Ginette Mathiot’s shortcrust pastry and rhubarb tart

Update: This is now “Tart of the day” on Tarts for Troops!

Rhubarb is one those ‘things’ I’ve never quite known how to approach.

It looks like a celery.
But it’s red.
But it’s mostly used in sweet baking goods [according to the Flavour Thesaurus it also goes very well with various kinds of meat but, undeniably, rhubarb is one of those things that one associates to crumble].

Anyway, the boyfriend mentioned that he really likes it, so I looked it up on The Art of French Baking and found an interesting recipe.
Pretty much every single person aware of my experiment [quite a few — I had a stick of rhubarb sitting on my desk at work, and that is the sort of object that leads to questions being asked] warned me that this vegetable has a very sharp flavour, and for this reason it needs to be soaked in water and sugar for some time before cooking.

This recipe doesn’t involve any soaking, and it doesn’t ask for sweet pastry either; the final result is a tart whose filling has a very sharp flavour, and it’s particularly suitable for people who are not keen on overly sweet desserts.

Shortcrust pastry [Pâte brisée]

Preparation time: 20′ plus chilling time
Cooking time: 20′-25′ if baking blind
Makes 400g  [14 oz]

250 [9 oz] plain flour, plus extra for dusting
1 tbsp flavourless oil, such as sunflower or rapeseed
1/2 tsp salt
125g [4 1/4 oz] butter, chilled and diced, plus extra for greasing
1-2 tbsp ice-cold water

Put the flour into a bowl. Make a well into the middle and add the oil, salt and butter. Rub the butter into the flour using your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs. Moisten with water to bring the dough together. Briefly knead the dough by hand; the more quickly this is done, the better the pastry will be. Cover the pastry with cling film and leave to chill in the refrigerator for between 30 minutes and 24 hours. Bring it back to room temperature before rolling out. On a lightly floured surface, roll it out to a circle 5 mm [1/4 inch] thick and use to line a greased 23-cm [9-inch] tart tin, preferably one with a removable base. The pastry may also be used to line small round or boat shaped tins [barquettes].

To bake the pastry case blind:
Preheat the oven to 200˚C/400˚F/Gas Mark 6. Line the pastry case with greaseproof paper and fill with baking beans or uncooked rice. Bake for 10 minutes, then gently remove the greaseproof paper and baking beans or rice and return the pastry case to the oven for a further 10-15 minutes, until it is light golden brown and cooked throughout.

Tips, Tricks and useful info

  • Keep the ingredients as cool as possible. This will help the pastry to retain a short, crumbly texture. any leftover pastry can be frozen.
  • Shortcrust pastry can be used for both sweet and savoury baking goods that are very highly flavoured or have a considerable amount of filling.
  • If made 12 hours in advance of baking, it will be even lighter.
  • Once cooked, it absorbs juices very quickly. It’s therefore best baked blind.
  • Shortcrust pastry will not keep well and will lose its crispness.

Rhubarb tart [Tarte à la rhubarbe]

Preparation time: 20′ plus chilling time
Cooking time: 30′-40′
Makes 6

1 quantity shortcrust pastry

For the filling:
50 g [1 3/4 oz] plain flour
2 eggs
100 g [3 1/2 oz] caster sugar
100 ml [3 1/2 fl oz] crème fraîche
500 g [1 lb 2 oz]  rhubarb, cut into 3-cm [1 1/4 inch] slices

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. Line a 23-25-cm [9-10-inch] tart tin with the pastry. In a bowl, beat the flour, eggs, sugar and crème fraîche until just smooth. Coat the rhubarb in the mixture and pour into the pastry case. Bake for 30′-40′.