I don’t do pies. I just don’t. Maybe you have to grow up with pies and learn to make them with your mother or your grandmother…
Tarts, however, that’s another story. Maybe because they are easier to make than pies? I mean, you certainly can gussy up a tart, but as its most basic it’s fruit, a bit of sugar and one layer of pastry shell. The pastry can be an all-purpose short crust, a sweet short crust, or puff pastry. or whatever you can get together. The filling is nothing more than fresh seasonal fruit sprinklered with sugar and baked, or a slim layer of fruit jam or fruit compote baked and topped with fresh fruit. You could even use custard or creme patissière that can be flavored ad infinitum (That’s getting into gussying it up, by the way). The fruit can be cooked or uncooked. The dough can be prepared well ahead… You can even turn them upside down! How flexible is that?
Tarts are are very forgiving. Providing you don’t mess with the shell that is. I despise soggy crust, and maybe that’s part of why I never cook pies. Too many of them are soggy. Tarts however aren’t – if you do it right. That means baking the shell ahead of time either fully or partially depending whether you will cook the fruit or not (unless you are using puff pastry and then all bets are off), waiting for it to cool completely before adding your filling, and of course, if using raw fruit, be sure to glaze it. The secret is in the glazing!
I do like the combination of strawberries and rhubarb in pastry. I just don’t like it too much with cooked strawberries and I sure don’t like a soggy crust. Rhubarb has a lot of liquid that will make the crust soggy. And so do strawberries if you cook them. Many recipes thicken the mixture with tapioca or other such things – a texture and taste I don’t care for. I rather cook the rhubarb and drain it, reserving the syrup for another use, like this rhubarb compote made in a prior post while also making syrup! And leave the strawberries in their perfumed glorious uncooked state.
So to make this Fresh Strawberry & Ginger Rhubarb Tart you need:
- a half cooked pastry shell (recipe follows)
- enough rhubarb compote to fill the shell, a layer 1/2 inch thick
- enough strawberries to cover the compote
- 1/2 cup of rhubarb syrup.
- enough fresh strawberries to cover the tart – all of even size and smaller preferably
- Preheat the oven to 400F. Spread the rhubarb compote into the shell and bake the tart for 20 minutes.
- Reduce the syrup by half to make a glaze. Let cool somewhat until you can use a brush to paint the strawberries.
- Let the tart cool.
- Wash, let dry and hull strawberries. Arrange on tart. Paint the strawberries with the glaze.
- Serve cool. This tart refrigerates well but is better eaten within 24 hours anyway.
For a 9-inch tart:
- ½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick) — not too cold, but not at room temperature
- 1 cup flour plus some for dusting
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 to 3 tablespoons ice water
For 11-inch tart, increase the proportion to ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons butter and to 1 ¼ cup plus one heaping tablespoon for the flour. Add an additional teaspoon of sugar.
- Cut butter into small pieces.
- In a bowl mix flour, salt and sugar. Add butter and work it into the flour, rubbing it between your fingers until the mixture looks like cornmeal and the dough is starting to hold together. Add the water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and work it into the mixture just until the pastry is blended and sticks together when you press it. You may not need to use all the water. I usually need just 2 tablespoons.
- Shape the dough into a ball. Place into a clean bowl and cover with a wet-and-wrung clean kitchen towel. Set aside for 1 hour (up to 2) so the dough has a chance to absorb moisture.
- Lay a sheet of parchment paper on the counter and dust with flour. Top with dough. Roughly shape the dough in your tart pan shape (i.e. flatten into a disk if using a round pan; shape into a log and flatten if using a rectangular one; divide if making tartlettes.) Dust the dough with flour. Cover with another sheet of parchment paper. Roll with rolling pin until slightly bigger than your pan plus the depth of its sides. Remove the top layer of parchment paper. Lift the dough and bottom parchment paper and carefully flip so that the parchment paper is in on top. Lower the dough into the tart pan and press gently through the paper to fit the pan. Remove paper and crimp and trim the dough as needed.
- Freeze for 30 minutes or up to overnight.-Prick the bottom all over with a fork.
- Bake in preheated 375F oven for 20 to 30 minutes until the shell is set and lightly colored.
- Let cool completely before putting filling in.
(Note: You can freeze the pastry shells at this point for later use; there is no need to thaw before you add the filling and bake).