Credit Julie Jones, British home baker, who posts tarts of astounding complexity (Instagram: julie — jonesuk). Checkerboard. Stripes. Parquet. Looping floral bouquets. From rhubarb!
Inspired, I shaved some stalks into paper-thin ribbons and wove them into a pale pink lattice. Stunning. In the oven, it toasted to tatters. Chastened, I followed an actual recipe, carving tiny pink and white bricks and working them into a stair-step mosaic.
During my long night of setting tile, I learned some things. 1) British bakers have access to “forced” rhubarb — grown in the dark, harvested by candlelight and shockingly pink — even when baked. 2) We don’t.
I also discovered — again! — that I’m not the T-square type. I’m good with rhubarb that looks like rhubarb — and tastes like nothing but spring.
RUSTIC RHUBARB TART
Prep: 30 minutes plus 2-hour wait
Bake: 35 minutes
Makes: One (7-inch) tart, 4 servings
1 pound (about 4 stalks) fresh rhubarb
1/2 cup sugar plus 1/4 cup sugar
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
Pie pastry (recipe follows)
1 tablespoon butter, grated or diced
1. Macerate: Trim rhubarb, slice in half the long way and cut crosswise, on the diagonal, into 1/2-inch thick lozenges. Measure 31/2 cups. Toss rhubarb in a bowl with 1/2 cup sugar, and let rest, stirring occasionally, 2 hours at room temperature or up to 24 covered and chilled.
2. Toss: Drain rhubarb; discard liquid. Toss rhubarb with zest. Heat oven to 400 degrees.
3. Fill: Roll out pastry 1/8-inch thin, and trim to a 12-inch circle. Set pastry on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Heap rhubarb onto pastry, leaving a bare border of about 2 1/2 inches. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup sugar evenly over rhubarb. Scatter on butter. Fold border up and over the rhubarb, shaping a rustic tart with a casually pleated edge.
4. Bake: Slide pan into oven, and bake until pastry has browned and juices thickened, 35 to 38 minutes. Cool on a rack. Enjoy warm or at room temperature.
Pie pastry: Measure into the food processor 1 cup flour, 7 tablespoons unsalted butter (cut up) and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Pulse until largest lumps are the size of peas. Sprinkle on 4 tablespoons ice-cold water. Pulse, adding more water if needed, to damp clumps. Pat pastry into a disk. Wrap in waxed paper, and chill, at least one hour.
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