I bought some unbelievable fruit from the Pepper Place Saturday Market, a place that’s helped ease my longing for Pittsburgh’s Strip District. The market is one of several perks to living in the South, including a longer growing season, truckloads of Chilton County Peaches, and great fish and shellfish. I could go on about things like grits, biscuits, scuppernogs, muscadines, and the local breweries and dairies…
I love the flexibility of fruit pies. I remember reading one cookbook that described how fruit texture, juiciness, and sweetness affect your choice of crusts, thickening-agents, and sweeteners. It even told you how much filling (by weight) to put in different sized pies. Much to my chagrin, I can’t remember which book it was!
The point i’m trying to make is you don’t have to follow recipes to the letter, especially when your instincts tell you there’s something wrong. I mostly read fruit pie recipes for inspiring flavor combinations. Then, I substitute my favorite ingredients, crusts, and toppings. I have made enough pies to know when I need to par-bake the crust, when I can get away without using pie weights (usually beans or pennies), and when I need to adjust the baking time or temperature.
This tart was a mashup of recipes from The LA Times, Ken Haedrich’s Pie, and Mentesana & Audureau’s Once Upon a Tart. I often pull components from Richard Sax’s Classic Home Desserts and titles by Carole Walter, Maxine Clark, and Nick Malgieri. If you have some other titles to suggest, let me know!
Rhubarb Berry Tart
makes one 9-inch tart
For the almond crust:
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup + 3tbsp sugar
1 egg yolk
1 whole egg
1/3 cup almond meal
3 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1. Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until creamy. Add the egg yolk until it is incorporated, then add the whole egg and mix until thoroughly combined, scraping down the bowl as needed.
2. In a separate bowl, sift together the almond meal, flour and baking powder. Add the dry ingredients to the mixing bowl slowly and continue mixing until the dough is thoroughly combined. The dough should be slightly sticky but not wet. Divide the dough in half and shape each portion into a disc. Refrigerate one portion for at least an hour, and freeze the remaining portion to use later (thaw in the fridge before using).
3. Preheat the oven to 350F. Remove the dough from the refrigerator, and place on a lightly floured work surface (or between two sheets of wax paper). Roll out the dough into a circle slightly less than 1/4 inch thick. Fit the dough into a 9-inch pie or tart pan, and trim off any excess dough. With a fork, prick holes all over the dough to allow steam to escape during baking. Bake until light golden brown, 15 to 25 minutes. Cool on a rack.
For the streusel topping:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/2 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup walnuts or pecans, coarsely chopped
1. Measure the flour and the brown sugar into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until combined. Add the butter all at once, and pulse until the mixture looks like damp crumbs.
2. Empty the crumbs into a large bowl. Add the oats and nuts. Work them in with your fingers until the topping is stuck together in big clumps. Refrigerate until needed.
For the tart:
1 1/2 pounds fruit (I may have used 1 2/3lb…I used a combo of rhubarb, quartered strawberries, halved cherries, raspberries, and blackberries)
1/3 cup sugar (if the fruit is really tart, you can increase to 2/3 cup)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3 tbsp corn starch (If you like a runnier filling, you can reduce to 2)
1 par-baked tart crust
1 recipe streusel topping
1. Preheat the oven to 375F. Place the tart crust on a baking sheet lined with foil. In a small bowl, mix together the sugar, cinnamon, and corn starch. In a large bowl, gently combine the fruit and the dry ingredients. Dump the mixture into the tart shell and spread evenly (don’t worry if it looks over-full). With your fingers, sprinkle the topping over the fruit, making sure to cover the whole surface area.
2. Bake for 35-50 minutes, until the topping is golden and the fruit is bubbling at the edges.
3. Cool the tart on a rack before unmolding. Serve warm, with vanilla ice cream.