Spring seems quite like a shy animal not daring to leave its den. It gently peeks outside on some days, but is then frightened by the light and immediately hides again. It’s 8 °C here in Cologne and the sun hasn’t been seen for days. It’s hard to get that spring feeling this year, even though the trees are blooming.

But the produce of spring are bit by bit hitting the markets these days. I have recently come over some wonderful domestic rhubarb. I had to take it home with me, although I did not really know what I would make from it. One of my first ideas was about muffins with rhubarb. However, I wanted something which better accentuated this awesome fruit. And so I developed the idea of mini cheesecakes with poached rhubarb. The recipe was fully improvised. But since it proved delicious, I am not afraid of sharing it with you.

Mini cheesecakes with poached rhubarb

Yields 12 tartlets:
Tartlet dough:
225 g wheat flour
150 g chilled butter
75 g sugar
A pinch of salt
A pinch of baking powder
2-3 tblsp. ice water
Poached rhubarb:
3 stalks of rhubarb (250 g)
300 ml water
100 g sugar
Scraped seeds of 1/4 vanilla bean
A generous shot of grenadine
Cheese filling:
500 g curd cheese
4 egg yolks
50 g sugar
Grated cest of 1/4 orange
30 g cornstarch

In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder. Cut the butter into small pieces, and add to the flour. With your hands, combine all ingredients just until you get a smooth dough. You will have to add some water during kneading, or the dough will be too firm and brittle. Don’t overknead, this is not about gluten. Wrap the dough in plastic foil and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Peel the rhubarb and cut it in 2 cm pieces. Mix water and sugar in a pot and bring to boil. Then add vanilla seeds, grenadine (this is to improve color), and rhubarb. Cover the pot, and simmer the rhubarb for 3-4 min over lowest heat. Let cool in the sirup.

Preheat your oven to 180 °C.

Roll out the dough on a floured surface until 3 mm thick. Lay out small tartlet cups (I used my muffin pan) with the dough. Put in the freezer for 10 min. Then, place pieces of baking parchment inside the tartlets and fill the tartlets with dried beans or peas. Bake for 20 min, then let cool. Remove baking parchment and beans.

Place the curd cheese in a clean musslin cloth and squeeze out the liquid. Put the cheese in a bowl and mix with egg yolks, sugar, orange cest, and cornstarch. Fill the tartlets with the cheese and top with the poached rhubarb. Put back in the oven and bake for another 20 min. Let rest for 5 minutes, then take the tartlets out of the cups and let cool on wire racks.


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