Rhubarb Frangipane Tart

Is there anything more summery than a fruit tart? (well other than the healthy alternative of simply fruit that is). As temperatures rise, nights draw longer & (hopefully) the sun begins to shine we are blessed with a plethora of colourful fruity offerings. It’s the season of preserving, foraging & green fingers. This year I’ve even turned my hand to nurturing my own garden in an attempt to not only add more colour (I love flowers!) but also to grow some additional fruit… which I’m sure will mainly end up in jam. So far so good as I’ve managed not to kill anything as of yet… I feel rather like a proud mother as my marigolds & lavender grow ever larger (occasionally I feel the need  to take photographs & tell others of their achievements).

Rhubarb Frangipane Tart

One of my crops, rhubarb, which unfortunately hasn’t fared well this year (a heat wave in Wales if you can believe it!), is a favourite. These thick, blush stalks which arrive in spring spark all of my excitement for summer. Technically a vegetable with poisonous leaves, this tart perennial is an utterly British classic used in many much-loved desserts, most of which are simple & comforting. Natural (or main crop) rhubarb is a little less pink & a little more tart than its cousin, forced rhubarb. Forced, or early, rhubarb is the winter crop which is available from January to April. Forced rhubarb actually came into existence by happy accident by all accounts. In Chelsea during winter of 1817, the roots of a rhubarb plant were accidentally covered with soil, when the soil was removed weeks later, tender shoots of rhubarb were found, these were a superior quality & flavour than rhubarb previously.

Rhubarb Frangipane Tart

Today forced rhubarb is mainly grown in the ‘rhubarb triangle’ (where rhubarb only mysteriously vanishes if I’m around) of West Yorkshire. In the 1800’s, following the discovery of forced rhubarb, Yorkshire was the main growing region, producing over 5,000 tones annually. Today Yorkshire still produces around 70% of the country’s forced rhubarb. Known as the ‘rhubarb triangle’ due to its perfect growing conditions, rhubarb is grown in purpose-built forcing sheds (basically a dark shed). The roots are planed outdoors & allowed to grow their roots for 2 years before being lifted & moved into sheds. Here the rhubarb is kept in complete darkness, thus avoiding photosynthesis taking place & turning the plants green. The rhubarb is then harvested by candlelight to preserve their perfect pink colour.

Rhubarb Frangipane Tart

Rhubarb became a diet staple in Britain during war-time, a time when shortages of pastry ingredients & rationing led to the popularity of an economical alternative, the crumble. Thus creating a much-loved British classic, rhubarb crumble (eaten with custard obviously). But don’t simply relegate rhubarb to crumbles & compotes, it goes so well with an array of both sweet & savoury flavours (rhubarb gin anyone?). Not only does it taste good but its glorious colour can lend itself to some beautifully showstopping creations. Not straying too far from tradition & taking inspiration from another popular (& amazing by its own right) British dessert, the Bakewell tart, I was curious how the sharpness of rhubarb would pair with the sweetness of a frangipane. Unlike the traditional Bakewell however, I wanted my rhubarb to sit proudly pink a top my bake, showcasing its summery colours, glistening in the early spring sunshine with a little brush of strawberry jam for good measure. In true British custom, I made this rhubarb frangipane tart as a dessert to accompany a barbecue (held simply because the sun was out) & it went down well, even with full tummies so it must be good.


RHUBARB FRANGIPANE TART
(makes one 25cm tart)

Ingredients:

For the shortcrust pastry:

  • 250g plain flour
  • 25g icing sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 125g butter, cubed
  • 1 egg yolks
  • 2 – 3 tbsp cold water

For the filling:

  • 150g butter
  • 165g caster sugar
  • 140g ground almonds
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 5g rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract

For the topping & glaze glaze:

  • 400g rhubarb, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 2-3 tbsp strawberry jam

Method:

For the pastry:

  • To make the pastry begin by combining sifting together the flour, salt & icing sugar into a large bowl
  • Add in the cubed butter to the bowl & using your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs
  • Add the egg yolk to the bowl & use a spoon to stir through
  • Next add in 1 tbsp of water & stir through, continue to add water sparingly, only adding 1 tbsp at a time, just enough until the mixture starts to clump together
  • Use your hands to finish bringing the mixture together to form a dough
  • Flatten the dough into a shallow disc shape, cover in a beeswax wrap or some cling film & chill in the fridge for approximately 30 minutes (you could even do this the day before)
  • Pre-heat the oven to 180C & roll out the pastry into a large round, to roughly the thickness of a £1 coin, one large enough to fill a 22cm round tart tin
  • Line your tin with the pastry, leaving any excess to hang over the edges of the tin
  • Next, use a fork to prick small holes all over the bottom of your pastry
  • Place a sheet of baking parchment inside the pastry case & fill with baking beans or rice
  • Blind bake the pasty for 10 minutes, remove the beans & parchment & continue to bake for a further 5 minutes until slightly golden in colour
  • Remove the tin from the oven & allow to cool for 10 minutes before trimming off the excess pastry overhanging the sides of the tin

For the filling:

  • To make the filling begin by simply placing all of the ingredient except for the jam into a large bowl & beating together until smooth & spreadable

To assemble the tart:

  • Once the pastry case has cooled spread the frangipane filling inside levelling the surface
  • Arrange the rhubarb pieces on top of the frangipane, either in lengths or in a design
  • Bake the tart in the oven at 180C for 45-50 minutes until golden in colour & the filling has set (a skewer poked into the frangipane should come out cleanly)
  • Remove the tart from the oven & leave to cool in it’s tin for 10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack
  • Whilst the rhubarb frangipane tart is cooling, gently heat the strawberry jam in a small saucepan or in the microwave & use to brush all over the top of the tart
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