Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Strawberry Rhubarb & Lavender Cream Cheese Tarts

I've always thoroughly enjoyed certain foods most kids loath to their very core. Vegetables like beets, broccoli, and brussels sprouts have been consistently present in my diet. Pardon my alliteration, but there's no denying most little ones are picky eaters. The only thing I refused to eat besides meat was my mother's creamed spinach (Sorry Mum!), but I've come around since then. Maybe because I grew up eating things that frightened most, I became more interested in eating things that are easily overlooked in cooking. 
Rhubarb, I've found, is one of those foods.

Sure, it looks like alien celery. I get that. But my goodness, is it ever tasty! I like a little tang with my sweet, so naturally, this is the perfect ingredient to mix with fruit. My favorite traditional combination is with strawberries, or berries of any kind, for that matter.

Look up "rhubarb" on any food blog, and you'll likely find it used in some sort of sugary concoction. This recipe is no different, because I like my treats wrapped up in pastry quite often. And, of course, when you find a great recipe that moves you, you just have to go with it! To use their words, this recipe is "shamelessly inspired" by Smitten Kitchen and their Rhubarb Cream Cheese Hand Pies.

Now, gather all your necessary supplies and get to work on the dough! I can't stress enough the necessity of cold, cubed butter when making pie dough - it's crucial if you want it to come out right. Keep it in the fridge until you're absolutely ready to use it. Mix your dry ingredients first in the bottom of your large bowl or stand mixer bowl, and bit by bit, add in your butter. Use your hands! Seriously, don't be afraid to get a bit messy. It makes the experience that much more fun.

When it comes to a good consistency, slowly mix in the heavy whipping cream and continue to knead the dough. You want to be able to tuck it all together into a neat little ball, and then it'll be ready to be wrapped and nestled in your fridge for at least two hours. With the dough taking a nice nap, it's time to prep your fillings. 

Mix the rhubarb and strawberries with the sugar in a pot set on medium heat and cover for 20 minutes, until the rhubarb is tender and soft. You'll likely need to drain just a little bit of liquid from the pot, as the strawberries will make everything gooey. You can let the fruit filling set for a few minutes while the cream cheese mixture is being made.

When using lavender sugar, the more citrus the better! I adore both lavender and citrus, so combining them into a creamy filling is heavenly. Using a rubber spatula, fold in all ingredients together, using cream cheese that is extremely soft so that it doesn't clump.

After two hours, get ready to toss on something other than black, because it's time to cover everything in flour! Unless you have an extremely large counter or tabletop, you can roll out the dough into two pieces by splitting it up in half first. If you're able to get the two rolled-out pieces into similar sizes, you can carefully stack them and then cut your dough so that you're guaranteed to have matching shapes. Just make sure the dough layers don't stick to one another!

Before you start squaring off your dough, pick out a tool that won't rip the dough as you cut it. If you have a steady hand, you can use a pizza cutter to ensure a straight line. Otherwise, cookie cutters are never a bad way to get even shapes. I chose to follow along with the original recipe's design and make mine into squares since I have yet to find my circular cookie cutters after moving - darn it.

Lightly brush your pastry squares with egg wash, and begin spooning out your fillings in 1/2 tablespoons. No need to spread to the edges, as the filling will likely do that all on its own. Lay the paired square on top of the filled pastry and pinch the edges closed either by using your fingertips or a fork. Lay each tart on a parchment-lined baking sheet at least two inches apart from one another.

Once you've assembled and brown-sugared the tops of the tarts, go ahead and pop those suckers into a preheated 400°F oven. I have a relatively, uh, classic oven (which is a nice way of saying 'fickle bitch'), so times may vary for those with less temperamental appliances. These tarts took me about 22 minutes to bake, but it'll likely take less time for you folks so check them around the 15 minute mark to see if they need more time. Let them properly cool once they're good to come out, using either wire racks or a cool ceramic surface.

Yeah, that's the first thought that came to mind, so I went with it. And the aroma has definitely put me into a state of relaxation like finished baking tends to do. Ed insisted we have an "action shot" to showcase just how soft yet flaky the pastry turned out. I'm positive he just wanted the first bite!

Smaklig måltid!

Strawberry Rhubarb & Lavender Cream Cheese Tarts

Pie Dough

  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 12 tablespoons cold butter, cubed
  • 2/3 cup heavy whipping cream

  • Strawberry Rhubarb Filling

  • 1 1/2 cup of strawberries
  • 6 stalks rhubarb
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar

  • Lavender Cream Cheese Filling

  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/6 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/6 cup lavender sugar *
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1/4 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

  • Egg wash will be needed for coating, as well as brown sugar.
    I use raw turbinado sugar, but feel free to use any kind you like.

    These tarts can be frozen and reheated in a toaster oven for up to a month, but I'm sure they won't last every long if my household is an indication.

    You can pick some up at WholeSpice, otherwise check out some recipes for 
    lavender-infused sugar. It's fantastic and so versatile.

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