Thursday, May 22, 2014


We're in full spring swing here at Freegrace. 

The rhubarb put to some good use:  filling my pie hole!

 The bees are buzzing.  The veggie plots are sprouting.  The hop vines are climbing.  The currants and gooseberries are getting their berries on.  The lilacs are smelling up the joint with their otherworldly perfume.
Fuzzy little pollinator doing her job.

Hop vine, shimmying her way up a hemp rope.  
Black currants transforming from tiny clustered blooms to berries.
The lilac trees cover the barn every spring with lush perfume.  No one's complaining.
And the rhubarb is READY!

Her Majesty, the rhubarb.

I'm a wee bit bored of the standard rustic rhubarb recipes; it's either the crumble pie or the lumpy crumble cake.  So this year as I was hacking away at the leggy plant, I promised my ever faithful and leafy friend that I would honor her tart goodness in a pastry more elegant than the norm.

I looked to the glorious flavor combination of Pierre Hermé's Celeste pastry, with its lip puckering combination of tart smothered in tart and barely cut with a smidge of luscious sweetness:  rhubarb, passion fruit and strawberries.  The beauty of this treat is that you can make the fillings ahead of time.  I'd even suggest you double the rhubarb/strawberry compote to slather on waffles or pancakes over the weekend.

You'll thank me later.



For the tart shell dough

6 ounces unsalted butter, frozen
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
1/2 teaspoon salt

For the rhubarb/strawberry compote

2 cups fresh rhubarb, cut into 1/2 inch dice
8 ounces fresh strawberries, hulled and diced
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon honey
zest 1 lemon
juice 1/2 a lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
pinch salt

For the passionfruit custard

1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup passionfruit puree (can substitute with 1/2 cup Goya passionfruit juice.  If you do this substitution, eliminate the 2 tablespoons honey)
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons honey
pinch salt
3 large egg yolks
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 tablespoon butter

For the meringue

3 egg whites
3/4 cup sugar
pinch  salt


For the tart dough

Preheat the oven to 350º.

Add the flour, cornstarch, sugar and salt to a large mixing bowl.  Whisk together.  Using a box grater, grate the butter on top of the flour mixture and toss the butter and flour together so that the butter is evenly distributed among the flour.

In a small bowl, combine the yolk and sweetened condensed milk and whisk to combine.  Add to the flour mixture and gently mix with your fingers to evenly distribute the ingredients.  Gently knead the dough until it just holds together. Press into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Spray a 12" tart pan with a removable bottom with non-stick cooking spray.

Lightly flour your work space with flour and roll out the dough into a rough 13" circle.  Transfer the dough to the tart pan and gently press into the bottom and sides of the pan and trim any excess dough.  Dock the dough (prick the bottom with a fork a few times) and freeze for 20 minutes.

Line the tart pan with parchment and fill with pie weights or dry beans.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Remove the parchment and pie weights and continue baking until fully baked through, about 10 to 15 minutes more.  Set aside to cool completely.

For the compote

In a large saucepan, combine the rhubarb, sugar, zest, lemon juice, vanilla and salt.  Stir over medium heat until the sugar has melted and the mixture comes to a simmer.  Cover and allow to simmer for 5 minutes more or until the rhubarb is very soft.

Add the strawberries and stir to combine.  Cover again for 2 minutes to soften the berries and to thicken the mixture.  Transfer the compote to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate until cool, about 1/2 hour.

For the passionfruit custard

Combine all the ingredients in a large saucepan and whisk to combine.  Continue whisking over medium/low heat until the mixture thickens to the consistency of ketchup.

Take from the heat and add the butter.  Whisk until the butter is completely melted and incorporated into the mixture.  Cover with plastic wrap so that it touches any exposed custard but leave on the counter as you'll be immediately assembling the tart.

To assemble

Spoon the rhubarb/strawberry compote into the prepared tart pan and spread in an even layer with a small offset spatula.  Immediately pour the warm passionfruit custard over the compote and spread evenly over the compote with a small offset spatula.  Immediately place a piece of plastic wrap over the pie, making sure the plastic wrap touches the custard directly so that it doesn't form a skin.  Refrigerate until cool and set, about 2 hours to overnight.

For the meringue

Combine the egg whites, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Place the bowl over a saucepan with simmering water.  Whisk the mixture constantly until the sugar is completely melted and the mixture is hot to the touch.  The mixture must reach160ºF to ensure that all bacteria is safely eradicated.
Transfer the bowl to the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and whisk on high until the meringue reaches stiff peaks and the bowl is cool to the touch.

Transfer the meringue to a piping bag fitted with a decorative tip (I used a St. Honoré tip), remove the plastic wrap and pipe the meringue decoratively over the top of the pie.  Serve immediately or refrigerate up to 2 days.