A few readers who saw my post on turning down a book deal understood that I no longer wished to publish a cookbook. Au contraire! Rather, I realized the value in working with an agent who could advise and advocate for me. It was too late to go that route with that particular publisher, but I’ve been researching and contacting literary agents. In the meantime, I’m testing a slew of recipes behind the scenes.
In the past week I’ve made:
- 3 coffeecakes
- 3 crisps
- 1 pie
- 1 pound cake
- 1 oven pancake
- 1 batch of turnovers
- ice cream
- and this tart
That is way too much sweet stuff to have in one’s apartment. (Though somehow, I still managed to polish off a bar of chocolate as well.) In any case, my coping mechanism is:
a) take a vigorous yoga class daily
b) fob off baked goods on yoga teacher
Back in January, I made two resolutions: (this post is getting very list-y)
1) take an early morning yoga class just once
2) switch my bank to a credit union
I’ve never been a morning person, so I felt that dragging my tired bones out of bed at 6:30 am in order to get massacred in pretzel-like poses would be a fun challenge. Jay decided to join me, and we somehow managed to get ourselves hooked on the 7:30 am classes at San Francisco’s Yoga Mayu, a beautiful studio owned by our friends and neighbors Gizella and Robert.
I found it so nice to roll out of bed and, before I could second-guess myself or become engrossed in taking BuzzFeed quizzes working, pull on some stretchy pants and take a stroll in the morning air down to the studio for a can of daily whoop-ass. As a bonus, it got me up and energized, leaving time during the few precious hours of Winter daylight to take pictures of food.
So while the second resolution has yet to be resolved, and what little money I have is still being controlled by a shanky big bank that thinks it’s cool to change the terms of my account and begin charging me monthly fees for having less money than they now require (thanks, guys), the early morning yoga habit stuck.
One of the teachers, Roy Gan, is beautiful inside and out and, like all good yoga teachers, has a bit of a sadistic streak. He refers to his morning class as “espresso,” enjoys laughing evilly while he holds us in some torturous abdominal exercise, and works us so hard that we are often able to wring out our clothes after class.
I brought Roy a slice of this tart the other day, and was surprised to find him unfamiliar with rhubarb. With rhubarb being so trendy these days in the foodblogosphere, I forget sometimes that not everyone is acquainted with the plant that looks like celery but tastes like lemon and flowers. Roy looked at the rosy stalks, clearly puzzled. “What is this?” he asked.
I considered how to describe rhubarb to someone who had never tasted it. The closest cousin to rhubarb is celery in terms of its stalk-like nature, but the thought of a sweet celery pie or tart never elicits gustatory excitement in the recipient. Still, I couldn’t stop myself from blurting, “It’s kind of like celery, only…different.”
Roy eyed the stalks warily. “Yeah,” he said, “I thought so.”
I thought that perhaps a bite of buttery crust, pillowy almond paste and tender, sweet rhubarb would wipe the disgusted expression from Roy’s face, but instead he remained a study in politeness and said, “The crust is very good.”
While I learned anew that rhubarb isn’t for everyone, I was at least glad that my flaky, gluten-free crust passed the Roy test. The right flour blend and a few sneaky techniques – namely cold butter left in big chunks, a fraisage to bring the dough together, and a bit of rolling and folding à la puff pastry – makes the dough nearly as flaky as a wheat-based dough. It stands up well to the filling, staying crisp even days after baking.
I adapted a favorite citrus tart, a Big Sur Bakery Cookbook inspiration that I posted last year at the request of my friend Amelia. A simple frangipane of sorts made from almonds, sugar, butter, and eggs tops a large rectangle of dough whose edges fold over to form a crust. The rhubarb stalks are simply halved lengthwise (or quartered if very thick), then laid across the tart over the almond paste and sprinkled with sugar. A stint in a hot oven leaves them perfectly tender. I drizzle the tart with runny honey and cut it into squares that are easy to devour out of and; no fussy plates or forks necessary.
The finished product reminds me of an almond croissant, shatteringly crisp and fragrant with almond, plus tangy freshness from the meltingly tender rhubarb.
Regardless, I probably won’t be bringing Roy anymore of this tart. Unlike him, I’m not that sadistic.
Many thanks to Jay’s mom Mary for the multi-hued hen’s eggs and chubby rhubarb stalks that made this tart extra-awesome!
Rooting for Rhubarb:
One year ago:
Two years ago:
Three years ago:
Four years ago:
Rustic Rhubarb, Almond, and Honey Tart
If gluten isn’t an issue for you or your guests, make this tart with my wheat-based Flakiest, All-Butter Pie Dough instead, and use all-purpose wheat flour in the frangipane instead of the rice flour. In the filling, I used two smallish eggs, plus a third egg for brushing the edges of the tart. Alternatively, whisk two large eggs together in a bowl. Measure out 2 tablespoons and set them aside for brushing the dough, then use the remaining beaten egg in the filling.
Makes 1 large tart, 12 servings
For the almond paste:
1 cup (3.25 ounces / 90 grams) sliced almonds (or whole or slivered almonds)
6 tablespoons (2.5 ounces / 75 grams) sugar
1/4 cup (1.5 ounces / 40 grams) sweet rice flour
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
6 tablespoons (3 ounces / 85 grams) unsalted butter, softened
2 smallish eggs, plus 1 more for brushing the tart (or 1 1/2 large eggs, other half of egg reserved for brushing the tart)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
For finishing the tart:
1 recipe Gluten-Free All-Butter Pie Dough fraisaged, and roll-fold-rolled
oat flour for rolling the dough
5 – 6 medium stalks rhubarb, at least 14″ long
about 3 tablespoons sugar, for sprinkling
about 4 tablespoons honey, for drizzling
Make the almond paste:
In the body of a food processor, combine the almonds, sugar, rice flour and salt. Process until the almonds are finely ground. Add the softened butter, eggs, vanilla and almond extracts and process to a paste. If the paste is very runny, cover and chill for 20-30 minutes until firm.
Shape the tart:
If the dough is cold, let it stand at room temperature until slightly softened, 5 minutes in a warm kitchen or 15 minutes in a cool kitchen. Sandwich the dough between two pieces of parchment paper dusted lightly with oat flour, and gently begin pressing it flat, then rolling it into a 12×16″ rectangle. As you work, periodically peel back the top piece of parchment, dust the dough lightly with flour, replace the parchment, grasp the dough sandwich with both hands and flip the whole thing over. Peel off the new top piece of parchment, dust with flour, and continue to roll. If the dough is uneven, cut off the long bits and press them onto the short bits, rolling to adhere. When your rectangle is 12×16″, trim the sides so that they’re even and straight. (If your dough becomes soft or sticky at any point, slip it onto a baking
sheet, parchment and all, and chill it for 10-20 minutes to firm the
Slide the dough onto a sheet pan, still on the parchment. Spread the almond paste over the dough, leaving a 1″ border all the way around. Gently fold over the edges to make a crust. Chill the dough until firm, 30 minutes.
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 400ºF.
Trim your rhubarb stalks the length of the dough, then cut them in half lengthwise (or in quarters if they’re very fat). When the dough has chilled, lay the rhubarb across the dough, placing the stalks fairly close together. Brush the edges of the tart with the beaten egg. Sprinkle the sugar all over the rhubarb and crust.
Bake the tart until the almond paste is golden and puffed and the rhubarb is tender, 30-35 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. Just before serving, drizzle all over with the honey, and cut into 12 rectangles.
The tart is best the day of baking. It will keep at cool room temperature for up to 1 day, and refrigerated for up to 3 days.