For those of you who have been following my blog for the past little while, you know that I have been suffering from some disc problems that landed me flat on my back in bed for about 8 days. I’m pleased to report that I am continuing to feel much better. But while I lay in bed, in agonizing pain, I became quite anxious about the fact that I was unable to do any of my regular forms of fitness (treadmill, elliptical, weight training and yoga).
I have come to rely on exercise as a stress reliever, as well as a way to allow me to control my weight. A mentally balanced sane person would be more concerned about the errant disc fragment lodged in her spine, pressing on the nerve that connects to her left hip flexor and quadriceps. Yet, I seemed to be more concerned about weight gain.
Surprising discovery # 1: Shockingly in the past 3 weeks I have actually lost 5 pounds! I am not quite sure how that happened. It may have something to do with muscle loss (muscle weighs more than fat) or it could have something to do with the fact that I was unable to get down the stairs to my kitchen, where we keep the food, for 9 days. Now don’t misunderstand me here. I didn’t starve for 9 days. The lovely family members in my house did bring me food and water at regular intervals. It’s just that perhaps my regular intervals are a bit more frequent than theirs!
Again, a mentally balanced and sane person would look at this weight loss and begin planning healthy meals of quinoa, kale and lentils, so that the pounds do not creep back on. However, I saw a loss of 5 pounds and immediately started planning what I would bake and blog about next.
I knew I wanted to be seasonal and bake something with rhubarb. Of course the obligatory strawberry rhubarb pie was a possibility, but I am not really a pie lover, unless it involves coconut cream. Searching for inspiration I turned to Melissa Clark’s “Cook This Now.” And sure enough, in the May chapter, she had a recipe for a Rhubarb Curd Tart. As I read through the recipe, I made surprising discovery #2: Curds are not just for lemons anymore! You can make a curd from any fruit juice you fancy.
While I love the tangy flavour of rhubarb, I find the stringy texture a bit off-putting. Melissa had come up with a genius way to get all the tang of rhubarb, without the texture. Puree the raw rhubarb in the food processor and then strain the pulp and squeeze out the juice. Use this juice instead of lemon, in the curd. Brilliant!
For the tart crust, I wanted to try a recipe from Anna Olsen. She has a new show called Bake, on the Food Network (Canada). This week’s episode featured desserts made with Pate Sable (tender tart dough). As I watched Anna prepare the dough, I made surprising discovery #3: A hardboiled egg yolk contributes greatly to the texture and richness of Pate Sable. This European way of making tart dough was created by French pastry chef Pierre Herme.
The final tart was perfect. The crust was reminiscent of shortbread; crumbly and just a little bit sweet with the richness of butter (and egg!). The curd plays tricks on your mind. You see the yellow curd and you think lemon, but once you take a bite your mouth immediately recognizes the tart and tangy taste of rhubarb. Balanced by the sweetness of strawberries, this is one perfect bite. I think that should Anna and Melissa ever meet, they would be quite proud of their collaboration!
The secret ingredient to the rich crust is the yolk of a hardboiled egg! Butter and icing sugar are creamed together. The hard-boiled egg gets sieved and added. Additions of vanilla extract, salt, raw egg yolk and cake and pastry flour complete the dough. I like to roll out the dough between 2 sheets of parchment paper. Transfer to tart pan with removable bottom. If the dough cracks while transferring, don’t sweat it. It’s a forgiving dough and is easy to patch. Trim off excess dough by running the rolling-pin across the tart pan. Line with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans to bake.
While the tart is baking, prepare the curd. The idea that any juice can be turned into a curd has just blown my mind. I’m not sure why I only thought curd could be made with lemon. I guess I’m just not an out of the box kind of thinker, but now that I know, the possibilities are endless. I am planning a pomegranate curd tart for the fall! I always associate pomegranates with my mom. She used to make us strip down to our underwear and go outside in the backyard to eat pomegranates, because the fruit stained so badly. Luckily, these days you can already buy the fruit juiced.
When making the curd, Melissa says to stand at the stove and whisk constantly for 18-20 minutes. I did not. I walked away for several minutes at a time and everything came out just fine. Although, I must admit, when I strained the curd, I did see a few bits of scrambled egg in the bottom of my strainer.
This tart would also be wonderful with fresh raspberries, but strawberries seemed like the right choice today.