Roasted Rhubarb Pavlovas
For the meringue:
- 4 egg whites
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
- Splash of vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
- 3-4 stalks rhubarb
- Zest and juice of one orange
- 1 vanilla bean, split and seeded
I don’t bake. It’s just not my thing.
Baking is far too strict on measurements, and following a recipe is frankly not in my wheelhouse. But everyone should have in their back pocket a dessert they can make.
I picked meringues —French meringue, specifically. Sure, it’s fussy in its own way, but there’s nary a measuring, sifting, folding, proofing, yeast or rising agent in sight. And there’s something special about these airy, crisp-in-the-center treats with a slight soft chewiness.
When the mood strikes, whipping up a batch, paired with whatever seasonal fruit is on hand and some whipped cream, is the type of sweet treat I can get behind. Here is my springtime version.
Preheat oven to 375°. Wash and cut rhubarb into one to two-inch segments. For particularly thick stalks, cut those segments in half through the center.
Place rhubarb in oven-safe dish. Add zest and juice of the orange, vanilla bean seeds and brown sugar. Mix. (Note: You may want to add sugar to your preference — less to highlight the rhubarb’s inherent tartness and more to tame that tartness.)
Place dish in oven and roast for 20-30 minutes until rhubarb is tender. Remove and allow to cool. Roasted rhubarb can be made ahead and stored for about a week in the fridge.
(Required warnings: Make sure whatever bowl and whisk you are using are clean — any lingering oil or grease residue can potentially make it harder to beat your egg whites to stiff peaks. In addition, since the baking is mostly done to dry out the whipped egg whites, try to avoid making meringues on rainy or humid days. Finally, while superfine sugar dissolves better in the egg mixture, granulated sugar can be used or even blitzed in a blender or food processor beforehand.)
Preheat oven to 215° and prepare two baking trays or sheet pans by lining them with parchment paper.
Separate egg whites from the yolk, being careful to avoid any broken yolks or smidgen of yolk getting into the egg whites. (Yolks can be reserved for making a fruit curd or added to make an extra rich omelet.)
With the whisk attachment of a stand mixer or a hand mixer, begin beating egg whites until they start to become frothy. Once they are, add cream of tartar, vanilla and salt.
Continue beating egg whites as they begin to foam, and slowly add sugar. Keep beating them as you add in the sugar bit by bit. They should be at the soft peak stage, meaning that once the whisk is removed, the whites will begin to hold their shape before melting back down.
Keep beating the egg whites until they reach stiff peaks. At this stage, when the whisk is removed a peak will hold its form, with the tip folding over on itself.
If you have one, fill a piping bag fitted with a plain or star tip. Alternately, a crafty piping bag can be made with a zip-top bag that has one corner trimmed.
Pipe the meringue mixture onto pre-lined baking trays, making a small disk at first and going once more around the inside of the edge to make a nest. Small meringue ‘kisses’ can be piped as well. Or go rustic and use a wide spoon to make meringue mounds.
Place in the oven and bake for 60-90 minutes, depending on the size, or until the meringues are crisp on the outside, feel hollow and easily peel off the parchment. Turn off the oven and allow meringue to cool completely in the oven.
In the center of the meringue nests, spoon in roasted rhubarb with some of the cooking liquid. Top with strawberries, chopped nuts and whipped cream of choice and enjoy!