This tart got easter dessert status this year so you know it’s good. Easter is my second (maybe third) favorite holiday. There is something ritualistic and primal about it, being celebrated in some way in almost every culture the world over. That’s gotta mean something, right? Another reason that I love this vernal holiday is that I got my favorite (maybe second favorite) movie of all time–the 2005 film Pride and Prejudice starring the absolute angel Keira Knightley–in my Easter basket one year. For this reason, watching Pride and Prejudice reminds me of Easter and vice versa. I’m like Pavlov’s bunny.
Next Tangent: Easter is portrayed in almost every cultural reference as being a beautiful, sunny day on which you can wear a capped-sleeve sundress and skip through a meadow of daffodils and tulips–where I live, Easter is essentially still winter. I routinely wear a heating pad around my neck during daily activity and my eyes are weak from lack of sunlight. SO YOU HAVE TO FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT. I didn’t pick the red tulips on my table from my backyard, I bought them for $7.99 at a store near my house that ships them from a country I’ll surely never set foot in. Nor rhubarb did I pluck from the cool, spring earth. I got it at Kroger. And these things make me happy because it feels like spring, though when I look outside it looks not entirely dissimilar to the upside down.
Enter this dessert. I wanted something that made an impact both in flavors and appearance to wake everyone up from their long winter’s nap (seriously my skin is translucent). I wanted something that was whimsical and frivolous, the opposite of pragmatic winter. This spring/summer tart is from a cheesecake recipe by Sarah Leah Chase in her cookbook, Cold-Weather Cooking (chapter: “The Tease of Spring”). I converted the measurements from a cheesecake size to a tart because I think it’s a little lighter and delicate, the absolute opposite of what I feel after eating an entire piece of cheesecake (so. much. cheese.). The original recipe calls for the rhubarb layer to go under the cheesecake (a fun surprise) but I chose to marble it in because we live in a visual age and there’s no turning back.
I also added a strawberry meringue topping for texture and hint of whats in store for the coming season. What I love most about this tart is the contrast between the crumbling warm-spiced crust and the creamy cheesecake that’s ribboned with rhubarb zip. It’s a spring symphony. So cliche. Really good.
Final Thought: This dessert has a lot of steps but is, in my opinion, worth the effort. The good news is the jam can be made days in advance and stored in the fridge and the tart sits well in the fridge overnight. Bake the day before you want to serve and then make the meringue right before serving.
Rhubarb Cheesecake Tart
Rhubarb Cheesecake Tart (makes one 9-inch tart)
For the Tart
Oven: 350° Equipment: buttered 9-inch tart pan
- 1 c. unbleached, all-purpose flour
- 1/2 c. walnuts
- zest of one orange
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1/2 c. granulated sugar
Place flour, walnuts, orange zest, cinnamon, butter and sugar in food processor. Pulse until the mixture is crumbly. Press mixture into tart pan (you might not use all of the mixture, depending on how thick you want the crust). Place crust in freezer for 15 minutes. Transfer to oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, until crust is slightly toasted and fragrant.
For the Rhubarb Jam
- 1/2 lb. rhubarb, diced
- 2/3 c. sugar (less if you want more tartness)
- splash Triple Sec or orange liquer
Mix rhubarb, sugar and liquer in sauce pan over medium heat. Bring to boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and continue to cook for 15 minutes. Set aside to cool.
For the Cheesecake
- 8 oz. ricotta cheese
- 4 oz. cream cheese, softened at room temperature (so important)
- 1/4 c. granulated sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 eggs
Beat together both cheeses, vanilla, sugar and eggs in mixer until fully incorporated.
Pour cheesecake mixture into baked tart shell. With a spoon, add severals globs of jam all over the tart. Use a toothpick or skewer and drag outward from the pools of jam into the cheesecake mixture. (You might have extra jam depending on how much or little you use; save it for toast). Place onto middle rack in oven for 25-30 minutes or until set (when you jiggle the pan there should be slight movement in the middle of the tart but not around the edges). Let cheesecake cool on rack; refrigerate for at least an hour (overnight is fine).
For the Strawberry Meringue
- 3 eggs whites
- 2/3 c. granulated sugar
- 2 tbs. strawberry dust (process dehydrated strawberries in food processor until you have a powder)
Heat egg whites and sugar in a double boiler, stirring constantly until mixture reaches 140°. Transfer to stand mixer and whip until stiff peaks are formed, add strawberry dust to combine. Pipe or spoon meringue onto tart (I used Ateco tips #865 and #827). Use kitchen torch to get color on the meringues (use a light hand, you don’t want to burn meringue). Serve promptly.
Recipe (with adjustments) from Cold-Weather Cooking by Sarah Leah Chase.