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.
What are you making for mother’s day? Or, if you’re a mom, what’s your favorite mother’s day treat? Let me know in the comments below!
- 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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These are absolutely gorgeous. It’s been ages since I had a good rhubarb pie and I think that these will definitely be gracing one of our summer picnic tables!
Thanks, Bintu! Rhubarb pie is a favorite here, too. These tarts are like a super fresh, not-too-sweet version!
The toasted brown on the meringue looks stunning! very beautiful looking tarts I almost would feel bad for making a mess out of them! haha
Thanks, Derek! I hear ya, but they are soooo worth breaking into. :)
This sounds lovely! I love rhubarb and have somehow missed the season the last few years! These are so pretty and my Mom loves rhubarb. I think I will make a GF version of these! Just using GF flour! Thanks for the inspiration!
Thanks, Beth, I hope you try them! I’d love to know how the gluten-free shortbread turns out. I tried to make GF tart shells once in the past and it didn’t work out as well as I’d hoped, but that was a long time ago. If you have any tips or tricks, please share them — I love learning more about GF baking!
That shortbread crust looks amazing! And I like the idea of using just a touch of pectin to thicken up the puree… that solves several problems. It looks so creamy!
Thanks, Anne! It is incredibly luscious!
These tarts are super cute, and look delicious! I love the shortbread crusts!
Thanks, Marsha! Isn’t shortbread great?
This is one of the most pretty desserts (that I am sure are also tasty), that I have seen in a very long time!! Can’t wait to make them!
Thank you, Terry! I hope you do give them a try!
These are amazing, Willow. Just looking at them brightened my day! Rhubarb is another vegetable I need to know better.
Aw, thank you Christine! I love rhubarb in desserts because it brings a great sour element to all the sweetness. You might like the puree, because it’s easy to adjust the sweetness to your taste, and you really get a sense of the rhubarb flavor. :)
Wow what a show stopper!! There used to be a rhubarb patch on my parents farm, but I don’t think it’s there anymore…hmm… I’ll have to find a way to get my hands on some.
Thanks, Erin! I hope you find some rhubarb, it’s such a fun ingredient. :)
Wow. I don’t usually click on desserts of any kind, but I think this must be the prettiest dessert I’ve ever seen! The way you decorated the tarts is really incredible – especially with the little caramelized meringue blobs. So gorgeous. I say blobs because I’m not a baker and I have no idea what they’re actually called! Stunning!!!
Thanks, Mimi, that’s high praise! I think “blobs” is totally appropriate. I was really surprised at how pretty they turned out — if I can do it, you can do it! :)
These are perfect Willow!! I am baking with Rhubarb myself today!
Thanks, Lauren! I love rhubarb — can’t wait to see what you make!
These are so amazingly beautiful Willow! Definitely worthy of an impressive Mothers Day spread – or a swanky spring party! I need to get going with some rhubarb recipes before they are gone for the year – I’ve been dawdling too much. And I’m so glad you broke this recipe down because it does seem completely easy and manageable with your simple instructions :) Pinned!
Hope you have a fabulous weekend and know your friends will feel so spoiled! (Though, how can you be friends with people who don’t like chocolate? What?!)
Hahaha, thank you, Kathryn! The steps really are simple, but I was worried it would come off looking super complicated just because the recipe is so long. I’m glad to know it reads as easy as it is! (And I try not to discriminate against chocolate-haters, but it takes some serious restraint not to be like “are you sure? Maybe you just need to try it again?” :P)
These tarts are simply stunning and your photos are so lovely Willow. Love your blog!
Aw, thank you, Alida! You’re so sweet!
So gorgeous looking! The meringue might be extra work but it really looks amazing against the red of the rhubarb-my mouth actually puckered like I could taste the tarty sweetness of it!
Thanks, Megan! I really couldn’t resist making the Italian meringue — it is so worth it! — but it is a bit of extra work, and you could totally do whipped cream instead, which would still be gorgeous and crazy delicious. :)
Honestly, girl, book a fight and get your butt to my house so you can make me these. I’m not even kidding when i say these are some of the most well-decorated, beautiful, not-too-fussy-or-over-the-top tarts i’ve ever seen. They are GORGEOUS and i am totally copying this next time i get out my mini tart pans.
or my regular size tart pans.
or anything having to do with tarts. SO DAMN CUTE.
Haha, thank you, Shannon! I impressed myself with how pretty these turned out, to be honest. I would totally come over and make these with you, that would be so much fun!
These are so incredibly pretty!!!!!!!
Aw, thank you, Adina!
Willow these tarts sound so delicious and look absolutely lovely!
Thank you, Mary Ann! :)
I am In Love with these!!! They are absolutely stunning!
Sharing & pinning! Gorgeous!
Thanks, Cheryl, you’re so sweet!
Looks yummy! How many days in advance can I prepare the rhubarb puree?
Hi Kris! I’ve stored the rhubarb puree in the fridge for up to a couple of weeks with no problems (it usually gets used up by then, so I’m not sure if it would last much longer). I hope that helps!
Beautiful! Do you think you could combine this recipe to make one large, full size tart? If so, what size tart pan would you recommend? Thank you!
Hi Whitney! I’m sure you could make one large tart, just keep in mind you will need to adjust the baking time so the tart crust cooks all the way through. I’m a big fan of tart pans with a removable bottom, like this one: http://amzn.to/1UusZot . They make removing the tart shell once it’s cooled incredibly easy. I haven’t tried this exact recipe in a large tart pan, but I imagine it would make enough dough for a 9 or 10 inch tart. Again, I can’t say for certain since I haven’t tried it personally, but you might find there isn’t enough dough for a pan larger than that. If you have any hesitations about it, you can look for a shortbread crust recipe that is sized for a larger pan, and use that just to be sure you’ll have enough. I hope that helps!
Stunning! Was especially impressed with the deep red color, mine turned out more pink (despite heavy colouring) and waay less clear, because it is, well, rhubarb. How on earth did you manage to keep it as clear and deep red as it is on the pictures? Loved the taste though ?
Thanks, Kristine! The color of the puree might vary a lot depending on the rhubarb. Some rhubarb is bright red on the outside, and some has almost no red at all. My puree turned out that deep color all on it’s own, but the rhubarb I had was especially vibrant, so that’s probably why. It shouldn’t effect the flavor, though, so I’m glad you liked how it tasted!
wahou pour les quantités d ingredients en oz, tiers … impossible de trouver la correspondance en français ! sinon joli à regarder !
is it possible to add strawberries inside the filling? if so, how much?
Hi Jolie! Great question. I think it would be fine to swap up to half of the rhubarb for strawberries, if you want to. It may make the filling a little bit looser in consistency, but I’m sure it’ll taste great! Depending on how sweet the berries are, and your personal preferences in terms of sweetness, you may find you can cut down on the sugar by a spoonful, too. That will be all up to you, though.
I just bought a big batch of rhubarb and can’t wait to get cooking! Could I skip using the pectin? I have no idea where to get it here in Germany and am wondering if the filling would be too thin if I just leave it out?
Hi Eva! You can certainly try it without the pectin. The tart filling may be a little looser, but it will be just as delicious. :)
Hi Willow, thanks for your quick reply! I’ll try it out in the upcoming days, will keep you posted how it turns out :)
Hi, I was wanting to make this for mothers day and i was wondering what would happen if i did not add the pectin? How “liquid-y” would it become?
Hi Jordan! It wouldn’t be particularly liquidy — the pectin only makes a slight difference here, think a lemon-curd consistency. Without the pectin it might be a little looser, but still perfectly edible. Hope that helps!