Are you ready for a big foodie confession? The first time I ever ate or baked with rhubarb was last year.
(I’ll wait while you pick your jaw up off the floor…)
It’s crazy, isn’t it?! Somehow, it had never been on my radar. My mom and grandma were never big pie bakers when I was younger, so I never had a rhubarb or strawberry-rhubarb pie placed in front of me. And being wholly Italian, my grandfather’s large garden produced copious amounts of tomatoes, green beans, peppers, lettuce, etc. But no rhubarb. Luckily, my Chief Culinary Consultant introduced me to it through stories of the dreamy strawberry-rhubarb pies that his grandmother used to make. I started checking out recipes and before long I had pink stalks in hand and my first strawberry-rhubarb pie was made. Success! I loved it! I couldn’t wait to spread my rhubarb wings…
I saw this pastry crust in my Martha Stewart Baking Handbook and it struck me as really unique because it has cornmeal in the crust. She used the crust for a mixed fruit galette, and I saw no reason why it wouldn’t work perfectly with rhubarb and rustic little mini tartlets. Something different. And delicious.
Getting the rhubarb filling figured out resulted in some testing trial and error. I knew I didn’t want to put the rhubarb in “raw” like a pie filling because it wouldn’t cook down enough in the little tartlets. And I didn’t want to create a compote in which the rhubarb was broken down totally. I wanted something in the middle. In the end, I compromised by using a pie filing and cooking it down slightly before assembling the tartlets. It was perfect!
This pastry crust is phenomenal – flaky, buttery and with just a slight crunch due to the cornmeal. It’s a wonderful base for the rhubarb filling, which strikes the perfect balance between tart and sweet.
Every time I see a rhubarb baked good, all I think of is pretty in pink :) Love the hue! Enjoy!
For the Cornmeal Pâte Brisée Crust:
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces
¼ to ½ cup ice water
For the Rhubarb Filling:
1 to 1½ pounds rhubarb (about 5 cups ½-inch diced)
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup light brown sugar
¼ cup cornstarch
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg, lightly beaten (for the egg wash)
Sanding sugar or granulated sugar, for sprinkling
1. Make the crust. Place the flour, cornmeal, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processor, and pulse several times to combine. Add the butter, and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 10 seconds. With the machine running, pour the ice water through the feed tube in a slow, steady stream, until the dough just holds together (do not process for more than 30 seconds). Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface. Divide in half, and place each half on a piece of plastic wrap. Flatten each to form a disk. Wrap, and refrigerate at least 1 hour.
2. While the crust chills, make the rhubarb filling. Combine the diced rhubarb, both sugars, the cornstarch and salt in a medium saucepan and place over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the rhubarb releases its liquid and begins to breakdown, creating a thick, chunky sauce, about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
3. One at a time, roll each disk of dough into a 14-inch circle. Using freehand or an upside-down bowl, cut out 5-inch circles and place on a large, parchment-lined baking sheet. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
4. Spoon rhubarb filling into the center of each dough round (about 2 big spoonfuls), leaving about an inch border around the edge. Fold the border over the rhubarb mixture, overlapping where necessary and pressing gently to adhere the folds.
5. Brush the edges of the dough with egg, and sprinkle with sugar. Bake until the crust is golden brown and the filling bubbles a bit, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. Top with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
*Note: The dough can be frozen, wrapped well in plastic, for up to three weeks before using.