One of the great things about being in the country, such as the Hudson Valley, is that from late Spring to early Fall, the farms are open. I love small family places, especially the ones where you can "pick your own."
It's strawberry season, and a couple of weeks ago, I picked my first of the year. It was the very beginning of the season. They were a touch tangy but sweet on the finish. Then, I picked up some rhubarb from a friend's garden. Strawberries are not my favorite fruit, but I love the classic combination of strawberry and rhubarb.
I decided to make a rustic tart and load it up high with fruit. A crisp would have been just as delicious, but rustic tarts always transports me back to my late French grandmother's kitchen in Blois. She was an amazing blind baker, always going by feel, using a delicate coffee cup and soup spoons to measure. She never paid much attention to the size of the eggs either, and somehow, her pastries always turned out perfectly delicious, crisp and flaky.
FOR THE BUTTER-EGG CRUST:
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
5 tablespoons salted butter
1 large farm-fresh egg
3 to 4 tablespoons cold water
Milk or egg wash for brushing
FOR THE FILLING:
1 quart freshly-picked small strawberries, stems discarded and berries halved if necessary
2 medium to large stalks rhubarb, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup granulated organic sugar plus 1 tablespoon extra
2 tablespoons tapioca starch
1. Put the flour on a clean work surface and, with your fingertips, quickly incorporate the butter to a cornmeal consistency (Does not have to be even! In fact larger chunks here and there are encouraged). Make a well in the center and add the egg. Work the flour halfway and add the water. Mix until fully incorporated, but without working the dough too much or too hard. chunks of butter should be noticeable. Shape it into a disc, wrap it up and refrigerate for 30 minutes. (This dough can be used for both sweet and savory tarts)
2. Preheat the oven to 425°F for 20 minutes.
3. In a large bowl, combine the strawberries and rhubarb. Scatter the sugar and tapioca on top and toss well. Let stand for 30 minutes, allowing the fruit to "bleed."
4. On a floured work surface, roll out your dough to a 1/16" disc. Grease and flour a baking sheet (round if you have one), and center the dough on top. Drain and pile the fruit in the center, allowing the pieces to fall naturally to the sides, and leaving a clean 2 to 3-inch border of dough all around.
5. Pull up the dough, creating pleats every 2-inches, and securing the fruit all around. Brush milk all over the dough and bake until golden brown and the fruit has cooked down, about 40 minutes. Test the fruit (especially the rhubarb) with a toothpick. If still somewhat firm, continue to bake for another 5 to 10 minutes.
6. Let cool on the baking sheet, placing it on a cooling rack. Let cool all the way before slicing.
TIP: There may be a lot of juice. In fact there will be. Don't try and drain it. It will firm up a bit, as it cools. The more juicy the fruit, the more liquid will drain out of the tart. It's delicious, especially when topped with freshly whipped cream ;)