There can’t be anything more cheerful to serve on a cold, dingy late Autumn’s day than these Rhubarb and Custard Tarts.
With their crisp sweet shortcrust tart casings, creamy custard, juicy rhubarb batons and crushed toasted hazelnuts, these delightful little tarts are not just visually appealing but gorgeously tasty. My favourite part? The custard, hands down. It’s smooth, thick, and its flavour perfectly enhanced with warming orange zest. Frankly, I could eat a bowl of it just on its own.
Don’t let the number of components in this dish put you off. The custard, rhubarb, hazelnuts and pastry dough can all be made ahead of time and chilled in the fridge. When it comes time to prepare the dessert, all you have to do is bake the tart casings and assemble it all. Oh, and pick some flowers from the garden. Easy peasy.
Thanks to Dish.co.nz for the lovely recipe. It’s a pretty versatile dish that can be topped with whatever’s seasonal – berries, cherries, pear or apple slices, stone-fruit, figs… whatever floats your boat. Enjoy!
- 2 cups milk
- 1/2 cup caster (superfine) sugar, divided
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 egg yolks
- 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
- 1/4 cup cornflour (corn starch)
- 4-5 slim stalks rhubarb*
- 2 tablespoons orange juice
- 1/4 cup caster (superfine) sugar
- 1-2/3 metric cups (210g) (7.4 oz) plain flour (I used organic white stoneground flour)
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 3/4 cup icing sugar, sifted
- 110g (3.8 oz) butter, diced and chilled
- 1 egg yolk
- 2-3 tablespoons chilled water
- 1 egg, beaten (for egg wash)
- 1/4 cup crushed hazelnuts, toasted**
- Icing sugar (confectioner's sugar) for dusting
- Spray-free flowers for garnish, optional
- Grease a 12 hole muffin pan, or individual tart tins - I used 8 x 8cm (3 inch) wide tart tins.
- Put the milk, 1/4 cup of the caster sugar and the vanilla in a saucepan and bring to just below the boil, i.e. scalding but not yet simmering.
- When the milk is just about at scalding point, whisk the egg yolks, the remaining 1/4 cup of caster sugar and the orange zest in a bowl until pale then whisk in the cornflour.***
- Slowly add about a quarter cup of the hot milk mixture into the egg yolk mixture (whisking constantly), to temper the eggs so they don't curdle. While continuing to whisk, slowly add up to about half of the remaining hot milk mixture into the egg yolk mixture. Then add the contents of the egg yolk/milk mixture back into the saucepan with the remaining milk and whisk to combine. Over a low heat, and while continuing to whisk, bring the mixture to a boil (it needs to boil to activate the cornflour). Once it's boiled for about a minute, remove from the heat and continue whisking for 1 minute.
- Transfer to a bowl and cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent a skin forming. Refrigerate when cool.
- Preheat the oven to 150˚C (300˚F).
- Cut the rhubarb into about 5 cm (2 inch) lengths and place in a bowl. Sprinkle with the orange juice then the caster sugar and toss the rhubarb to coat. Lay the rhubarb in a single layer in a lined baking dish, cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes until just tender but still holding its shape. Cool. NB: Once cooled, I placed the rhubarb on absorbent paper to soak up excess liquid.
- Put the flour, salt, icing sugar and butter in a food processor and pulse to coarse crumbs. Combine the egg yolk and 2 tablespoons of the water and add, pulsing again until the dough just starts to come together. Add the extra water only if necessary.
- Tip the contents onto a large piece of plastic wrap and bring the dough together to form a flat disc. Wrap and chill until firm.
- Preheat the oven to 180˚C (360˚F).
- Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured bench to 1/2 cm thick. If using a muffin pan, stamp out 12 x 10 cm circles. Otherwise measure for your individual tart tins and stamp circles out accordingly. Press the dough into the tins and chill for 30 minutes in the fridge. Take out, then line each pastry case with baking paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 15 minutes, remove the paper and beans and brush the insides of the tarts with egg wash. Bake the tarts for a further 5-7 minutes (mine took more like 10-12 minutes) or until the pastry is fully cooked and golden. Cool completely.
- Slice half the rhubarb into smaller pieces and place in the base of the tarts (NB: I didn't do this - I used rhubarb only for the top of the custard). Top with the custard then the remaining rhubarb. Sprinkle with crushed hazelnuts and a dusting of icing sugar. Place edible flowers over top, if desired.
**To toast hazelnuts, simply add them to a dry frypan (skillet) and dry roast them for several minutes, turning them frequently, until they're hot and you can smell their aroma (keep a close eye on them so they don't burn). Then wrap them in a tea-towel and rub them vigorously to remove their skins. Add the nuts to a food processor and pulse a couple of times to crush them.
***Only add the sugar to the egg yolks when you're ready to whisk; you shouldn't let sugar sit on top of unbeaten egg yolks as this can cause clumping.
NB: In New Zealand our organic eggs have very orange yolks, hence the bright golden colour of the custard.
Food Photography Info: Canon 550D (EOS Rebel T2i); Sigma 30mm 1.4 DC ‘Art’ lens / Combination of natural lighting and continuous fluorescent lighting softbox