I think about rhubarb every time I step into the Great Hall of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
When I worked a few blocks away from the Union Square Greenmarket in Manhattan, one of my favorite summer Friday rituals was to shop there after we were released from our desks at 1:00 pm, then spend the rest of the day exploring and wandering throughout the city.
One afternoon, I filled my trusty LL Bean tote with rhubarb, the pink stalks sticking out of the bag like a cheerful wave hello, and made my way uptown to the Met.
At the bag check, the guard did not consider the rhubarb stems a cheerful sight. “You can’t bring food into the museum,” he frowned.
“But they’re not food at this point,” I argued. “They’re not cooked yet; when the stalks are raw, they’re still essentially a plant!”
“Look,” I gestured to the Hall’s multiple oversized urns, filled with floral arrangements so tall and lush they could be forests. “You have plants and flowers and stems in the museum right here—this is basically the same thing as bringing a bouquet inside!”
He sighed again.
Then he took my lemon-yellow cardigan from the bag and tucked it over the rhubarb. “Just keep them covered, ok?”
I grinned. Winning that argument was more priceless than all the John Singer Sargents in the American Wing. (Don’t tell that guard that you can in fact eat raw rhubarb!)
Whether with the Metropolitan Museum of Art or with baking, you gotta know what the rules are before you can break them and come out winning.
Having solid recipes at your disposal that you can tweak and adapt to your heart’s content may not always help you when trying to bring contraband into a cultural institution, but it’s a damn good place to start.
That’s what I did this week when I got the urge to slurp up some rhubarb that wasn’t necessarily in a regular pie or crumble.
Using my basic pate sucree recipe, I substituted oat and graham flours to make a no-roll pie crust that tasted more like a cookie-like oat crumble topping.
Spreading a sweeter, more spiced version of my favorite tart rhubarb compote satisfied the crucial rhubarb part of the equation.
(It also helps to pre-cook the rhubarb in this case, so the liquid bakes off instead of making the custard and pie soggy.)
All that’s left is to tuck a lemony custard over the rhubarb and enjoy the fruits of victory.
Feel free to take a slice on the go or to pile it high with whipped cream and extra rhubarb compote, but you might want to think twice before trying to sneak it into the Met.
Or bring a piece to sweet-talk the guard at bag check.
- 1 pound rhubarb, roughly chopped
- 1/3 cup (33 grams; 2 1/3 ounces) granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/2 cup (60 grams; 2 1/8 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup (60 grams; 2 1/8 ounces) graham flour
- 1/2 cup (45 grams; 1 5/8 ounces) oat flour
- 1/2 cup (57 grams; 2 ounces) powdered sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 ounces (8 tablespoons; 1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon milk
- 1/2 cup (50 grams; 3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons full-fat plain Greek yogurt
- 3 large eggs
- zest of 1 small lemon
- 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 2 lemons)
- whipped cream
Make the rhubarb compote:
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Stir the rhubarb, sugar, vanilla bean paste, and cardamom together in a 9-inch square or round baking dish.
- Cover and bake for 20 minutes, then uncover and stir.
- Cook for about 10 minutes more to condense the juices.
- Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature.
Make the dough and blind-bake the crust:
- Pulse the flours, sugar, and salt together in a food processor just until combined.
- Add the butter and pulse 8-10 times until the texture is pebbly with pea-size chunks of butter throughout.
- In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolk and milk together.
- With the food processor running, drizzle the milk through the feed tube until a soft dough comes together.
- Press the dough evenly with your fingers into a 9-inch pie pan, making sure the edges rise at least 1/4 inch above the rim or stretch to the edges of the lip of the pan.
- Refrigerate for at least an hour.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
- Cover the dough with foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans.
- Bake for about 10-12 minutes, until the crust is matte, not shiny, when you peek below the foil.
- Gently lift the weighted foil off the crust and bake for 3-5 minutes more .
- Remove the crust from the oven and cool completely on a rack.
Make the lemon custard and assemble the pie:
- Whisk the sugar, yogurt, eggs, lemon zest, and lemon juice together in a bowl.
- Spread half the rhubarb compote in the bottom of the pie crust, then gently pour the lemon filling over the rhubarb.
- Bake the pie for 20-25 minutes, until the filling is set and starting to crack at the edges. Watch carefully to make sure the edges of the pie crust don't burn and carefully cover them with foil if they're cooking too quickly.
- Cool on a rack completely before refrigerating or slicing and serving.
- Serve with the remaining rhubarb compote on the side and top each slice with whipped cream, if desired.