Vanilla Rhubarb Tarts Topped with Meringue


Well this has been a long time coming - apologies for the delay, but I promise they're worth the wait! Crisp, short buttery pastry holds a base of soft, sweet, vanilla cream, topped with tart, roasted rhubarb and light meringue. Told you! I have been testing and mucking around to get them just right with the 'winner' being delivered to my sister on her birthday yesterday - Happy Birthday Kim!!! There is no doubt this recipe takes a bit of doing, but seriously, if you have someone you know who loves rhubarb and needs a treat, this is the recipe for you. More pics coming soon, I just wanted to get this up before going out for dinner with Nick for a delayed 10 billion year wedding anniversary dinner shortly (yippee). Big thanks to my lovely graphic/web designer extraordinaire Natasha who directed me to a forum where loads of people were complaining about the same problem I was experiencing with uploading photos to blogger - seems like they had swapped everyone to some kind of photo auto-enhance (not!!!). Thanks to the wonder of forum folk sharing solutions, the problem is now fixed...yay! (Extra pics now up! :) )


Pastry:
200g butter, out of the fridge, just a bit soft, chopped into 3cm cubes
1/2 cup icing sugar
1 3/4 cups plain flour
finely grated zest of 1 small or 1/2 large lemon
1 egg yolk

You will need 6 x  cm tart tins with removable bases or a  2 1/2 cm deep 24cm tart tin for this recipe. (You will also need a food processor and a beater.) Pastry first - whizz butter, icing sugar flour and lemon zest just until it forms big clumpy breadcrumbs. Add yolk and pulse until it all comes together in a ball. Pat into a big fat disc, flour the top and bottom lightly, wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 15 minutes. While it chills, prepare the rhubarb and vanilla cream custard.

Rhubarb:
12 stalks rhubarb, cleaned and cut into 3cm lengths
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 180˚C (350˚F). Lay the rhubarb in a single layer in a baking dish. Sprinkle with sugar and vanilla. Bake in the oven 20-25 minutes until just soft. Leave to cool in the tin.


 Vanilla Cream:
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
6 egg yolks
1/3 cup caster sugar
2 tbsp plain flour 
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
1 1/2 cups cream
Whisk egg yolks, caster sugar, flour and vanilla together in a large bowl or jug. Heat the cream in a saucepan until just simmering. Slowly whisk the hot cream into the egg yolk mixture, then return it all to the pan. Put back onto a gentle heat and cook, whisking continuously until the custard is thick and smooth - it will be quite thick - like a bechamel/cheese sauce, because it needs to stand up to being reheated with the meringue on top :) Leave to cool to room temperature.

Remove the pastry from the fridge, sit for 5-10 minutes, then roll out on a floured surface, and cut into circles a little bigger than your tins. Use a big fish slice or similar if you need to, to unwedge it from the bench. (A wee tip here - when flouring the bench, flour an area as big as you want to roll your pastry...) Now this is a tricky bit - this a soft pastry, lots of butter will keep it short and crisp, but it also makes it a little less amenable when getting it into the tin. Gently roll up the pastry around your rolling pin, and un-roll it over the tins so that it flops roughly into position. (No-one is looking, and if they are shoo them out of the kitchen - this is private cooking business that does not like an audience). Gently squish the pastry into place up the sides of the tins and press gently into the base. Patch up any tears - you will never see them - but you do want to finish with an evenly distributed pastry base. Chill in the freezer for half an hour while  the oven preheats to 180˚C (350˚F). 

Now - do not fudge this bit - it makes all the difference, gently prick the base of the pastry with a fork and cut out 6 circles of baking paper a little larger than the tins, it needs to come up the inside sides of the pastry. Put it in the tins and fill with baking beans or rice - it must come at least some way up the sides of the pastry, what you want is to pre-cook it so that it doesn't shrink, and provides firm, non collapsing sides to the tart. Cook for 12 minutes, carefully remove paper and beans/rice, brush with quickly whisked reserved egg white and cook a further 10 minutes, until lightly golden. 


Preheat oven to 150˚C. Once cooled, remove tart cases from the tins, divide custard cream between tart cases then top with rhubarb. Spoon meringue over the top, making peaks in the surface. Pop in the oven for 15 minutes, until the meringue is just turning golden. Serve warm or cool to much applause and appreciation for all your efforts!

Meringue:
6 egg whites
1 1/4 cups caster sugar
1 1/2 tsp white vinegar

Whisk egg whites to soft peaks, then slowly add sugar, whisking continuously until the egg whites are stiff, and there is no residual grainy texture if you rub a little between your thumb and forefinger (if there is - whisk a little more), Quickly whisk in vinegar to combine.





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