Springtime at last, and we’re all super ready for it over here. The rabbits are twice as bouncy, the chickens are ranging off deep into the woods in hopes of bugs and grubs, and the dogs are running around like puppies.
And me? My back is still out. Better than both yesterday, and the first few days after slipping on our mercifully temporary ice, but still painful and limiting. I’ve learned, over the last little bit, that getting up and down out of chairs, twisting my body, and picking up ANYTHING off the floor (including one demanding 8″ dog) are not in my wheelhouse right now. It’s okay, though. I’m doing all the things, except the chiropractor because I’m chicken, and it will continue to improve.
But this is the first day in the last few where I’ve had both the energy and time to do a little baking. Being in pain is exhausting, y’all, and I was starting to feel a little bad about the rhubarb I’d bought on Friday, wasting away in the fridge. It’s one of my favorites (I LOVE tart things), and I was on fire to bake something with it. Of course, we’re still deep in the Great British Bake Off, so a rhubarb and custard tart seemed just the thing. And since my sweetheart does not eat of the gluten, below follows what I came up with, very loosely based on this: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/rhubarb_and_custard_tart_54772. Mine is not as pretty, but HOLY COW is it delicious.
Rhubarb Custard Tart (gluten free)
Equipment: One tart pan, a sharp knife, a medium sized bowl, a smallish pot, measuring cups and spoons, a pastry brush, chickens (to lay the eggs, although I imagine you could also buy them at the store).
1/2 c plus 2 tablespoons white rice flour
1/4 c sweet rice flour
1/4 c tapioca starch
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
4 oz butter or lard (I used half and half)
2 to 4 tablespoons water
1 egg, beaten (for egg wash)
1 lb fresh rhubarb, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 c sugar
4 tablespoons water
4 egg yolks + the remainder of the egg from the crust
1/2 c sugar
2 1/2 cups whole milk, or a mix of half milk, half cream
A note on gluten free baking, flour, and ‘healthy’ baking: It’s important to mention here that I am not specifically advocating going gluten free. However, if you’re GOING to do it, it’s nice to be able to make your own desserts, since the vast majority of packaged gf things are expensive and not so very tasty. If what you’re looking for is ‘healthy’ whatever that means to you, I am probably not your gal. This recipe is full of dairy and eggs. It is also delicious.
You could choose to use whole grain flours here, or the kind of white and brown rice flours one purchases at the health food store. It will taste good, but you will fool no one. Those flours are gritty at best, and will never successfully make the texture of crust (or biscuit or cookie or cake) that most folks are used to. This is fine, if that’s what you’re going for. Some people like their desserts to seem virtuous.
But me, I only want to eat gf foods that are AS DELICIOUS as regular wheaty baked goods. To that end, I buy all my gluten free flours at the Asian market (similar products are available online), where white rice, sweet rice, tapioca, and potato flours are all very finely milled, and SUPER CHEAP. Like a dollar a pound. Much better texture than Bob’s Red Mill or Arrowhead Mills.
For the crust:
Mix all the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Add the fat, cut up into slices or small chunks. Rub the fat into the flours until the mixture looks like cornmeal. You want no chunks of fat left. Then add 2 tablespoons of the water, and mix with a spoon or your fingers. Here’s the nice thing about gf baking (we’re going to get to the crappy thing later): it’s very hard to overwork this dough. There’s no gluten to begin with, so you can’t really make it tough. If the dough doesn’t come together, add a bit more water. You want to be able to squash it into a ball.
Take your ball of dough, squash it into a disk, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate it for a half hour. Meanwhile, work on the rhubarb.
Toss your rhubarb, cinnamon stick, sugar, and water into a small pot. Cook until the rhubarb is very tender and falling apart. Remove from heat. Then you can either whiz it up in the food processor, or (as I did) squash it with a potato masher. You’re looking for the texture of thick applesauce.
Since your half hour has now passed, turn your oven on to 325, and pull out the disk of dough. GF pastry is VERY VERY fragile (this is the crappy part), but I have a solution. I roll the dough out between layers of plastic wrap, two overlapping sheets on the bottom and the same on the top.
It is about a thousand times easier to work with. When you have a nice circle, bigger than your tart pan, gently pull off the top layers of plastic, then gently lay the dough out over the pan. While it is still plasticized from the bottom (now the top), gently push the dough up against the walls of the pan, making sure you’ve got no big air bubbles between dough and pan. Then peel off the wrap. It will look like this:
Or maybe it doesn’t. Never fear, the dough is very pliable. Pull some off a wide edge, and patch any cracks or holes. Do NOT trim away the excess dough. Using a fork, prick the entire bottom of the crust to avoid bubbles (probably 15 times or so). Place pan on a cookie sheet (yes, with that untidy edge hanging over). Bake at 325 for 15 minutes. Pull out of the oven, and brush entire thing thoroughly with one egg, beaten. This will use only about half the egg, but we’ll put the rest in the custard. Be sure to coat all of the crust, since this is our moisture-proof seal.
Put crust back into oven, and bake for another 12 minutes, and put on cooling rack. While the crust is still hot, carefully cut away the excess dough. It will then look like this:
Often when you blind bake an unfilled wheat crust (that’s what we’re doing here), you fill it with beans or dry rice, to keep the edge pressed against the sides and avoid shrinking. But that doesn’t really work with this fragile dough: it would stick to the parchment you lined the crust with, and tear big holes in it.
Ask me how I know.
Okay, now comes the fun part. After the crust is cooled, put 2/3 of the rhubarb filling into the bottom, and the remaining 1/3 into a ziplock bag.
Now, after you’ve washed that pot, heat your milk and/or cream until boiling. In a separate bowl, whisk together the 4 egg yolks, the remainder of the egg you brushed the crust with, and the sugar. Slowly pour the hot dairy into the egg mixture, whisking all the time so you don’t curdle the eggs. Pour half of this custard mixture over the rhubarb filling, then put the crust into the oven. Add the other half of the custard (this is to keep you from sloshing it over the crust edge, sticking your tart to the pan) and bake for 15 minutes. Open the oven again, pull out the rack, and snip the corner off your baggie. Pipe a nice spiral of the remaining rhubarb goop onto the tart. It will not look perfect, but will be pretty after baking nonetheless.
Continue to bake for 35 minutes, or until custard is largely set, with just a slight wiggle. Pull from oven and cool completely.
Attempt to keep from eating the whole thing tonight. Good thing we’re playing games with a friend. If you need me, I’ll be the gal with the full belly and the heating pad.
Until next time,