Food and Drink

Get your M.C. Escher on with a geometric rhubarb tart

Here’s a fun thing to do: Google “geometric rhubarb tart,” and then look at the gorgeous tarts that appear. Tart-makers slice rhubarb into diamonds or form squares, some play on the natural gradient of the plant’s colors from light green to dark red. Another popular pattern is herringbone. (Try Googling that!) It’s a little like those flat, wooden geometric tiles for kids; the only limit of the patterns you can make is your imagination.

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This is a basic tart recipe that can be used to make any patterned tart. The pie itself is on the tarter side. If you know you like your rhubarb sweeter, you can toss the chopped rhubarb with 1/4 cup of sugar, but that will make it a little harder to assemble your geometric pattern. I have found the easiest way to make a pattern is to use a ruler to keep the pieces uniform, and to make the shapes out of pieces that are chopped from the same stalk so they are about the same diameter. Arranging them beforehand is also key. You can see mine’s a little imperfect.

Geometric rhubarb tart

Serves 6

For the crust:

One stick or 1/2 cup cold butter

1 1/4 cup flour


2 tablespoons sugar

1-2 tablespoons ice water

For the filling:

One 8-ounce package cream cheese

1/4 cup powdered sugar

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

2 tablespoons plus 2 tablespoons honey

5- to 6-foot-long stalks rhubarb (comes out to roughly 4 cups, chopped)

Method: To make the crust, put butter, sugar and flour in the bowl of a food processor and pulse into a fine meal. With the blade running, drizzle the ice water in until the mixture forms a ball. Press the dough into a 9-inch tart pan and place in the freezer for at least 30 minutes. In a small bowl, mix cream cheese, powdered sugar, egg and almond extract until smooth. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Take a piece of rhubarb and, using a ruler, cut on the bias, roughly 1.25-inch long, and arrange in a tight triangle (or other shape, depending). Adjust the size of the pieces until they fit snugly together. That will serve as your template. Cut the rest of the rhubarb, using the ruler, and arrange the rhubarb on a cutting board the way you’d arrange it on top of the tart. You’ll end up adjusting the size of the stalks around the edges to fill in to the sides of the rounded crust. Remove the tart crust from the freezer and spread in the filling. Arrange the rhubarb on top of the filling in whatever pattern you’ve chosen. Microwave 2 tablespoons of honey for 10 seconds. Generously brush the rhubarb and top of tart with the honey. Place in oven and bake for 40 minutes. Heat the remaining honey in the microwave for 10 seconds and brush the tart again immediately after you pull it from the oven. Allow it to cool completely before you slice it.

Julia O'Malley

Anchorage-based Julia O'Malley is a former ADN reporter, columnist and editor. She received a James Beard national food writing award in 2018, and a collection of her work, "The Whale and the Cupcake: Stories of Subsistence, Longing, and Community in Alaska," was published in 2019. She's currently writer in residence at the Anchorage Museum.