Many of my favorite vegetables are technically fruits. Tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, and bell peppers all fall under that category. Botanically, the defining feature between fruit and vegetables are seeds—if it has seeds, it's a fruit; if it doesn't, it's a vegetable. In some ways, I feel like I should be ashamed. Under these strict rules, I'm certain I'll never meet my daily required serving of actual vegetables.
There are only so many carrot sticks one person can eat.
Rhubarb, however, is just the opposite. Though it's treated as a fruit in cooking and baking, it is technically a vegetable. Imagine that. Rhubarb grows from the ground on stalks, similar to celery, and sprouts poisonous leaves (which are only fatally poisonous if you decide to eat a few pounds of them). If it wasn't for all of the sugar needed to balance out rhubarb's tart flavor, I could have had a surefire way to get my vegetables eaten.
Perhaps someday I'll find a way to make dessert fall squarely into the healthier food groups...
I often feel rhubarb is an understated flavor. Given the chance to stand alone, it can be magnificently bold and tart all at once (a flavor profile I've truly grown to love). More often than not, however, rhubarb is paired with berries (particularly strawberries) in pies and desserts. While I do enjoy these combinations, every so often I feel like rhubarb should be given the chance to stand on its own. To gain a little independence and prove that it has what it takes to cook up a good dessert.
That is exactly the spirit in which these rhubarb custard tarts were created.
These Rhubarb Custard Tarts combine rhubarb, cardamom, and orange into a treat perfect for light lunches and sweet breakfasts. A whole wheat cardamom crust encases orange poached rhubarb with a sweet egg custard. The true star of the show, however, is the rhubarb orange syrup drizzled on top (it's simply a reduction of the liquid the rhubarb was poached in, but there is so much flavor). I enjoyed this tart both warm from the oven and chilled from the refrigerator as leftovers the next day.
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Rhubarb Custard Tart
Adapted from Tartelette
Yields 1 9-inch tart, 2 5-inch tarts, or 8 3-inch tarts
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large egg
2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup cold water
In a food processor, add the flours, cardamom, sugar, and salt. Pulse in the butter and the egg. If dough does not hold together when squeezed, mix in cold water 1 tablespoon at a time until it does.
If a food processor is not available, whisk together the flours, cardamom, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter and egg, blending together until smooth. If dough does not hold together when squeezed, mix in cold water 1 tablespoon at a time until it does.
Form dough into a ball and flatten. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).
On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to 1/4-inch thick and line a tart pan. If dough rips or tears, simply repair with remaining dough. Using a fork, stab several holes in the bottom to prevent the dough from rising.
Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until almost completely baked.
Keep oven warm.
Rhubarb Custard Filling
Juice of 1 orange
2 tablespoons honey
6-9 medium stalks rhubarb, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a medium saucepan, bring the orange juice and honey to a boil with 1/2 cup water. Add the chopped rhubarb and poach for 2-3 minutes. Strain out rhubarb and place in a bowl; it will continue to soften as it rests. Keep the orange and honey juice boiling until it thickens into a sauce, about 8-12 minutes. Remove from heat and reserve for later.
In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar, sour cream, milk, cardamom, and vanilla. Set aside.
Spoon poached rhubarb evenly between baked tart shells. Cover with custard.
Place in oven and bake for 20-25 minutes for small tarts, 35-40 minutes for large tarts. Tarts will be done baking when the top begins to brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.
To serve, drizzle with reduced rhubarb orange syrup and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve warm.
To store, chill in the refrigerator in an air-tight container.