The Tart Tang of Spring in an Old Time Prairie Favourite: Rhubarb Custard Squares
Rhubarb is the boldest and bravest of garden perennials and rearing its head in the early frosty Spring, signalling the end to a dreary long Winter. Tingles of excitement sting through me as I dream of the new growing season to come. I cherish plucking young tender greens from my own tiny urban garden for our family table.
And, thus it was. Amid the flurry and flury of the new TM5 Thermomix launch May 6 of this month, I found solace amongst the billowing young leaves in my black wet garden soil where I discovered tender young red stalks hiding, thrusting upward t’ward the sun. Now, is the time.
Of course, there is no time. No time for friends, for family, for me. No time for pleasure, for fun. Only time to work at training our Thermomix consultants how to use their TM5 machines (that was not hard at all) and to certify them to sell the machines with the new changes introduced to our company. Only time for that. I love that work, but where is the balance? Now, is the time.
Freeing each stalk from the mother root, muddy silt stuck to my fingers and worked its way under my nails as tart juices sprayed everywhere. Doesn’t everyone’s nose get itchy at this very minute? Mine did.
Now is the time for Grandma Maude’s Rhubarb Custard Square. Now is the time to treat my husband for doing everything around the house so I can write the training lessons. Now is the time to take this “state of art” TM5 for a spin to see how much more she can improve the quality of my life.
Grandma’s Custard Square is more like a cake. It is definitely not sticky sweet like most squares. Nor is it dense, like most squares. It is, however, flat like most squares. It isn’t tart, like tarts. It isn’t dense or sweet like tarts. It is light and flavourful, yet deeply satisfying very much like a cake. It just doesn’t look like a cake.
But you don’t need to feel too guilty eating a very big piece, like you would if it was similar to a traditional square recipe.
There you have it. Pastry in very few seconds. That is correct. Flour, cold butter, and sugar into the Thermomix bowl and processed for a few seconds.
Done. Then, pressed into the pan. I chose 2 “fancier” pans with bottoms that come out as I decided to serve one to my Thermomix Consultants at our meeting today. I forgot to, though. We were so busy. They left, and the little labour of love was still on the counter. Sigh.
Sugar (brown and white) are beaten with the eggs till light, fluffy and voluminous.
Flour is then gently folded in. The TM5 is much more precise than the TM31. This surprised me. Nowhere did the literature speak about precision, but precise it is.
The digital screen didn’t “turn me on”. Above, left to right: time, temperature, speed.
The scale is more precise: 5 grams up to 6 kilograms!
What did “turn me on” (and I truly wasn’t expecting it) is the guided recipe chip (whooo-hooo! blush!). Of course, I used the machine manually, for this recipe, but the recipe chip builds confidence through its guided recipes, provides outstanding support in the kitchen and creates perfect food every single time. Precision. There are even three automated recipes. Seriously.
I added in the chopped stalks, and ever so gently folded them into the custard mixture. Below, I removed the butterfly (or whisk) as grandma would leave the custard to “set up for an hour, or so”.
But, why not leave it “set” in the pan, before putting it into the oven? That is what I did. Poured the custard onto the base and left it on the counter for about an hour.
Into the oven for 25 minutes at 350ºF and voilà! The brown crispy bits on the top are the best!
The shortbread-like pastry crust is rich and provides the perfect foil for the tart light topping.
And guess what? Vanja likes it! He likes it! You all know that he is the easiest person in the world to live with, but not the easiest one to cook for as he likes really simple food. Most wives would be thrilled about that, but for me, it is a little torturous. I always know when he will not like something, and I always know about recipes I am not sure about (like this one) – so I just hold my breath, cross my fingers, and hope. This minuscule effort of homemade tender loving care was definitely far past due, and finding that he really enjoys it is deeply satisfying! And, as it is simply too easy to make, there is just no excuse! Anytime, can be “the” time.
Stawberry Rhubarb Custard Square
This is an old traditional family recipe from Grandma Maude that I loved but haven't made for years because I forgot about it. Cleaning out the recipe bin brought me face to face with some poignant Alberta prairie family memories. Makes 1 9-inch by 13-inch square, or two long bottom removable tart shells: serves 8-12
Ingredients for the Crust:
- 1 cup or 170g cold butter , cubed
- 1 1/2 cup or 350g flour
- 1/2 cup or 100g sugar
Ingredients for the Custard:
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup or 210g white sugar
- 1/2 cup or 100g brown sugar
- 1 cup or 150g flour
- 1 teaspoon or 5g baking powder
- 1 teaspoon or 5g salt
- 1 pound or 500g fresh rhubarb , preferably red, sliced into pieces about a quarter-inch wide
Preheat the oven to 350F
Instructions for the Crust:
Cut the butter into the flour and sugar as you would for pie pastry
Press dough into a 9" by 13" pan
Instructions for the Custard:
Beat eggs in large bowl until foamy; add sugars
Cream slightly; add flour, baking powder, and salt
Fold to combine; add rhubarb
Gently mix together; allow mixture to sit for about an hour
Putting it all together:
Pour the custard over the crust and smooth it evenly
Bake at 350°F for 25-30 minutes: until set and a nice golden crusty colour
Preheat the oven to 350F
Thermomix instructions for the crust:
Scale butter, flour and sugar into the TM bowl; set time at 30 seconds and speed at 2-3
Press dough into a 9" by 13" pan or two narrower tart pans, like I did
Thermomix instructions for the custard:
Scale both sugars into the TM bowl; add eggs
Place butterfly securely in place and remember to never use it over speed 4; set time at 1 minute and speed at 4
Scrape down sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula; scale flour, baking powder, and salt into TM bowl
Set time to 20 seconds on soft speed, watching through hole in the lid, go to 0.5 speed and then to speed 1; combine for 10 more seconds if not thoroughly combined
Scale thinly sliced red tart rhubarb into the TM bowl; still with the whisk, set the speed to soft and the time to 15 seconds
Watching through the hole in the lid, gently stir from speed soft to 0.5 for 15 seconds until fully combined
Pour mixture onto pastry crust; set aside for 30 minutes to macerate
Putting it all together:
Bake at 350°F for 25-30 minutes: until set and nice crusty golden brown colour
Please read Susan’s Comment below. She has LONG been someone I have admired. I love her posts, and it was her post that motivated me to fish out grandma’s recipe… I had just found it a couple of weeks ago doing some spring cleaning. But, I copied Susan’s post onto a word document to make it, before typing up grandma’s…. I saved both on my desk top with similar names. When I wrote up the post, I simply pasted the recipe in and proofed it and published it. But, I had copied Susan’s recipe, not the one I had made. I didn’t make her recipe, however.I made grandma’s recipe for the TM5 Thermomix machine, and was busy measuring and converting the ingredients to grams and writing the instructions for that, so I didn’t even look at the other instructions again. I have therefore corrected the recipe, originally identical to the one in Susan’s post. Apologies to Susan, and please, by all means, stop by her site and enjoy it as I have over the years!