I think my rhubarb plant loves me. I blush to say this, but it’s got to be true. Each season, it gets bigger and more productive. This year, it multiplied so I actually have two rhubarb plants this year. And while its stalks don’t turn that luscious, deep red of some varieties, its flavor is unparalleled. Like a tangy dream with a hint of flowers, greenery, perfume. This may be, in part, because it shares the soil with honeysuckle, so maybe some of that honey goes into the rhubarb. I’m not sure, but there must be a soil scientist out there who could tell me. I’ll leave it to the poetry of the idea.
My rhubarb pushes up from the ground early, in April, then it gives fruit by early May. I pick ALL of it and make my now-famous rhubarb cake. And tarts. And compote. Then the plant musters energy to provide more stalks. This year it held off during the “canicule,” when temperatures crested an unprecedeted-for-Normandy 100F. Once rain fell and temperatures dropped, however, it shot up so many stalks that I cannot keep up. What a problem!
Instead of re-making my favorite recipes I tried a new one. And I’m here to share it with you because it’s a winner. And it’s simple. And it’s quick. And you, your family, your guests will want to eat it over and over again.
I served it the other day to two friends over for tea, a thrice yearly event. My friends are Irish; tea is their currency. And they love their high tea, a meal early in the evening that we savor long into the night.
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When I served this rhubarb dessert one of my friends, a chef, said “You could turn this into a cheesecake.” And indeed, you could. Here it is crowned by sweetened vanilla creme fraiche, raw, from the market. But you could also use cream cheese, or yogurt cheese, or…but try it with cream. It’s a light and refreshing surprise that you’ll love.
*If you don’t have a nectarine try a peach. If you don’t have a peach, try strawberries, or paper-thin slices of raw rhubarb, or nothing at all.
|Prep Time||10 minutes|
|Cook Time||15 minutes|
- 7-1/2 ounces; 225g speculoos
- Pinch fine sea salt
- 2-1/2 ounces; 75g unsalted butter melted
- For the Rhubarb:
- ¾ cups; 185ml water
- ½ cup; 100g vanilla sugar
- One 1-inc; 2.5cm piece fresh ginger peeled, diced
- ½ vanilla bean
- 11 ounces; 330g rhubarb rinsed and trimmed, cut in ¼-inch (.62cm) half-moons
- For the cream:
- 1 cup; 250ml crème fraîche
- 2 tablespoons vanilla sugar
- Drizzle vanilla extract if desired
- To Assemble the Tartelettes:
- 1 just-ripe nectarine
- Preheat the oven to 320F (160C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Place the speculoos in the work bowl of a food processer and process until finely ground. Add the salt, process once or twice then turn into a medium-sized bowl and mix in the melted butter until you have a sort of dough.
- Place six 3-inch (7.5cm) metal rounds on the baking sheet and press equal amounts of the dough into each one, using a metal soup spoon to press them so they are even around the edges. Make a slight indentation in the center. Place in the center of the pre-heated oven and bake until they are golden, 15-20 minutes. Remove and let cool.
- For the rhubarb, place the water, sugar, ginger, and the half vanilla bean in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat so the syrup is boiling, whisking from time to time, until the sugar is dissolved. Add the rhubarb, stir gently so it is mixed with the syrup (it may seem there is too much rhubarb – don’t worry, it’s just fine), and return the syrup to a low boil. Shake the pan and watch the rhubarb as it cooks and stir if necessary. Depending on its texture, the rhubarb will cook in about 1-1/2 minutes, though it can take up to 5 minutes. You can tell because it begins to turn color and if you touch a piece, it will begin to soften. Remove from the heat and leave the rhubarb in the syrup to cool.
- Whisk the cream with the sugar and the vanilla until it forms stiff point.
- Very thinly slice the nectarine.
- To assemble the tartelettes, leave them in their metal rings. Lay equal numbers of nectarine slices atop the crust with the skin out to the edge, so it’s pretty when you unmold them. Top with cream, evening it out so it completely covers the nectarine and is even against the edges of the mold. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to one hour.
- To serve, unmold a tartelette on each of six plates. Pour over rhubarb and syrup and serve immediately.
ASTUCE: The texture of rhubarb is variable. It depends on the weather, so cooking times are hard to give. What you want here are piece of rhubarb that are cooked JUST until tender. Better that they be slightly crisp than slightly soggy. Chill the tartelettes for an hour before you pour over the rhubarb and serve them. This allows the cream fraiche to solidify just enough that it stands up tall and proud. I call for a nectarine here, for fun. You can substitute a peach, thinly sliced strawberries, thinly sliced raw rhubarb, whatever fruit is in season when you make these. Or, you can add nothing at all.