Rhubarb and Custard Tart
This is a brilliantly verstible tart, when Rhubarb is out of season one can use peaches, apricots, apples or plums.
225g (8oz/2 cups) plain flour
175g (6oz/1 1/2 sticks) butter
pinch of salt
1 dessertspoon (2 American tablespoons) icing sugar
a little beaten egg or egg yolk and water to bind
600g (1 1/4lb) or a little more rhubarb, cut into small pieces
1-2 tablespoons (7 1/2 – 10 American tablespoons) castor sugar
300ml (10fl oz/1 1/4 cups) cream
2 large or 3 small eggs
3 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) castor sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 x 12 inch (30.5cm) tart tin or 2 x 7 inch (18cm) tart tins
Toss the cubes of butter in the flour and then proceed to lift up a few cubes of butter at the time in each hand. With the thumbs, rub the cubes of butter across the middle three fingers, toward the index fingers.
Allow the flakes of floured butter to drop into the bowl, pick up some more and continue until all the butter is rubbed in. As you rub in the butter hold your hands well above the bowl and run your fingers through the flour to incorporate as much air as possible as you can and to keep the mixture cool.
This whole process should only take a minute or two, careful not to rub the butter in too much or the pastry will be heavy, the pieces should be like lumpy breadcrumbs. If you are in doubt, shake the bowl. If there are any large pieces, they will come to the top. Add salt (if using unsalted butter), sugar or herbs as appropriate at this stage. Then using a fork, toss and stir the pastry as you add just enough water to bind.
If you are in doubt, discard the fork and collect up the pastry with your hand, you will be able to judge more easily by feel if it needs a little more water. Careful not to make it too wet, (add extra flour if necessary but handle lightly) or it will shrink in the cooking. If the pastry is too dry it will be difficult to roll out.
Use a large pastry brush to brush off excess flour during rolling.
When the pastry has come together, flatten into a round. Cover with greaseproof paper or cling film. If at all possible, allow to 'rest' in the fridge for minimum 15 minutes to allow the gluten to relax. The pastry will then be less likely to shrink in the cooking.
Once the pastry is chilled.
Sprinkle the worktop and rolling pin lightly with flour and roll out the pastry quite thinly, making sure to keep it in a circular shape. The pastry should be 1½-2 inches (4-5 cm) wider than the flan ring.
Sprinkle the pastry with flour, fold in half and then into quarters and then lift on to the ring. Alternatively, roll the pastry over the pin and unroll into the ring. Gently press the pastry on to the base of the tin, or if you are using a flan ring, onto the baking sheet, and right into the edges. Next press some of the overhanging pastry forward and cut off the edge by pressing it down on to the rim of the tin with your thumb. Tuck the cut edge in against the sides of the tin or flan ring and decorate the resulting rounded edge with a knife or pastry crimpers. Make sure that no pastry sticks to the outer edge or it will be difficult to remove the tin later. Prick the base of the pastry lightly with a fork.
Line the pastry with greaseproof paper and fill with baking beans or dried pulses (you can use these over and over), and bake and ‘bake blind. Remove the parchment paper and beans, brush the base with a little beaten egg white and replace in the oven for 3-4 minutes. This will seal the base and avoid the “soggy bottom” effect.
Arrange the cut rhubarb evenly inside the tart shell. Sprinkle with 1-2 tablespoons (1 1/4 – 2 1/2 tablespoons) castor sugar.
Whisk the eggs well, with the 3 tablespoons (4 American tablespoons) sugar and vanilla extract, add the cream. Strain this mixture over the rhubarb and bake at 180C / 350F / Gas Mark 4, for 35 minutes until the custard is set and the rhubarb is fully cooked. Serve warm with a bowl of whipped cream.
A little redcurrant jelly (see recipe below) could be used to glaze the rhubarb pieces (optional).
Red Currant Jelly
900g (2 lb) red currants
900g (2 lb) granulated sugar
Remove the strings from the red currants either by hand or with a fork. Put the red currants and sugar into a wide stainless steel saucepan and stir continuously until they come to the boil. Boil for exactly 8 minutes, stirring only if they appear to be sticking to the bottom. Skim carefully. Turn into a nylon sieve and allow to drip through, do not push the pulp through or the jelly will be cloudy. You can stir in gently once or twice just to free the bottom of the sieve of pulp.
Pour the jelly into sterilised pots immediately. Red currants are very high in pectin so the jelly will begin to set just as soon as it begins to cool.