Garden Lessons Learned & The Best Rhubarb Tart

Earlier this month I trusted some internet information which led me to a huge garden blunder. I planted my much cared for indoor tomatoes outside too soon. The weather turned cold and especially windy just days later and being away from home I was unable to protect those beauties. Mother Nature took a toll on the plants, but they held on. Today, in spite of their ravaged leaves they continue to thrive and I am already seeing a few tomatoes. Planting a garden can teach us many lessons. Remaining strong no matter how life chooses to chew us up and spit us out is one of them. Stay calm and plant some seeds. The rewards are great.

tomato plant

Tending a garden also teaches patience. For instance, I planted rhubarb last year and I really, really, really want to pick it, but I can’t. The rule of thumb is to let the plant build its root system and strength over a three-year period before harvesting. It’s the same with asparagus. It’s been 7 years since I planted the asparagus and today we are harvesting more than we can eat. It’s a joy to share it. The reward of patience. Lesson learned

As the world is opening up so is the produce at the market. Rhubarb is plentiful in the spring, but has a short growing season. Get while the getting is good and stock up on the naturally tart stalks. This darling of a vegetable can be added to pies, muffins, quick breads and even savory dishes.

Rhubarb Frangipane Tart

ALMOND FRANGIPANE

14 cup plus 2 tablespoon sugar

14 cup plus 1 tablespoon almond paste

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour

14 teaspoon baking powder

14 teaspoon kosher salt

In food processor fitted with metal blade, beat the sugar and almond paste until almond paste is chopped into small bits. Add butter; pulse just until blended. Add eggs and vanilla; blend until smooth. Scrape down the bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to the butter mixture and pulse until just blended. Cover and chill while preparing crust.

CRUST

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened

14 cup plus 1 Tbsp. granulated sugar

1 egg yolk

14 cups all-purpose flour

14 teaspoon kosher salt

3 to 4 stalks fresh cut rhubarb, diced on diagonal (1/2-inch dice)

1 tablespoon sugar

With electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Scrape down the bowl, then beat in the egg yolk. Combine the flour and salt, then add to the bowl, beating on low speed until just incorporated. Place dough in a 9-inch round fluted tart pan. Using fingertips, press the dough evenly across the bottom and up the sides of the pan to cover in an even layer. Dock (prick) the dough every 2 inches with a fork. Place the tart pan on a baking sheet; freeze for 10 minutes or until firm.

Meanwhile, set a rack in the top third of the oven and preheat to 350°. Spoon the frangipane to the center of the tart crust, and using an offset spatula, spread evenly all the way to the edges. Individually place the chunks of rhubarb on the frangipane in a pattern you like, leaving room between the pieces. Sprinkle tart with 1 tablespoon of sugar.

Bake until the top is lightly browned, about 40 to 45 minutes. Tart will look puffy, but then settle with cooling. Cool completely.

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Apple-Almond Pithivier

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Recently, I was lucky enough to be 1 of 100 winners in a recipe contest. It’s nice when a sponsor spreads out the winnings in such a generous way. I entered this recipe inspired by a fancy pastry I had seen prepared on the Great British Baking Show. A “pithivier” is a warm and flaky French pastry made from a laminated dough better known as puff pastry. Usually 2 rounds of dough enclose a filling like frangipane and fruit. The hallmark of the pastry is the fancy design cut into the top of the dough before baking. I tried to do a sunburst.

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Sadly, I did not take a bunch of photos while I was working, but I think you will get the gist of rolling out the oh so convenient store bought dough, cutting into circles and then topping with the almond cream and apple pie filling.

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Seal the dough. Brush with egg wash and then score the surface with a very sharp knife. Do not cut all the way through the dough. Bake and brew the cafe au lait.

Apple-Almond Pithivier

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

¼ cup sugar

2 eggs

½ cup almond flour

1 tablespoon all purpose flour

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon fine salt

1 package (17.65 oz) frozen puff pastry, thawed

1 can (21 oz) Lucky Leaf Premium Apple Fruit Filling, chopped

Heat oven 350F. Line baking sheet with parchment. Beat butter, sugar and egg until blended. Add almond flour, flour, cinnamon and salt; beat until creamy. Roll out each puff pastry sheet to 16×8-inch rectangle. Cut out eight 4-inch circles from each. Transfer 8 circles to baking sheet. Spread 1 tablespoon almond cream over center of 8 circles leaving a ½-inch rim. Spoon 2 tablespoons apple filling on almond cream. Beat remaining egg; brush over edge of filled pastry circles. Top with remaining pastry circles; crimp edges to seal. Brush pastry with egg wash. With tip of a sharp knife poke hole in center of each pastry. Lightly score surface in sunburst pattern. Bake 40 minutes.