I wasn't sure if anyone grew rhubarb in central Texas. For the last couple of years when I was looking for it, I never saw any at our farmers' markets. Some people even told me that rhubarb is more common in the north than it is in the south. Then, all of sudden this spring, I started hearing rumors of locally grown rhubarb being available at markets and farm stands. I stopped by the farm stand at Boggy Creek Farm one morning, and they indeed had freshly cut rhubarb. It wasn't as big or as red as the stalks I see in the grocery store, but it was grown with no chemicals right here in Austin, so I was proud to bring it home. I had a mash-up of a plan in mind for it. In Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook, there were ideas from two different tarts that I wanted to combine into one dessert. The rhubarb tart recipe in the book suggests cooking big pieces of rhubarb in a sugar syrup with a vanilla bean and beet wedges. The beet wedges give the syrup and the rhubarb more red color. Once the rhubarb was tender, it was removed, and the syrup was reduced to a thick glaze. The other tart from the book was made with a pistachio crust, was filled with a creme fraiche and whipped cream mixture, and was topped with berries and whole pistachios. I wanted both.
I made the pistachio dough as instructed by finely grinding shelled pistachios and adding them to butter mixed with confectioners' sugar. Egg yolks were added to that followed by flour, salt, and a little cream. The dough was soft and slightly sticky, so it was necessary to chill it before rolling. Then, rather than making individual tartlets as shown in the book, I made one rectangular tart. There was extra dough, so I did make a few tartlets as well to freeze and use another time. The tart crust was blind baked with pie weights and then allowed to cool. Going back to the rhubarb tart in the book, I cooked the cut pieces of rhubarb as suggested with sugar, water, a vanilla bean, and one beet cut into wedges. Since my rhubarb was more green than red, it required a little extra cooking time to become tender and sweet. Then, it was removed and allowed to dry on paper towels. The sugar syrup was strained and then poured into a clean pan to reduce until thick. One more flip back to the pistachio tarts to make the filling which was a mix of creme fraiche, cream, and sugar. That was spread in the cooled crust and then topped with halved strawberries, whole pistachios, the drained rhubarb, and last was drizzled with the cooled red, sugar syrup glaze.
The glaze was bright red from the beet, full of vanilla flavor, and was delightful. It was so pretty, I wanted to boil it to a higher temperature so I could turn it into lollipops. The pistachio crust was a winner too. It was easy to shape it in the tart pan, and the faint green tint contrasted well with the filling and toppings. I had no uncertainty about the creme fraiche and whipped cream layer under the strawberries and rhubarb, and it was tangy and rich as it should be. So, this mix of two tarts made one pleasing dessert.