Monday, June 27, 2011

Finding Victory in Disaster

I'm beginning to think rhubarb hates me. Every single recipe I've tried with it this year has not turned out the way I'd anticipated.

First there was the rhubarb & custard ice cream which just tasted weird (I never did get around to fixing that recipe).

Then I had the rhubarb-strawberry mochi.

And today? Oh man. I learned a valuable lesson in baking: custard fillings do not belong in galette shapes.

Why? Because the egg custard will puff up, knocking down the sides of your beautiful pastry and run all over the baking sheets. And you'll end up with galettes that look like flat pancakes with the tiniest little bit of custard still stuck to them and rhubarb that hasn't broken down into anything.

Like this:


It's such an obvious mistake. I just want to hit my head on the wall for even thinking that I could pull this off. This was a recipe that clearly needed to be baked in a tart mold... the egg custard just expands so much!

When I pulled these out of the oven, I almost cried. Nothing. Just... nothing has been going right for me there lately! But, because I hate wasting things, I decided to finish baking them and to NOT toss them immediately into the garbage.

And, therein lies the victory. When I stood in the kitchen, surveying the results of the recipe, my husband and I decided to split a tart. As I bit into it, it felt as though a shining halo of light from God himself was glowing 'round the tart.

The pastry is the finest I have ever made. It was delicious - crisp and flaky. And the filling (that didn't leak onto the pan) was actually really, really good. My husband and I stared at each other for a moment.

"These," he pronounced slowly, making sure no crumb escaped him, "are really, really delicious."

So, there you have it. Perhaps I should call them Ugly Duckling Rhubarb Custard Tarts.

Now, I know that a good blogger wouldn't post a less than perfect picture, but I'm out of rhubarb and I'm not a believer in wasting food (and time) just so I can post a picture of tarts in the correct shape.

This attitude is precisely why I'll never be a professional chef. I'm okay with that.

So, if you try this, just make sure you use tart pans.

The pastry makes double what you need, so wrap up half the chilled dough and put it in the freezer for another day.

Rhubarb Custard Tarts

(adapted from the Harrow Fair Cookbook)

Makes 6 tarts


For Pastry

2¼ cups all purpose flour
1 tsp fine sea salt
1 cup chilled butter, cut into cubes
1 large egg
2 tsp white vinegar
ice cold water

For filling

½ cup granulated sugar
1½ tbsp all purpose flour
scant ¼ tsp freshly ground nutmeg
pinch sea salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1½ cups sliced rhubarb (½" pieces)


1. For pastry: Place flour and salt together in food processor. Add in butter and pulse just until crumbs are about the size of peas. Beat the egg and the vinegar together in a measuring up. Add enough of the ice water to equal ½ cup of liquid. Pour liquid over dough and pulse just until the dough comes together. Turn dough onto counter. Divide in half and place each on a sheet of plastic wrap. Shape into a flat disk and wrap up with plastic. Chill for at least an hour in the fridge before rolling out. (Place the other half of the dough in the freezer.)

2. Preheat the oven to 375º.

3. Combine together the sugar, flour, nutmeg and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add in the egg and mix well. Stir in the rhubarb and set aside.

4. Roll out the pastry to fit 6 fluted 3-4" tart moulds. Spoon filling on top of pastry.

5. Bake for 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325º and bake for an additional 30-40 minutes, or until custard is set and the crust is golden brown.

6. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

Any leftover tarts should be kept in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.


adventuresindinner said...

Nothing wrong with an ugly dessert. It means that there is usually lots left for those of us "in the know".

Nigella Lawson has a recipe for really ugly chocolate cake that I would actually walk over fire to get to. :)

Sweet And Crumby said...

I think it makes you an extra good blogger for posting the "ugly duckling" photos. I really get tired of everyone pretending that every dish is picture perfect and came out just as they planned. :) Good for you. I would toast you right now with a margarita if we were together...just in the mood for one other excuse. Sounds like a splendid tart by the way! :)

Alyson said...

LOL! Thank you for supporting ugly desserts.

Appearances aren't everything, right?

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