Rhubarb and raspberry tarts with meringue
It’s raining here today as I am writing this, as it did yesterday and as it will tomorrow according to forecast (remember, this is a pre-scheduled post). A perfect day for staying home and cooking. I have always loved rain, the sound of it dripping, the fresh fragrances it coaxes out of the earth and plants, the silvery colour palette of sky and clouds and how everything is more vibrant against the silvery tones. The plants of the rooftop patio are loving the rain and seem to be reaching up to it to get as much as they can. The day lilies are blooming, the hydrangeas are almost there, the irises have come and gone as did the lilacs and the lavender is slowly waking up after a winter slumber. My herbs are looking vigorous. I already cut back a couple of them, the chives and Greek oregano. Both were starting to look a little out of control. I used the chive blossoms to make herb flower salt, and used the cut chives and oregano to make a chive and an oregano pesto, respectively, that I keep in small jars in the fridge and add to foods to build and layer flavours in dishes.
We are going on a road trip down the Oregon Coast to Central California and I need to clear my fridge of all its weekly residents. The bunch of rhubarb stalks on the bottom shelve could have ended up in a jam but I was in the mood for making pastry, so today it’s rhubarb tarts and I thought I’d top them with meringue. I love rhubarb. The sweet and tangy flavour profile suits me perfectly. If you asked me (or my close friends) what my signature dessert is I (and they) would tell you it’s rhubarb cobbler. One of these days I’ll post the recipe, but it’s a very large one, enough to feed 20 or more.
I also had a basket of raspberries and added them to the rhubarb, but you can keep it simple with just rhubarb. I cooked the fruits first with sugar and then filled the tarts and baked them. You can serve them on their own with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, or make the meringue. Make the meringue after the tarts are baked, spoon it over the rhubarb and broil it until lightly golden under a broiler.
The pastry recipe makes more than you need for 4 tarts. Use only half and refrigerate or freeze the rest for another use. The filling in this recipe is enough for about 4 tarts.
1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces, very cold (or use vegetables shortening for a vegan version)
4 tablespoons ice water (about)
4 cups rhubarb
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup raspberries
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons sugar for sprinkling into the tart shells
Place flour, salt and sugar in food processor and pulse a few times to blend. Add cold butter and pulse a few times to break down the butter. Continue pulsing until butter is coated with the flour and the mixture is crumbly. Do not over mix.
Drizzle the water in slow and steady while the processor is running until the mixture begins to clump together but does not form a ball quite yet.
Scrape the the dough onto a lightly floured parchment paper and bring it together with your hands, handling it as little as possible. As soon as you have a ball of pastry wrap it in plastic and refrigerate until cold, at least 30 minutes or overnight. I make this dough a day in advance, cut it in half, wrap each half with plastic and refrigerate until needed. this way I can use only half the dough for 4-5 tarts and use the other half later. It would keep in the fridge a few days or you can freeze it.
When ready to proceed remove the dough from the fridge and let it warm up on the counter for a short while only until it is pliable enough to roll. It will soften as you roll it. You want a cold dough but the butter has to be pliable enough to roll smoothly. I beat the ball of dough a few times (ouch) with the wooden pastry roller to soften the butter and flatten it into a disk, it warms up faster that way.
Cut the pastry in half, keeping one half in the fridge or freezer, depending on how many tarts you make. On a lightly floured surface roll the dough into a circle, about 1/8 inch thick. Using a round cookie cutter cut the dough into 5# rounds.
Place them on a baking sheet and refrigerate to keep them cold. This can also be done a day in advance. No need to bring back to room temperature before baking as you want the pastry to remain cold.
Place the rhubarb and sugar in a medium size pan and bring to a boil under medium heat. Cook until the rhubarb begins to soften and break down. Watch carefully not to burn the sugar.
Add the raspberries and remove from heat. Stir the berries into the rhubarb mixture and leave to cool.
You can bake this in a muffin pan or in individual tart pans.
Line the muffin or tart pans with the pastry rounds and sprinkle with sugar.
Fill with the rhubarb filling.
Bake in a preheated 400F oven for about 20 minutes or until the pastry is golden and crisp.
Remove from oven and let cool.
Begin beating the egg whites until foamy and shiny.
Sprinkle the sugar over and beat until stiff peaks are formed.
Spoon the meringue over the cooled tarts and broil under a hot broiler for a few seconds until the meringues are golden.
Serve warm or at room temperature.