Rhubarb Crostatas

Rhubarb was never really high up on my list of dessert fruits when I was growing up. This was just me though, I'm pretty sure everyone else was into rhubarb.

I had a rhubarb pie when I was pretty young at a dinner party at my Dad's friends house and it was sour. I was expecting a sweet and juicy pie and I got sour. Since that time, I've never had a rhubarb dessert... 

A similar thing happened when I was about 5 years old and my dad gave me a slice of "orange", as he said it was. It was most certainly not orange, it was grapefruit. I was horribly surprised and have disliked grapefruit ever since. Unpleasant surprises are the worst surprises.

I wanted to have very neat edges for my crostatas, so I used a bowl that was 6 1/2 inch in diameter to trace a circle for the dough rounds. This made it much easier to have them all the same size as well. I would recommend doing this if you're not so good at eyeballing things.

But, seeing as I'm kind of a grown-up now, even though I don't feel like it, I figure I should get over my childhood dislike of rhubarb. But not grapefruit, not yet. I still don't like grapefruit.

These crostatas are my way of righting the sour pie wrong that was done to me years ago. Not exactly a rhubarb pie, but the main components - rhubarb and pastry - are there. They're like mini rustic pies. Once again, smaller versions are cuter, like the Lemon Tartlets I made. 

If you have vanilla sugar sitting in your cupboard, I really urge you to use it in this recipe. It's delicious! That slight hint of vanilla paired with the sweet sugar and somewhat tart rhubarb is just splendid. It's not the end of the world if you don't have vanilla sugar, but you should make some for future use. Just get a couple of vanilla beans, pop them in a jar, fill it with sugar, and leave it for a couple weeks. However, if you have scraped out the seeds and used the vanilla pod for infusing something, you can still use it for vanilla sugar! Just rinse and dry the pod completely and use it in the same way. Top up the sugar whenever you use it and pop any vanilla beans in there when you have them.

You can use vanilla sugar in almost any recipe that calls for sugar. It's great paired with fruits, like in this recipe. However, try not to use it for any recipes that call for the sugar to be cooked at a high heat, like caramels or candy.

Rhubarb Crostatas 
Recipe from Dahlia Bakery Cookbook

2 2/3 cups pastry flour
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt or 1/2 tablespoon regular salt
1 cup unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch dice, freezer cold
1/4 cup vegetable shortening, freezer cold
1/2 cup ice-cold water
2 teaspoons white vinegar

3/4 cup sugar, plus about 3 tablespoons for sprinkling
2 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 1/2 pounds (680 g) rhubarb, tough ends trimmed
Starch water (see below)
About 3 tablespoons heavy cream, for brushing

Starch Water
1 tablespoon of flour or cornstarch
1/2 cold water

Start with the pastry. Put the flours, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter and shortening and pulse 9 to 12 times. Turn off the machine and take the lid off. The butter should be in pieces a little smaller than the size of a pea. If needed, put the lid back on and pulse a couple more times.

Put the ice-cold water and vinegar in a measuring cup and stir to combine. Gradually pour the the water-vinegar mixture through the feed tube while pulsing 10 to 12 times. Take the lid off. Use your fingers to see if you can clump the mixture together to form a dough. The dough should not form a ball in the processor, but should form a clump when pressed between your fingers. Use a rubber spatula to scrape around the sides and bottom of the food processor bowl to see if there are any dry pockets of flour. If the dough seems too dry, you can add more water a few teaspoons at a time and pulse a few more times.

Remove the dough from the food processor, shape into a rectangle, roughly 4 x 6 inches, and chill for at least 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. 

Unwrap the dough and divide it into 8 equal pieces by cutting it in half the long way, then into quarters the short way. Pat each portion of dough into a flattened disk and, using a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface, roll each disk into a 6 1/2 inch round about 1/8 inch thick. Place the pastry rounds on a parchment lined baking sheet (4 rounds to a sheet), cover loosely with plastic wrap, and refrigerate while you make the filling.

To make the filling, combine the 3/4 cup sugar with the cornstarch in a small bowl and set aside. cut the rhubarb stalks into 1/4 to 1/2 dice, then place the rhubarb in a large bowl. Add the sugar-cornstarch mixture and toss to combine.

Remove one baking sheet with the pastry rounds from the fridge, leaving the others in the fridge until you're ready to assemble those. To shape a crostata, place about one-eighth of the rhubarb mixture (about 1/2 cup) in the center of the pastry round, leaving a 1 inch border of pastry all the way around. 

For the starch water, combine the flour or cornstarch with the water and stir to combine.

Using a pastry brush, brush the pastry border with some of the starch water. Fold the pastry border up and over the rhubarb, crimping the dough up with your fingers and allowing the dough to fold into pleats around the filling. When you have finished pleating, use your hands to gently but firmly press down on the folds of the crostata to seal it well.

Repeat filling and shaping the remaining crostatas. When you are done, brush the pleated pastry rim of all the crostatas with some of the cream and sprinkle with sugar. If you think your pastry has warmed a bit during this process, chill them for another 20 or 30 minutes before baking.

Bake the crostatas until the pastry is evenly golden, 50 to 55 minutes, rotating the pans once halfway through the baking time, and, if you have 2 pans in the oven at the same time, also switching them between racks. Remove the pans from the oven and cool on wire racks.

Serve the crostatas while still warm from the oven or allow them to cool to room temperature and reheat when you serve them. If you want to reheat them, place them in a preheate 375 degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes.

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