These rhubarb custard tartlets, or mini tarts, are the perfect ending to any meal. A creamy custard with a punch of real vanilla flavor, and sweet and tart rhubarb. I've topped the rhubarb in a lattice pattern like the top crust on a classic blueberry pie, but that is just to make it look pretty!
There's something so romantic about rhubarb. Maybe it is the old fashioned feel of it, you can just imagine any grandmother whipping up a delicious batch of rhubarb crisp and ice cream or rhubarb muffins, right?
What is the difference between a tart and a pie?
Many of the same tips for a perfect pie crust, can also be applied to a perfect tart crust. However, they are slightly different anyway. A pie crust should be super flaky, whereas a tart shell is more tender and with a crumbly crust that crumbles when you take a bite.
In my opinion, you can also explain the difference in how they are eaten. A pie is more like a coffee treat in the middle of the day, but a tart is more as a dessert after a meal. It has more of a sophisticated flare and is often neatly decorated - with no top crust.
But if you make me decide between a strawberry peach pie and a rhubarb custard tartlet, I am going to scream.
The leftover rhubarb syrup is great in cocktails. I use it in my Rhubarb Rose Cosmo in my cookbook: 99 Summer Drinks!
All drama aside, these are the ingredients needed to make the perfect custardy, crumbly and rhubarby treat:
1. Tart shells
- All Purpose Flour: The base of the shell. I have not tried substituting it with different flours, but I have seen a combination of all purpose flour and almond flour work with others.
- Powdered sugar: Powdered sugar makes the tart more tender as it incorporates better into the flour, than granulated sugar which makes it more crumbly.
- Salt: Enhancing the flavor of the shells and should not be omitted.
- Cold butter: Butter makes anything taste better!
- Egg: Egg or egg yolk is what enrich the crust, making it a delicious and tender shell.
- Vanilla extract: For extra flavor!
- Heavy cream: Any custard needs a good base like heavy cream. That creamy sensation in your mouth is perfect next to the rhubarb and the crumbly tart shell.
- Vanilla bean: I 100% recommend going for a real vanilla bean instead of vanilla extract in this custard. The specks of vanilla throughout the custard will taste so good.
- Ground ginger: Just a touch of ginger goes a long way with rhubarb. It is such a good combination, but if you don't like it - omit it, it will not alter the recipe that much.
- Egg yolks: To thicken the custard. It's important to gently heat the eggs so that it doesn't turn into scrambled eggs. As delicious as that is, this is not the place for it.
- Sugar: Also to thicken the custard, in addition to obviously sweeten the custard and enhancing the flavors of the other ingredients. You can reduce the sugar, but I generally recommend sticking to the recipe the first time you make it.
- Rhubarb: The distinct flavor of rhubarb is impossible to replicate with another fruit. That sweet and tart combination is exactly what spring and summer are all about. That doesn't mean that other fruits won't be as delicious!
- Sugar and water: to create a sugar syrup to cook the rhubarb in, making them soft and delicious. When you soak the rhubarb in the syrup, it also infuses the syrup, making it great for brushing on top of the mini tarts or even to add to cocktails!
The tart shells can be used in pretty much any tart recipe, like this red currant and lemon curd tart. However, that is not exactly a variation of this recipe, is it?
This custard based tart can benefit from other fruits and berries, not just rhubarb. I know rhubarb can be hard to find some places. Then I'd go for raspberries (no need to cook beforehand) or sliced poached pears. Pears and ginger are also really good together (hence why this ginger pear bellini works)! I'd add a touch of cardamom to the tart shell for this one.
The tart crusts can last for 3-4 days as long as they are not filled. Store them in a tight bag or cookie box. It is best to not fill them until you are ready to eat them or else the crust can get a little soggy the next day (very little, it's actually almost identical the next day).
I keep the uneaten rhubarb custard tartlets in the fridge and eat them directly from there. Can last a couple of days like this, I haven't really noticed a big difference from day 2 to 3. The biggest difference is from day 1 to 2, and even that is not so bad.
Tips for the perfect tart shells
- Do not overwork the dough - it can make the dough too firm and it can shrink. Once you add the eggs, mix until just combined. And otherwise work efficiently and avoid re-rolling the dough.
- Let it chill in the fridge before rolling - to keep the butter cold and the dough won't get too sticky to work with
- Press - not roll - the cold dough or else it will crack. When it's pliable you can roll.
- Let the unbaked tart shells chill before baking - so that the butter is cold when it hits the oven.
- Avoid touching it with warm hands - again, to keep the butter cold.
- Work quickly - so the butter will not melt.
- Prick the bottom with a fork - to release steam when it bakes so it won't rise and create weird bubbles.
- Bake low and slow for that tender, crumbly texture.
How to avoid tart shells to shrink
Most of the tips above also apply here (if not all, really). You need to not overwork the dough and the butter needs to stay cold. It is also important to prick the bottom with a form so that the crust bakes evenly.
If you still encounter problems, you can weigh the tarts down with pie weights (or dried peas, rice, beans in parchment paper) when baking them. It shouldn't be necessary if you prick the bottom, but it's worth a shot.
If you use pie weights, you should take them out ⅔ of the time in the oven, so that the last ⅓ it gets a chance to turn golden.
Make the tart crust
Make the dough
Combine the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, salt) in the bowl of your stand mixer. Add cubes of cold butter (2). Using the paddle attachment (1), combine on medium speed until it resembles sand in texture (3), it took me about 5-7 minutes. You can do this with a food processor, a pastry cutter or your hands too, but your hands can warm the butter too much.
Whisk one egg together and mix in the vanilla extract. Pour this slowly into the flour mixture while still mixing (4). Mix until just combined and it sticks to the paddle (5).
Add the dough into a piece of plastic wrap and quickly shape it into a flat rectangle (6). Keep it in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, overnight is fine.
Roll and bake
Dust a work surface with flour and add your pastry. Press - not roll - the dough (7) with a rolling pin to soften it up. Once it is soft enough, you can roll it into a large rectangle about 2 ½ millimeters (0.01 inches) thick (8). It can be thicker if you want, but it will not be enough for 6 tart shells of this size anymore.
Cut the dough into circles 1 inch (2 ½ cm) larger than the tart pan (9). Carefully put it into the greased pans, lifting the edges so the bottom sinks into the pan. Press the sides and corner well into the pan (10).
Cut off the excess dough (11) and prick the bottom with a fork (12), put them back into the refrigerator for about 1 hour or until the unbaked tart shells are hardened. Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 350℉ (175℃). Once they are chilled properly, bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden. Cool on a wire rack.
Make the custard filling
Start by preheating the oven to 250℉ (120℃). Add heavy cream, a split open and cut in half vanilla bean and ground ginger to a medium saucepan. Bring it up to a simmer and then remove it from the heat (13).
Whisk eggs and sugar together until it has air bubbles, about 5 minutes (14). In a slow stream, while constantly whisking, add the heavy cream into the egg mixture (15).
Pour into the prepared, par-baked tart shells (16-17) and bake for 50 minutes or until the custard has set (18). Set aside to cool completely before beginning with the rhubarb.
Related: If you want an even easier recipe, go for a crème brûlée instead of a custard tart.
This is strictly for show and is actually kind of impractical when it comes to eating it. Yes, I admit it. If you eat it with a knife, then sure it won't be a problem, but otherwise it's a little hard to cut through a slice of rhubarb with a fork.
However, I really love this look and I will continue to make it with a lattice pattern. It's not a huge problem, it's just that some of your bites will contain a large piece of rhubarb, and some will not.
To make the rhubarb pliable, we need to poach them a little in a sugar syrup. Julienne the rhubarb to make nice strips (20). In a medium saucepan, combine sugar and water and bring it to a simmer. Once it is simmering, add the rhubarb strips.
Use a fork to mix the rhubarb into the sugar syrup, and once they are soft and pliable (21), take them out (22). About 1 minute. To make the sweet rhubarb syrup glaze, continue to boil the sugar syrup for 5 minutes or until thickened. Set aside to cool.
Related: this rhubarb syrup is delicious on ice cream, in cocktails, mixed with sparkling water or to top a white chocolate mousse!
Lattice the rhubarb
To lattice it, take strips of rhubarb and place them vertically on top of the finished custard tart with a little space in-between each. Take a new rhubarb strip and place it at the top of the tart, but this time horizontally.
Place it on top of the first vertical strip, below the second, above the third etc (23-24). Do this with the next horizontal strip too, but opposite (below, over, below). Continue with the rest. Cut the edges that sticks out of the tart (25).
Brush with the cooled rhubarb syrup (26) and they are done!
If you don't want to make a lattice pattern, simply cut the rhubarb pieces into desired bite sized chunks. You should still poach them in the syrup though.
Either way - enjoy! It is perfect with a tall glass of this rhubarb iced tea on the side.
Did you like this recipe? Here are more rhubarb recipes for you:
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