   recipe above
1 pound fresh apricots, halved, 
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon Gran Marnier, 
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 - 2 tablespoons cream or milk
1 - 2 tablespoons sparkling 
   sugar, or regular sugar

Have the rhubarb compote already made and cooled. Have the pie crust rolled and set on the parchment lined, rimmed baking sheet. Set the apricot halves in a bowl and sprinkle them with the 3 tablespoons of sugar and the Gran Marnier, if using. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Pour the prepared compote in the center of the crust. Spread it to about 9 inches, as shown in the series of photos above. The tart will be 10-inches in diameter, but the compote will spread once the apricots are in place. Set the reserved apricot halves onto the compote, cut sides upwards, as shown in the first photo below. Drizzle some of the remaining sugar mixture over the apricots, but if there is too much juice, it will tend to leak out during baking. Sprinkle the sliced almonds over all the fruit. Now, begin to flip up the edges of the crust, to only partially cover the fruit. Pleat the dough as needed to make an artfully free-formed look, as in photo 2 below. Using a pastry brush, brush the milk or cream all over the outside of the crust. Sprinkle the milk coated crust with the sparkling sugar. 
Apricots and almonds in place          |       edges of pastry flipped up    |    pastry brushed with milk; sugar in place

Bake the tart for about 50 to 55 minutes, or until the crust is nicely golden and the fruit is bubbling merrily. Allow the tart to cool completely before slicing.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.