When I saw a big basket of rhubarb in the local health food shop recently, I got so excited! I remember eating rhubarb regularly as a child in the UK, but hadn't really seen it before here in southern France. It's just too hot for it to grow here near the coast, although drive a few hours north and the winters are cold enough for it. I used to love eating rhubarb and custard as a child, so I was eager to do something with it along the same lines, but maybe a little bit more grown-up! Hence, my idea for a rhubarb and custard tart!
There were 3 elements to this tart - a buttery, melt in the mouth crust, a thick layer of set custard based on the traditional French tart filling, 'crème patissière', and the stewed rhubarb topping that I arranged in a lattice pattern. The tart needs a bit of time to cool down in between each step so leave yourself plenty of time, but it is sooo worth the effort!
While I was photographing this tart, my husband was painting the shutters of our house. I didn't realise that he had closed one set of shutters in the kitchen, giving me nice moody light to photograph this tart, until after he opened them again! Don't you love a happy accident! :-)
185g plain flour
2 1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
140g unsalted butter, very cold and cut into cubes
Approx 1/4 cup iced water
For the pastry, I used a 26cm (10 inch) heavy metal tart tin with a loose bottom, greased it and popped a circle of grease-proof paper at the bottom - nothing worse than breaking a tart when trying to unstick it from the tin!
I placed the flour, salt, sugar and the butter in a food processor and created crumbs by using the pulse button a few times, then poured it into a larger bowl. I added the water a little at a time, using a spatula to mix. I added just enough water to create a dough, formed a ball, wrapped it in cling film then placed it in the freezer for 20 minutes. In the meantime, I switched on the oven to 180°C / 375°F.
I took my pastry out of the freezer, rolled it out and used it to line my tin. I pricked the bottom, lined it with tin foil and placed baking beans on the bottom. I popped it in the oven for 10 minutes, then removed the baking beans and put it back in the oven for about 20 mins. Just keep an eye on it, as all ovens vary. Part of the way through cooking, I covered the edges of the tart with some strips of aluminium foil as they were browing much quicker than the bottom. Once the tart case was cooked, I let it fully cool.
CUSTARD FILLING - 'CREME PATISSIERE'
400mls milk (I had semi-skimmed in so that's what I used)
100mls heavy cream
4 large egg yolks
4 tbsp corn starch / corn flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 vanilla pod, split down the middle (or vanilla essence)
Place the vanilla pod in a pan with the milk and cream and heat until scalding (not quite boiling). Careful it doesn't burn. In the meantime, whisk the egg yolks, sugar, salt and corn starch in a bowl with a hand whisk for a minute or two, until the sugar has dissolved. Very slowly start to pour the hot milk mixture into the egg yolk mixture, whisking all the time to prevent the eggs from scrambling. Once you've added half of the milk to the eggs, you can now pour it all back into the pan and heat gently, stirring continuously for a few minutes until thickened into a thick custard. Allow to cool and then pour into the baked pastry case.
650g of rhubarb (cut into 4cm/ 1 1/2 inch pieces)
juice of 1/2 lemon
Place the sugar, lemon juice and water into a frying pan over a gentle heat and heat until the sugar has dissolved. Add the rhubarb and simmer for 4 - 5 minutes - do not stir the rhubarb. Allow to cool for an hour, then gently lift out the pieces of rhubarb and arrange them on top of the tart in a lattice pattern. Voilà - one rhubarb and custard tart! Enjoy!