Tag Archives: rhubarb

{12} Rhubarb Half-Moon Cookies

That’s the end of 2014! Hope you had a blast! I spent the evening in central London to see the fireworks, which is something I haven’t done for about ten years. It might have been chilly, but we were all wrapped up and there was enough champagne and fireworks so that we didn’t really notice how cold it was. Today all the decorations came down and it was back to normal with a bit of a bump. Hey ho…

Today is also the final instalment of the 12 Bakes of Christmas. I usually aim to get them all done before Christmas, or at least before New Year’s Eve, but this year, things went slightly awry. I would love to imagine that I am an organised person, and I had all the best intentions about the bakes I was going to do. Everything would be done in good time. Festive baking would be stress-free. For my final bake, I had something quite impressive in mind too. I hunted around for the ingredients. I even bought a special mould! And then I made them…and they were really awful. Unperturbed, I put it down to a mistake I must have made, and had another go. Also dreadful. It turns out that my baking skills were spot on…it was just that my chosen recipe (which you may notice I’ve avoided naming) simply was not actually that nice! So, I had to abandon my original plan, and go on the hunt for something else to round off this year’s baking. But what?

Well, as fortune would have it, someone read last year’s post about hálfmánar, or Icelandic half-moon cookies. I had used prune filling, but my Icelandic reader told me that apparently this is not really authentic (based on a straw pole of some Icelandic people, which I am willing to accept as 100% scientific). So I was given his mum’s recipe for making them, using rhubarb jam (which I love) as well as baker’s ammonia (which is my all-time favourite novelty baking ingredient). And so it was settled – I would just have another go at one of my favourite recipes from last year, just a more authentic version of it.

rhubarbhalfmanar

As with so many things, nothing beats an authentic recipe – the pastry is great (that baker’s ammonia makes they very light and airy) and the rhubarb jam really is nice in these things, a nice combination of tart and sweet. And yes – better than the prune fulling I used last time! I also took a little more time this year with the finishing – I used a scalloped rather than round cutter on the pastry, used a fork to get good, deep crimping on the edges, and brushed them with a little beaten egg to get a good colour and shine. They also provide a nice alternative to all those rich, spiced goodies at this time of year – lighter and a little unusual.

One final confession – this is not 100% my reader’s mum’s recipe. The recipe I got looked like it would make quite a lot of biscuits, so I divided it by three, which still yielded 25 little rhubarb pastries. Have some pity – when you do twelve recipes in rapid succession, you do get rather a glut of baked goods, and there are limits to how much my friends are willing to eat!

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Finally, I hope you’ve enjoyed the 12 Festive Bakes of Christmas series for this year. I’m sure we’ll be kicking off again in about 11 months’ time!

 To make Rhubarb Hálfmánar (makes 25):

• 165g flour
• 80g sugar
• 80g butter
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
• 1 medium egg

• 1/2 teaspoon baker’s ammonia
• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
• rhubarb jam
• milk, to seal
• beaten egg, to glaze

1. Start with the pastry: in a bowl, rub the butter into the flour. Mix in the sugar, spices and baker’s ammonia. Mix in the egg and work to a soft dough (add a dash more flour if needed). Chill in the fridge overnight (the dough will be quite soft, but will firm up in the fridge).

2. Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F). Line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper.

3. Make the biscuits. Roll out the pastry, then cut out 8cm diameter discs of pastry (use a round or scalloped cutter – I used scalloped). Put about a quarter of a teaspoon of rhubarb jam in the middle of each piece. Moisten the edges of the pastry disc with milk, them fold in half. Use a fork to seal and crimp the edges.

4. Beat an egg and brush the top of each bookie.

5. Bake the cookies for around 10-12 minutes until golden.

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Rhubarb & Custard Tarts

I was in the centre on the City last week, and there was a noticeable spring-like feeling in the air as I walked past St Paul’s Cathedral. Still rather fresh, but the smells of plants awakening from their winter slumber was certainly there. The flowers were not yet peeking out from the bushes and trees, but catkins and pussywillow have appeared. That was soon eliminated by the return of snow, but hey, for a brief few days, spring had sprung!

Our recent snowstorms have only been a little hiccup, and we are on the march towards warmer days. The impending bonanza of spring is also heralded by the arrival of something very special in your local fruit shop – lots and lots of neon pink Yorkshire rhubarb!

I’ve used this to make some very simple rhubarb tarts which bring together two classic flavours to make a British favourite. A sweet pastry shell, filled with pastry cream flavoured with a dash of vanilla, and then topped off with roasted rhubarb. Yes, it really is this lurid shade of pink!

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How to get the look? As I say, by roasting! The trick to getting the bright colour is by cooking the chopped rhubarb with sugar in the oven. This is, in my view, about the best way of preparing rhubarb for a tart. It keeps the shape of the stems of rhubarb, but also preserves their amazing colour. The result is almost luminous, and combines sweetness with the lip-smacking sharpness that is the hallmark of rhubarb. You also have result which is sweet, sticky and syrupy, rather than watery which can happen if you opt to poach the rhubarb.

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On little tip – when you come to use the rhubarb for the tarts, you only need the fruit, not the syrup. However, the syrup is also delicious – keep it and use it as a glaze, in yoghurt, or in your favourite cocktail (perhaps with Prosecco and gin to make a Yorkshire Pink Gin Fizz?).

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rhubarb_tarts_1

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The recipe below makes four to six tarts, depending on the size of your moulds (you’ll probably have too much pastry left, but I’ll be posting a little trick to use it up shortly). I feel I should caution you that these tarts are not exactly light – the pastry, rhubarb and custard filling means that like all good British puds, they are rather substantial, but there is no reason you could not adapt this to make bite-sized morsels too.

To make rhubarb and custard tartlets (makes 4-6, depending on size):

For the rhubarb:

• 700g pink rhubarb
• 150g white sugar

For the pastry:

• 175g plain flour
• 65g caster sugar
• pinch of salt
• 65g unsalted butter
• 1 egg, beaten
• cold water

For the filling:

• 250ml whole milk
• 2 eggs
• 1 egg yolk
• 90g caster sugar
• 30g cornflour
• 75g butter

To roast the rhubarb:

1. Preheat the oven to 160°C.

2. Wash and trim the rhubarb. Cut into piece of 1-2cm. Mix with the  sugar and put into a glass or ceramic ovenproof dish. Loosely cover the dish with foil but make sure it does not touch the rhubarb (rhubarb + foil = trouble)! Bake for 30 minutes, or until the sugar has dissolved and the rhubarb is pink and soft. Remove from the oven and allow to cool (ideally, leave overnight in the fridge – the colour will intensify).

To make the pastry:

3. Mix the flour, salt and sugar in a bowl. Work the butter in with your hands, then add the egg yolk and sufficient cold water (a teaspoon at a time) to make a soft dough. Wrap in cling film and chill for at least an hour.

4. Remove the pastry from the fridge. Roll out thinly and use to line some tartlet moulds. Fill with greaseproof paper and baking beads. Bake blind for around 20 minutes, then remove the greaseproof paper and baking beads. Bake for a further 10 minutes until golden. Leave to cool.

To make the pastry cream:

5. Put the milk into a saucepan. Bring to the boil then put to one side.

6. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolk, sugar, cornflour and vanilla extract. Add the milk and whisk until combined. Pour through a sieve into a clean saucepan and place over a medium heat.

7. Stir the mixture constantly until thickened (about 4-5 minutes – and really do stir it, otherwise it gets lumpy!). When very thick, remove from the heat. Add the butter and fold it into the pastry cream mixture. It might look oily, but it will come together.

8. Pour the mixture into a large dish and cover with cling film. Press the film onto the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a skin forming. Leave until completely cold.

To assemble the tartlets

9. Fill each tartlet shell with pastry cream. Top each tart with rhubarb (try to avoid getting too much syrup onto the tarts, or the pastry will get soggy).

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Think Pink! Roasted Rhubarb

Look outside. You see the start of green shoots on the trees, the occasional crocus and a few daffodils starting to peek out from the earth. Is Spring here? Maybe, but rhubarb most certainly is. Those vivid red stalks are a real sign that sunny days are on the way. And to badly misquote Kay Thompson in the Audrey Hepburn classic Funny Face, when faced with what can still be a rather drab time of year, Think Pink!

Mention rhubarb, and some wag usually sucks their teeth, and makes the a pronouncement along the lines of well, you know that it’s actually a vegetable. All well and good – tomatoes are fruit, bananas are berries and peanuts are legumes, so that doesn’t really bother me so much.

What does matter is how you cook rhubarb. Anyone who grew up in the UK would have memories from school of this fruit (ha!) boiled until it was reduced to a stringy, gloopy, grey-green pulp. Well, today’s recipe is nothing more than a way of preparing rhubarb that means you can forget the nightmares of childhood, and instead preserve the vibrant pinkness of the stalks and avoid the “stringy bits”. Sold yet?

Now, you might we wondering why on earth would I be looking to roast rhubarb? I know this sounds like an odd technique, and that poaching is more common. However, if you are cooking in water, you still run the risk of ending up with stringy gloop. Not by roasting though – it really is dead simple. Drench the rhubarb in sugar, cover, and bake in the oven until the rhubarb is pink and tender.

Like magic, the sugar has vanished, the colour is superb and you have a little bit of rich syrup at the bottom of the dish. Perfect to add to muesli, on ice-cream or to fill a rhubarb tart. All this, and you preserve the bright Barbie-pink colour, which might – might – even get kids to eat the stuff. Can’t be bad? And if you’re feeling fancy, use some of that syrup to make a Spring cocktail.

Just a note on quantities – you would want to use no more than about one-quarter the amount of sugar to rhubarb, but if you prefer to showcase the tartness of the fruit (ha!), feel free to use less sugar.

To make baked rhubarb:

• pink rhubarb
• white sugar (1/4 the weight of the rhubarb)

Preheat the oven to 160°C.

Clean the rhubarb stalks. Cut off the ends, slice into 1 inch /2-3 cm chunks. Place in a glass baking dish, and cover with the sugar.

Loosely cover the dish with foil but make sure it does not touch the rhubarb (rhubarb + foil = trouble)! Bake for 30 minutes, or until the sugar has dissolved and the rhubarb is just starting to brown slightly. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Worth making? Forget green, mushy rhubarb – cooking this way will keep the vivid pink colour of the fruit and makes it a great addition to yoghurt, custard or on ice-cream.

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Rhubarb Tart

Ah, spring is in the air. The blossom is out and it is getting warmer. We’ve had a couple of false starts, but the temperature is starting to creep upwards and the signs of the changing season are all around us. With the warmer weather, we also get the first English rhubarb.

Anyone who grew up in Britain will have remember this “fruit” from their childhood with a combination of fear and trepidation. While it should change from astringent to pleasantly tart through cooking with enough sugar, too often this ended up as a sour green-brown pulp, maybe drowned in lumpy custard if you were lucky. I also recall the alarming fact that you should never cook it in aluminium as it will dissolve the metal (*). Now, does all this sound appealing? Nope, thought not.

How times change. I’m mentioned the rediscovery of childhood favourites and traditional food before, and it seems rhubarb has been part of this, except that it is now featuring in more sophisticated guises, including (to my amazement) the rather marvellous Rhubarb Martini at London’s fashionable Skylon cocktail bar.

Here is my take on the old favourite, rhubarb tart. I had tried a recipe from Nigella Lawson last year, but it was way too creamy. My version has a very thin pastry shell, bigs up the proportion of tangy fruit, and replaces the lashings of rich, sweet mascarpone cream with a little lightly whipped cream. However, Nigella’s tip for preparing the fruit is excellent – rather than stewing, she recommends gently roasting the rhubarb in the oven with a little sugar, which means you end up with tender chunks of rhubarb which burst with flavour and have a positively fluorescent pink colour.

For the tart:

Step 1 – the fruit

• 800g pink rhubarb
• 100g sugar

Step 2 – the pastry:

• 150g plain flour
• 75g butter
• pinch salt
• 2 tablespoon icing sugar
• cold water (to bind – I used 4 scant tablespoons)

Step 3 – the cream filling:

• 300ml double cream
• 2 tablespoons caster sugar
• few drops vanilla extract

Start with the fruit: wash, dry and trim the rhubarb. Cut into 2cm pieces with a sharp knife. Put into a glass oven dish, sprinkle with the sugar and mix gently. Put into an oven at 120°C for around an hour. Watch it like a hawk – the rhubarb should be pink and tender, but not starting to brown. You may also want to open the oven mid-cooking and mix gently so that everything is coated in the rhubarb syrup. Once ready, remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Next, the pastry: Use your fingers to combine the flour, salt, icing sugar and butter in a bowl until it resembles breadcrumbs. Now add cold water, one teaspoon at a time, until the mixture just comes together. Cover with film, and allow to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes. Roll the chilled pastry as thinly as possible and use to line a 20cm loose-bottomed pie tin (try not to stretch it, otherwise it shrinks when you cook it). Put the lined tin into the freezer and allow to chill for 20 minutes. Bake blind at 150°C for around 25 minutes until the pastry is lightly browned. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

For the cream filling: whisk the cream, sugar and vanilla lightly until it is thick-ish but still floppy.

To assemble the tart: Spoon the cream into the pastry shell and spread evenly. Spoon the cooled rhubarb onto the pie (a little at a time), and drizzle any remaining syrup over the tart.

Worth making? In my view, this is the best way to cook rhubarb. The result is so nice that even those otherwise traumatised by their childhood memories of mushy rhubarb will like it. Even if you don’t make the tart, this is a lovely way to prepare rhubarb for serving with yoghurt or ice-cream. Just don’t add too much sugar, so that the sharpness of the rhubarb shines through.

(*) This is what I learned as a child, and duly tried it with a saucepan in the hope that the rhubarb would dissolve the pan before my eyes. As it turns out, the myth is not as dramatic as reality. The rhubarb will discolour and take on a metallic taste, and you don’t really want a dose of aluminum with your rhubarb. Stick to glass pots!

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