I learned last year that I don't have the tastebuds or palate to eat rhubarb as a main part of a savory dish, like in pasta or soup. As inviting as rhubarb looks with its deep reds and soft pinks integrated into a tagliatelle or blended into a soup, my mouth instantly rejects its sour taste.
I'd rather incorporate rhubarb into sweeter dishes, breaking down the fibers into rhubarb jams and compotes and incorporating these into scones and tarts. Rhubarb's full flavor and tartness is greatly enhanced by sweetness and spices like cinnamon or nutmeg.
Everyone initially picks up cookbooks for different reasons. In my case, if I don't already know the author or chef, I make my selections based on appetite-inducing cover photography. With Good to the Grain, I can't separate the gorgeous cover from my previous knowledge of the contents of the book. As soon as Kim Boyce's cookbook was published, I watched tweets and remarks ricochet around the internet. And because I was interested in baking with a variety of flours, not just all-purpose, my reasons for picking up her cookbook were varied. Having said that, Quentin Bacon's cover photograph of a baking sheet topped with mini rhubarb tarts did serve to increase my speed of page flipping, and I grew more excited with each turn.
Because Good to the Grain has quickly become a mainstay in my kitchen, I turned my first batch of Winters Farm rhubarb into the tarts on the cover.
These tarts, made with corn flour, are in essence mini-galettes. You should shape each to be roughly the same size, but the beauty of a galette or free-form tart stems from their irregularities. When I removed the tarts from the oven, some of them had retained their initial shapes while others were bubbling over with the rhubarb compote.
Boyce picked corn flour for this recipe to highlight both the flavor and color of corn without having to deal with the grittiness that stems from baking with cornmeal. Corn is a flavor that doesn't back down or moderate, and these baked tarts are dense enough to hold together with each small--or large-- bite you take. How long did eight tarts last in our house? Two days. I'm excited to make these again next weekend!
You should plan to spend parts of two days making these tarts: the first day for the compote and the second day to shape and bake the tarts.
Rhubarb Hibiscus Compote
Source: Good to the Grain
Makes 3 cups
2 lbs rhubarb
1 1/4 cups dark brown sugar
8 dried hibiscus flowers/2.5 tablespoons if crumbled
1) Trim the ends from the rhubarb stalks and then cut them in half lengthwise. Cut the lengths into 3/4 chunks on the diagonal. Transfer 2/3rds of the pieces into a medium pot. Set the other third aside for later.
2) Add the brown sugar and hibiscus into the pot, stir several times, and turn the heat on to medium low. Cook the mixture covered for about 15 minutes.
3) Remove the cover and increase the heat to medium. Cook for around 15 minutes, stirring constantly, until rhubarb has completely broken down and the resulting consistency is quite thick.
4) Add the remaining rhubarb to the pot and stir to combine.
5) Pour the compote out onto a large baking dish to cool completely.
6) Remove the hibiscus flowers from the compote. Store the compote in the refrigerator for up to a week. *Besides the tarts below, you can also incorporate it into cobblers and crisps.
Source: Good to the Grain
Makes 8-10 tarts
1 cup corn flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup fine cornmeal
1/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
4 oz cold butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/4 cup plus two tablespoons heavy cream
2 egg yolks
1 batch Rhubarb Compote
1) Sift the dry ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer. Then attach the bowl and paddle to the mixer. Add the butter, turn the mixer speed to low, and mix slowly to break up the butter. Increase the speed to medium and mix until the butter is as coarse as cornmeal.
2) Add the heavy cream and egg yolks and mix until combined. The dough will still look crumbly, but will come together when squeezed with your fingers.
3) Shape the tarts immediately. Divide the dough into 8-10 unshaped pieces. Flour a work surface and take one piece of dough to shape. Use the heel of your hand to flatten the dough into a rough circle. Flatten until the dough is about 5 inches in diameter.
4) Spoon rhubarb compote into the center of the dough and then fold the edge of the dough toward the compote and around it.
5) Use a bench scraper or spatula to transfer the tart to a plate or baking sheet. Complete the remaining pieces of dough.
6) Put the tarts in the freezer for 1 hour (or up to two weeks if wrapped in plastic).
7) Preheat the oven to 375. Line a baking sheet (or two, depending on the size of your tarts) with parchment paper. Transfer the tarts to the baking sheet.
8 ) Bake for 35 minutes, until the tarts are brown and the rhubarb is bubbly. Enjoy the tarts, but try to eat them within 2 days!