Bright, tangy rhubarb puree meets sweet and buttery shortbread. These single-serve rhubarb tarts are a simple yet elegant dessert, perfect for mother’s day or any celebration! Jump to the recipe here, or read on.
Rhubarb: a fruit, born into the body of a vegetable. While it might look like celery on the outside, it’s what’s inside that counts.
Rhubarb is one of my favorite Spring offerings. Sure, it starts out as a sour, stringy stalk, but with a little help it can do so many things. It makes the most refreshing, pink cocktails this side of blood orange season, its tartness is a welcome ray of sunshine in any dessert, and it’s pretty as all get out. What’s not to love?
Also, it makes a mean rhubarb tart. Not that I’m biased, or anything.
This dessert was inspired by Spring (rhubarb season!) and also Mother’s Day, which happily coincide. My first instinct when it comes to mother’s day is chocolate… but this year, I’m making brunch for several moms I know, some of whom (not naming any names here) DON’T LIKE CHOCOLATE. It’s shocking, I know.
Fortunately, I have a plan B, and it’s nearly as good as chocolate (nearly): rhubarb tarts, with fresh berries, chopped pistachios, and toasted meringue. They look so pretty, people might not believe you when you say you made them. But you totally did, because they’re totally not that hard.
To make these tarts as easy as possible, I suggest breaking them down into steps. A look at the recipe might be intimidating at first, but really, these tarts are composed of a few smaller, very easy recipes, that are each delicious on their own, and totally do-able.
First step, make the rhubarb puree. I added a bit of pectin to give the puree some body, but not enough that it would set up completely like a jam. This makes a soft, luscious tart filling that is also mighty fine swirled into a bowl of vanilla ice cream, or yogurt, or dolloped into your morning oatmeal.
(My initial idea was to make rhubarb curd — I imagined all the bright sweetness of lemon curd, only with rhubarb — but after three lackluster attempts, I gave up. It seems that eggs and butter don’t do rhubarb any favors, and instead just mask its flavor and dull its cheery pink color to an unappetizing shade of flesh. This puree, on the other hand, has all the flavor and color I was hoping for, and is even easier to make. Win!)
Next, a buttery shortbread crust to balance the tartness of the rhubarb. Shortbread is crazy easy to make, and gets pressed right into the tart pans, no rolling required.
I adapted my hazelnut shortbread recipe to use pistachios here, which turned out great in cookie form, but the subtle pistachio flavor was mostly lost in the tarts. I’ve adjusted the recipe below to use almonds instead (because who wants to shell pistachios for an hour and not be able to taste them?) or you can leave the nuts out all together — it’s great either way, and you can always garnish with a few pistachios on top.
The tart shells can be baked the day you need them, or the night before. I actually think they taste better that way, plus, making the puree and shortbread ahead of time means easy assembly later.
The final step is to assemble the tarts, and, if you’re so inclined, make a bit of Italian meringue to toast on top. This step is optional, but if you’ve never made Italian meringue, you’ll be surprised at how simple it is, and with the help of a stand mixer and a candy thermometer, it’s hard to go wrong. Of course, if that sounds like too much work, you can leave the meringue off, and garnish your tarts with dollops of fresh whipped cream instead. Because cream + rhubarb + berries = amazing.
To assemble, spoon a little of the rhubarb puree into the tart shells, garnish with a few fresh berries, some chopped nuts, and perhaps a leaf or two of mint. Pipe on a little meringue and torch it to a light golden brown, or just dollop a heap of whipped cream right in the middle, just before serving. You can get as artsy with it as you want, or serve all the ingredients individually and let people build their own dessert.
After plenty of recipe testing to make sure these tarts were spot-on, this is what I’ve learned: it’s hard not to be happy when you’ve got a bite of rhubarb and shortbread in your pie-hole. And really, that’s what life is all about, isn’t it? Happiness, I mean, not your pie-hole. Being happy, and sharing happy. And if rhubarb tarts help, well… that’s just a bonus.
- 7oz (about 1¾ cups chopped, or 200g.) rhubarb, cut into ½ inch pieces
- ½ cup (100g.) granulated sugar, or more to taste
- ¼ cup water
- 1 tsp. fresh sqeezed lemon juice, plus more to taste
- ½ TBSP powdered fruit pectin
- 1¾ sticks (14 TBSP, or 7oz.) unsalted butter, room temperature
- ½ cup plus 1 TBSP (115g.) granulated sugar
- 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
- ½ tsp. pure almond extract (optional)
- 1¾ cups (245g) all-purpose flour
- pinch of fine grain sea salt
- ½-3/4 cups (2.5 - 3.5oz.) raw almonds, finely chopped (optional -- or roasted and shelled pistachios, or other nuts)
- 3 large egg whites (about 100ml), room temperature
- ¾ cup (150g) granulated sugar
- ¼ cup water
- ½ tsp. vanilla extract
- ¼ tsp. lemon juice (or cream of tartar)
- Fresh berries of choice (I used raspberries)
- Chopped pistachios (or almonds, or other nuts)
- A few small leaves of mint (optional)
- Fresh whipped cream (optional, as an alternative to the Italian meringue -- see recipe notes)
- Combine all the ingredients in a large, non-reactive saucepan (ie., stainless steel or nonstick, NOT aluminum or cast iron as metals like these can react with the acids and create an off flavor).
- Place over high heat, and bring to a rolling boil, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon. Cook until the rhubarb has broken down, and there are no whole pieces still visible (about 5-8 minutes). Remove from the heat.
- You can leave the filling like this, or very carefully puree it with an immersion blender, or regular blender. Always use caution when pureeing hot liquids, as they have a tendency to spatter. If the rhubarb mixture is too shallow in the pot to submerge a stick blender, transfer it to a tall glass measuring cup before pureeing. You can test the puree by dipping a spoon into it and placing it in the freezer for a couple of minutes to cool. If the puree is too tart for your taste, add a bit more sugar. If you'd like it more tart, add a few more drops of lemon juice.
- Pour into a clean jar, let cool completely, and store in the fridge until needed. (Puree will keep for up to two weeks. Makes about 1 cup, which is about twice what you'll need for four tarts, but is delicious stirred into ice cream, yogurt, or oatmeal, too.)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- In the bowl of your mixer, add the butter, sugar, vanilla, and almond extract, and mix on low until evenly combined. Add the flour, salt, and chopped nuts if using, and mix until everything is combined. If the dough seems crumbly, you may need to use your hands to bring it together. Do not over-mix. (You can also make the dough by hand, with a wooden spoon instead of a mixer.)
- Take a small lump of the dough and place it into a 4-inch diameter mini tart pan with removable bottom, and press the dough evenly into the bottom and sides. Try to make the dough about an ⅛th-1/4 inch thick all over. Trim any excess from the edges of the tart. Repeat with as many tarts as you'd like to make. (I made four, and had some leftover dough for making cookies later. Leftover dough can be wrapped in plastic and stored in the fridge for up to three days. If you've made the dough in advance and kept it chilled, let it sit at room temperature until it's soft enough to handle.)
- With the tines of a fork, prick the bottoms of the tart shells all over, and place in the refrigerator for 40-60 minutes, or until completely firm. Once the dough is thoroughly chilled, place on a baking sheet and bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown and the center looks dry and lightly golden.
- Remove from the oven and let cool completely before filling. (Tart shells can be baked a day in advance, and once completely cooled, stored at room temperature in an airtight container or wrapped in plastic.)
- When you are ready to serve your tarts, make the meringue. Place the egg whites, lemon juice, and vanilla in the bowl of your stand mixer.
- In a saucepan, combine the sugar and water. Place over medium-high heat, and cover with a lid. Let cook for 2-3 minutes, then remove the lid and clip on a candy thermometer. You'll want to cook the sugar until it reaches 245 degrees F.
- Meanwhile, turn on the mixer to medium speed, and let the egg whites whip until they have reached soft peaks.
- As soon as the sugar syrup reaches 245F, remove it from the heat. With the mixer running, very slowly and carefully pour the hot sugar syrup in (if your mixer has a spatter guard, I recommend using it, or be very careful to pour near the edge of the bowl so the hot sugar doesn't land directly on the whisk). Once all the sugar is in, increase the speed to high, and whip until the meringue is glossy, and holds stiff peaks. Transfer the meringue to a piping bag, or a plastic baggy, then snip off one corner for piping. (This will make more meringue than you need, but unfortunately, it's really difficult to make it in a smaller quantity. Extra meringue can be stored in the piping bag at room temperature for up to a few hours, or in the fridge for up to a day.)
- Add about 2 TBSP of chilled rhubarb puree to the bottom of a cooled shortbread crust. Garnish with a few fresh berries, some chopped pistachios, almonds, or other nuts, and maybe a leaf or two of mint. Pipe little dollops of meringue, if you've chosen to make some, then use a kitchen torch to toast the meringue to a light golden brown. (Alternatively, you can skip the meringue all together and use fresh whipped cream instead - just don't try to torch it.) Serve!
I used THESE mini tart pans, which are about 4 inches in diameter, and have a false bottom that makes the tarts very easy to remove. There are others out there that are similar, but so far I've been happy with mine.
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