When it’s rhubarb season I can’t resist buying a bunch of rhubarb every time I see it. So I have a lot of rhubarb in my fridge for a couple of weeks. Which means I need to make a lot of rhubarb dishes.
I’d already made my favorite rhubarb lemon bundt cake. And my favorite rhubarb ginger coffee cake. So it was time to try a new recipe.
And then the stars aligned. I found dried hibiscus flowers at an exotic stall at the local market. And I happened to have fine corn flour in the fridge and corn meal in the pantry. And I had a party coming up. The perfect combination for corn-rhubarb tartlets.
It’s supposed to make 10 individual tarts, but I wanted to make more smaller ones for a party. So I made twenty small ones.
From Good to the Grain
Note: Free-form tarts are my favorite way to showcase ripe fruit – they’re delicious, easy and beautiful without being precious. Here, corn flour and rhubarb are paired for both their assertive flavor and their stunning color. You can also press the dough into a fluted tart shell for a larger, more formal dessert. Or, just make the dough (without the compote) and roll into simple cookies.
1 cup corn flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup fine cornmeal
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
4 ounces (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp heavy cream
2 egg yolks
1 batch Rhubarb Hibiscus Compote (see below)
1. To make the dough, sift the dry ingredients into the bowl of a standing mixer, pouring back into the bowl any bits of grain or other ingredients that may remain in the sifter.
2. Attach the bowl and the paddle to the standing mixer. Add the butter, turn the mixer speed to low (so the flour doesn’t go flying out of the bowl) and mix to break up the butter. Increase the speed to medium and mix until the butter is as coarse as cornmeal. Add the heavy cream and the egg yolks and mix until combined. The dough will appear crumbly, but when squeezed between your fingers it will become one mass. This dough is best shaped right after making, as it hardens when refrigerated. If the dough is chilled first, let it come to room temperature before shaping.
3. To shape the tarts, divide the dough into 10 equal pieces. Lightly flour a work surface. Grab one piece of dough and, using the heel of your hand, flatten the dough into a rough circle. Continue flattening until the circle is approximately 5 inches in diameter and of even thickness. If at any time the dough is sticking, flour the work surface and the dough. For an elegant finish, gently flatten the outer edge in a downward fashion, making it thinner than the rest of the dough.
4. Spoon 1/4 cup of rhubarb compote into the center of the dough. Fold the edge of the dough toward the compote and up, to create a ruffled edge. Continue until an irregularly shaped ruffling happens. (Keep in mind that this is a rustic, handmade tart, so it shouldn’t look like a machine made it.)
5. Slide a bench scraper or metal spatula underneath the tart and transfer it to a plate or baking sheet. Continue with the remaining dough. Slide the shaped tarts into the freezer to rest and harden for at least 1 hour, or up to 2 weeks if wrapped tightly in plastic.
6. Preheat the oven to 375F. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Transfer the tarts onto the baking sheets.
7. Bake for about 35 minutes, or until the edges of the tarts are brown and the rhubarb is bubbling and thick.
8. The tarts can be eaten warm or at room temperature. They can also be wrapped tightly in plastic and kept for up to 2 days.
Note: I always know it’s spring when I see the first stalks of rhubarb at the farmers’ market. In this recipe, fresh rhubarb is cooked down into a bright-colored compote. Dried hibiscus flowers are traditionally used in jamaica, a Mexican agua fresca, and to make tea. You can find hibiscus flowers in tea shops and many grocery stores, especially Latin markets. Here’s they brighten the pink hue of the rhubarb. This compote fills the corn-flour rhubarb tarts and also makes a delicious filling for fruit crisps and cobblers.
2 pounds rhubarb stalks
1 1/4 cups dark brown sugar
8 dried hibiscus flowers
1. Rinse the rhubarb stalks and trim off the very ends. Unless the stalks are very slender, cut them in half lengthwise. Cut the rhubarb on the diagonal into 3/4-inch chunks. You’ll have about 6 cups of rhubarb; set aside 2 cups and put the remaining 4cups into a medium heavy-bottomed pot (with about a 5-quart capacity).
2. Add the brown sugar and hibiscus flowers to the pot, give the mixture a few stirs, cover, and turn the heat to medium-low. (It’s important to begin slowly so the rhubarb warms up and begins to release its liquid.) Cook the rhubarb mixture for about 15 minutes, covered, until the mixture is saucy.
3. Remove the cover and increase the heat to medium. Cook for 15 to 17 minutes, stirring continuously, until the rhubarb is completely broken down and thick enough that a spoon leaves a trail at the bottom of the pan.
4. Add the remaining rhubarb chunks to the pot and stir to combine.
5. Immediately pour the compote out onto a large plate or baking dish to cool. When the compote is cooled completely, remove the hibiscus flowers, squeezing any juice from them into the compote, and discard. The compote will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.