Rhubarb Tart with Orange Custard

I’m back!  Sorry for the delay, but I found myself quite wrapped up the exciting flurry of college graduation.  I’m looking forward to a summer filled with tasty treats and new cooking adventures.

And so, to kick of my summer of food, I am bringing you one of my favorite late-spring treats: rhubarb.  I have been known to pick up pounds upon pounds of this vegetable from the farmer’s market each year.  In fact, I just picked up another three pounds of the red and green stalks yesterday, making this year’s rhubarb tally reach a total of six pounds (and I’m definitely not finished yet!)  I still have strawberry-rhubarb-jam with lavender to make this summer.

I decided to forgo my traditional rhubarb cookies for a new recipe–a rhubarb tart with orange custard–from the lovely Deborah Madison.  I wouldn’t quite categorize the treat as a tart, for it reminds me more of a rhubarb pound cake, but, either way, it is a delicious way to showcase my favorite spring ingredient!

I’d also love to hear about any of your favorite ways to use rhubarb.  Please feel free to post any recipes/links in the comments.

Rhubarb Tart with Orange Custard
(Adapted from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone)
This dessert is best served the day it is made, as the center gets a bit mushy after sitting for a while.  However, it is perfect for an indulgent breakfast, a mid-afternoon snack, or an after-dinner treat with ice cream.
For the dough:
1/2 unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
1 cup flour
For the filling:
1 1/2 pounds rhubarb
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 egg
1/2 cup cream
Lightly grease an 11-inch tart pan. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees*.
Cut the rhubarb into 1/2 inch pieces. Toss it with the sugar, cloves, orange zest, and cinnamon.  Set aside for at least one hour.
To make the dough, cream the butter, sugar, and salt together until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until smooth after each addition. Add the vanilla and the orange zest, then stir in the flour. Smooth the batter into the prepared tart pan, pushing it up the sides to make a rim.
Beat the egg for the filling in a 2-cup measure. Add the juices from the rhubarb and enough cream to make 1 cup. Distribute the rhubarb over the batter, keeping it within the rim. Pour the egg and cream mixture over the fruit and bake until set and lightly browned, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven.
*Note: If you want to avoid a messy oven, place a layer of aluminum foil on the shelf below the tart while baking.

The Best Lemon Bars

When signs of spring begin to pop up around town, I always make lemon bars.  Lemon has the power to wake you up from the cloudy fog of winter with one, slightly tart bite.  Quite the powerful fruit!

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that these lemon bars will be the best you’ll find.  I’ve adapted the recipe from the creator of my favorite brownies, Alice Medrich.  The bars are slightly more tart than a traditional lemon bar, but I think that’s the key to their success.

I always add a dash of ginger to any lemon sweet that I am making, convinced that the spice lets the lemon sing.  One day, I’ll experiment with earl gray or jasmine tea in the crust as well. For now though, get yourself ready for spring by whipping up a batch of these easy, and utterly delicious lemon bars.  Let me know what you think!

The Best (or at least my favorite) Lemon Bars
(adapted from Alice Medrich’s Very Tangy Lemon Bar recipe)
Makes 16 large or 24 small lemon bars.  The recipe can easily be doubled and prepared in a 9 x 13 inch pan.
For the crust:
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground ginger
For the filling:
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
2 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1/2 cup strained fresh lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8 x 8 baking pan with foil. Set aside.
To make the crust: in a medium-sized bowl, combine the melted butter, sugar, vanilla, and salt. Add the flour and ground ginger and mix until combined.*  Press the dough over the bottom of the pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the crust is completely baked and golden brown.
To make the filling: While the crust is baking, stir together the sugar and flour in a large mixing bowl until well combined.  Whisk in the eggs. Add the lemon zest and juice and stir.
When the crust is fully baked, turn down the oven to 300 degrees. Pour the filling onto the hot crust and slide back into the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the topping doesn’t jiggle when the pan is moved. Cool completely before cutting.**
*Note: the crust will seem too greasy, but it will come together in the oven. Don’t add more flour.
**Note 2: Store leftovers (if there are any) in the refrigerator.