The bitter rhubarb plant, with its poisonous leaves, is transformed by cooking with sugar into something divine. A bit like life really. Life has its share of bitterness for all of us, but it can be transformed with a sweet outlook. It is apt that rhubarb is a purgative, symbolising throwing off something unwanted. The word itself continues with the symbolism, coming from the Greek rha Barbaron, meaning “foreign”. These symbols speak to me about my own body, and how it would feel to throw it off. Only a woman can give me this release, one whose warmth and understanding free me from my demons. She keeps me alive, and I cook. It is Springtime, and my first act of Spring love for my Goddess is to prepare this tart. Thank you for accepting this small token of my love.
A short list of ingredients, a simple preparation and just divine.
Short Crust Pastry
- 200 g pastry flour
- ¾ teaspoons of salt
- 50 g of caster sugar
- 120 grams unsalted butter, chilled, and cut into small pieces
- 1/8 to 1/4 cup (30 – 60 ml) ice water
- 6 or 7 medium stalks of force rhubarb, chopped crossways into 1 cm pieces
- 100 grams of demerara sugar
- 2 tbsps flour
- 1 tsp of vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon of salt
Make the Short Crust Pastry: mix together the dry ingredients. Add the butter and work with a pastry fork until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Sprinkle small quantities of cold water a little at a time until the dough just sticks together, taking care not to overdo it, but certainly no more than a ¼ cup will be needed.
Turn the pastry out onto your work surface, gather it into a ball, wrap with plastic wrap, press flat into a disc, and refrigerate for about one hour to chill the butter and allow the dough to relax.
Once the pastry has chilled, remove it from the refrigerator and place on a well floured surface. Roll the pastry into a 13″ (32 cm) square. To prevent the pastry from sticking to the counter and to ensure uniform thickness, keep lifting up and turning the pastry a quarter turn as you roll (always roll from the center of the pastry outwards to get uniform thickness). Transfer the pastry to a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Cover and place in the refrigerator while you prepare the apricots.
Make the Rhubarb Filling. Wash the stalks. Cut the stems into pieces no longer than 1 cm. Mix in the other ingredients and toss to combine. Arrange the rhubarb on the pastry. You can align them all if you are being fancy, but jumbled is fine. Leave about a two inch (5 cm) wide border. Scrape any remaining sugar from the bowl and sprinkle over. Gently fold the edges of the pastry up and over the filling, pleating as necessary. Make sure to seal any cracks in the pastry.
Bake the tart in a preheated 405 degree F (205 degree C) oven for about 35 – 45 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Best served warm, with vanilla ice cream or crème fraiche. Serves 4 generously, or 8 sensibly.