26 June 2011

Plum Rhubarb Custard Pie

I bought an obscene amount of rhubarb these few weeks. To me they are like Cadbury Easter Eggs or Hallowe'en Kisses: Load up on as many as you can because they will disappear before long.

As a result, bundles of scarlet stems pack my fridge, they jut here and there and balance precariously on yoghurt tubs and containers of leftovers. Every time I open the door my ideas and experiments flood my my mind.

The other week a colleague brought in a rhubarb custard pie for the staff picnic. It was lovely--just sweet enough to let the fruit's tartness shine through. It was also something I'd not had before --a plain rhubarb pie or rhubarb or rhubarb-strawberry, yes, but a custard pie. No.

So that got me thinking.

Thinking about how custard pies scare me. Just a little.

Not scared in the sense that I break out in hives at the thought of someone leaping out from behind a hydrangea bush to slap me in the face with custardy-whipped creamy-crusty goodness

Scared...as in...they consistently cause problems...but in an inconsistent way.

Sometimes the custard just doesn't happen...and by that I mean it disappears. POOF. Gone. I don't know if it absorbed into the fruit or crust or simply decided to go AWOL when my back was turned.

Other times the custard just doesn't set. Slicing into the cooled pie reveals fruit in an eggy pools soaking into the crust.

No. I don't understand either.

Something happened when I made this pie. The custard not only appeared, but it set. It surprised me so much I made it twice to ensure it wasn't a fluke. It wasn't a fluke.

With my custardish conundrums overcome, I decided to infuse its cream sweetness with cardamom and match it with a compote of rhubarb and plums.

The result was visually stunning-- claret-coloured fruit swirled with primrose custard; its floral tartness contrasted against a sweet cardamom'd custard. I am quite happy with this.

The pie is easy to make, but is a bit involved. You can make things a bit easier for yourself by making the custard and compote a day in advance; the pastry can be made well in advance and frozen.

Plum Rhubarb Custard Pie
Yield: one 23cm (10") pie

For the crust
350g (625ml/2.5c) all purpose flour
0.5tsp (2ml) salt
1tsp (5ml) sugar
150g (165ml/0.66c) very cold (frozen, preferably) butter
65g (80ml/0.33c) very cold (frozen, preferably) lard
60-90ml (4-6Tbsp) ice water

For the fruit
250g (500ml/2c) rhubarb, chopped into 1cm pieces
250g (3-4) plums, chopped into 1cm
100g (125ml/0.5c) brown sugar
1tsp (5ml) vanilla
0.25tsp (1ml) salt

For the custard
310ml (1.25c) table cream (18% cream) or milk
0.25tsp (1ml) ground cardamom
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
100g (125ml/0.5c) sugar
1Tbsp (15ml) cornflour

For the crust

Mix together the flour, salt and sugar. Grate in the butter and lard and then rub into the flour mixture. You're looking for a rubbly mixture where some pieces are like coarse sand and others are no larger than the size of a pea. Sprinkle in enough water so the dough comes together. Form a ball and flatten into a disc. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

For the fruit mixture
Mix all the fruit ingredients together into a saucepan. Over a medium flame, bring to a bubble, stirring occasionally, and let cook for about 10 minutes or until the rhubarb softens and the juices are thick. Take off the heat and let cool.

For the custard:
Add the cardamom to the cream or milk. Scald the cream, take it off the heat and let cool.

Beat the eggs into the sugar. Keep on beating as you dribble in the slightly cooled cream.

Remove about a quarter cup of the mixture and mix in the cornflour to make a slurry.

Rinse out and dry the saucepan in which you scalded the cream. Return the cream mixture( (the one without the cornflour) to the pan. Over a low flame, stir the custard for a few minutes. Add the slurry and keep on stirring until thick and the custard coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and let cool

To assemble.
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F

Roll out the pastry to fit a 23cmx5cm (10" x 2") tin. Blind bake for 20 minutes.

Spoon in the fruit mixture and then pour the custard over top. Level as best as you can and bake for 30 minutes.

The pie is done when the custard is just set.

Remove from the oven and let cool thoroughly before slicing. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream, if you wish.

- You can use pluots or apriums instead of plums
- If you can substitute vanilla for cardamom
- If you have a pastry recipe you prefer (or a store bought crust in your freezer), you can use that instead of the pastry I suggested.

cheers!jasmineI'm a quill for hire!


Fabrizio said...

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A culinary journey from Italy.

La Cuisine d'Helene said...

Oh my that looks so good.

Culinary School: Three Semesters of Life, Learning, and Loss of Blood said...

We never cooked with rhubarb at culinary school (here, if you're interested: "Culinary School: 101 Things Every Culinary Student Should Know Before They Go" - http://t.co/fN8l5lk), but I'm playing with it at home. And this recipe looks like a keeper.


Mikaela Cowles said...

This looks like eating summer. I want some now.

mjskit said...

I love anything rhubarb!!! This looks absolutely wonderful and of course, I love the touch of cardamom!