Rhubarb and Almond Tart With Sparkling Wine
22nd March 2023
The Afternoon Tea, or its more substantial High Tea sibling with both sweet and savoury options, is a meal opportunity that cries out for sparkling wine.
Just to be clear, I will happily drink sparkling wine with a toasted sandwich or a stick of baguette, I don’t need the whole extended spread as an excuse to pop a cork or two.
But lovely buttery pastry, heady aromas of baked bread or cake which echo the yeasty, nutty notes of a good bottle-fermented sparkler that is rounded and elegant on the palate.
The nuttiness that is intrinsic to quality Champagne is often described as toasted almonds or hazelnuts, and it got me thinking about my absolute favourite treat: a soft squidgy frangipane tart in crisp pastry. I don’t mind which fruit – it can be pear, apple, raspberries, quince or whatever is in season, which at this time of year is rhubarb.
This recipe will make a deep 23cm tart tin or a shallower 30cm flan tin (although you will need a third more pastry for the bigger version).
Start with the pastry, and it’s a dead easy shortcrust that can be made and blind-baked in advance:
For the pastry
170g plain or cake flour
85g unsalted butter
2tbsp icing sugar
A generous pinch of sea salt
1½-2tbsp cold water
For the filling
200g unsalted butter at room temperature
200g caster sugar
200g ground almonds
2 medium free-range eggs
2 medium free-range egg yolks
Generous pinch of sea salt
1tsp almond essence (or vanilla paste)
400g rhubarb, cut in 4cm lengths
2tbsp apricot jam (or warm honey) to glaze (optional)
Put the flour, sugar, butter and salt in a food processor and blitz to a coarse crumb. Add a tablespoon of water and blitz again, adding the rest of the water if required for the pastry to come together in a ball. You don’t want it wet and sticky, but not too crumbly either.
I usually roll the pastry on a floured surface and line the tin straight away, then rest and chill it before baking. If you’ve worked quickly to get to this point the pastry won’t need resting before it’s rolled.
Heat the oven to 200°C, gently prick the base with a fork, line with baking parchment and fill with baking beans or rice. Blind bake for 10-12 minutes, then remove the beans and paper and return the pastry to the oven for another 6-8 minutes until the base is golden and has a sandy texture.
While the pastry is cooling, cream the butter and sugar in a mixer with a whisk attachment (or use a hand mixer) until pale and fluffy. Add almonds and then the eggs and the yolks one at a time, beating between each addition. Add any flavourings you have chosen, and pour the mixture into the tart case.
Arrange the fruit artfully on top and bake on the middle shelf for 10 minutes at 200°C before turning the oven down to 180°C for another 40-45 minutes. The top will be puffy and golden, with the middle just set. Allow to cool.
If you’re glazing the tart, heat the apricot jam or honey in a ramekin in the microwave for 20 seconds and use a pastry brush to gently brush the top – this gives the tart a lovely professional finish but a dusting of icing sugar would also be fine.
Serve at room temperature with some double cream or crème fraîche. Or don’t tell anyone you made it and retreat to the furthest corner of the house and eat it all yourself.
Bubbles to serve with it:
A classy vintage Champagne such as the Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque 2008
A traditional-method Italian Trentodoc such as Ferrari, which sings with breaded, yeasty notes
A Cava Rosado such as the Roger Goulart Cava Coral which is fruity, with caramelised sugars that will pair beautifully with the rhubarb
Professional chef and baker, wine judge and food and wine writer. www.daffodilsoup.co.uk