Wednesday, May 30, 2012
When and where I grew up, there was a rhubarb plant in everyone’s back yard. No one ever bought rhubarb; they just stepped outside the back door and pulled up the stalks they wanted. And certainly no one ever paid for a rhubarb plant. They just waited for a friend or neighbor to offer a split. If things got dire and someone actually needed to ask for rhubarb, well, that’s what relatives were for.
Here and now, in the big bad city,* I get rhubarb from the farmers’ market or from my CSA share. Sometimes, after dividing our weekly box with my neighbor, there are only a few stalks—not enough for the overstuffed pies of my childhood.
But even if I have only a handful of rhubarb, there’s no need to go without the sweet/tart, Valentine pink, prolifically juicy extravagance that is rhubarb pie. I’ll make a galette instead!
This recipe will make four good-sized servings. You can cut it in half for an even teensier pastry. Or, if you ever have pastry dough left over after some other recipe, you can roll it out on a piece of waxed paper; roll that up into a cylinder; and then wrap it up and freeze it. Then, when you find yourself with a fistful of rhubarb, just thaw out your sheet of dough and bake this treat.
*South Minneapolis. Hey, it’s shady and my yard is small!
Before you start, you may find it useful to read “All Those Women on Fine September Afternoons” from Katrina Vandenberg’s collection Atlas. I consult my copy every time I make pastry. It always helps.
½ c cold unsalted butter, cut in small pieces
1¼ c flour
1 t sugar
½ t salt
3-5 T ice water
2 cups sliced rhubarb (¼" to ½" thick)
½ t grated orange zest
½ c cornstarch or tapioca
¾ c sugar (more or less to taste)
A few small slivers of butter
First, make the pastry. Make sure the butter is cold. Blend the dry ingredients and cut the butter into them with a pastry cutter. Cut and cut until the stuff looks like cornmeal or soft breadcrumbs. Going fast is an advantage here, because things will stay cold and this is a good thing.
Sprinkle a few tablespoons of water over the pastry crumblies. Stir with a fork or a spatula until things clump together. Try to roll the pastry into a ball. If it won’t go, sprinkle on a bit more water and try again.
When you have your dough ball, cover it loosely and put it in the fridge to relax. A half hour should do it. Now is a great time to cut up your rhubarb and prepare your filling.
To do the filling, just stir together everything except the slivers of butter.
Preheat the oven to 350°. Roll out your dough onto a floured surface; make a roundish shape. Transfer the dough to a baking sheet.
Look in your filling bowl. Is there powdery stuff in there, at the bottom? Good. Holding the fruit back with one hand, shake the loose dry stuff onto the center of your pastry shape. Then let the fruit fall on top of that. Spread the rhubarb out in a layer about 1 to 1½" thick, then fold the edges of the crust over the filling. There should be a big open space on top with no crust. Kind of like a pie without a pan.
Dot the filling here and there with the slivers of butter and pop the galette into the oven. It’s done when the pastry browns and the rhubarb is bubbling; this will take far less time than for a regular pie, maybe 20 to 30 minutes.
Serve to acclaim!