Rhubarb. What is it? And how do you cook it? This vegetable looks like a maroon coloured celery stick and it is sour! However, once you add sugar to it and cook it down to what I would call a jam, it turns irresistibly tart and sweet. Pairs wonderfully with the richness of cream.

The first time I ate rhubarb was in a crumble. I prefer it on pavlova. With just meringue and cream, the flavour of the rhubarb shines. On crumbles and cobblers, there is too much going on… the butter, the flour, maybe ice cream or whipped cream to serve alongside it. It complicates the taste. I would go for simple flavours and simplicity… buy your meringue if you have to. They are easily available for sale nowadays. Then, just buy the rhubarb and cook with sugar. The cream? Goodness, just open the carton and whisk! Unless you are adverse to cream, this is a lovely, lovely dessert to have. Fattening for sure, but lovely.

Pavlova With Whipped Cream Rhubarb Swirls

Prep: ~ 30 – 60 minutes
Cook: ~3 hours 
Inactive: ~ 12 – 24 hours
Level: Difficult to get the meringue right but what an achievement it will be when you succeed! Easy, if you choose to buy ready made meringue.
Makes: Four  5″ – 6″ (13cm – 15 cm) pavlovas OR one 9″ (23 cm) pavlova.
Oven Temperature: 360 F (180 C) and then reduce immediately to 230 F (110 C) once meringue is placed in oven.
Can recipe be doubled? No
Make ahead? Rhubarb can be be cooked ahead, cooled and refrigerated 5 days ahead. Meringue ~4 days without the whipped cream or any other toppings on it. Cream can be whipped, covered and kept refrigerated a few hours ahead. 

Ingredients

If not buying meringue, ingredients for meringue are:
5 egg whites (3/4 cups)*
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar**
1 and 1/3 cup (10.5 oz) (300g) caster/superfine sugar***
1 Tablespoon cornflour/cornstarch*
1/2 teaspoon vinegar**
For the topping
1.5lb (680g) rhubarb stalks to get ~ 4.5 cups.
8oz (224g)(1 cup) caster sugar
1 and 1/3 cups whipping cream or heavy cream***
1 – 2 Tablespoons thinly sliced candied winter melon strips (optional)*
OR
Ripe fresh pears cut into cubes/canned pears are also good/cubed kiwis/pomegranate seeds (optional)**
* There should be no trace of yolks in the egg whites. Even if there is a tiny trace, you must start over with fresh eggs as the egg whites will not whip up.
** This helps to stabilise and hold the structure of the whipped egg whites and prevents a pool of liquid egg white that might otherwise form at the bottom of the bowl of whipped egg whites.
*** Do not cut down on the sugar.  Do use caster or superfine sugar. Larger sugar crystals will not dissolve completely into the egg whites.
* Helps to hold the meringue’s structure and encourage a marshmallow textured centre.
** Any clear coloured variety and not imitation vinegar. Helps to stabilise the whipped egg whites.
*** Do not substitute with single/cooking/pouring cream as it does not contain enough of a fat content for it to whip up.  The cream should have at least a minimum fat content of 35%. Whipping cream fall under this category. If I am not topping my cream with cut fruits, I use whipping cream as it is lighter and less caloric. I use all double cream when I need a sturdier base to hold up any cut fruits. Since the rhubarb needs only to be folded into the cream, whipping cream works well enough. 
* Please scroll down to ‘Tips’ for more information.
** These fruits are not too sweet and provide a good taste and textural contrast against the creamy sweet tartness of the rhubarb swirled cream and the very sweet meringue. 

To top the pavlova.

Method

To make the meringue
1. Meringue can be tricky to bake successfully. Please click, Pavlova Gluten Free Dessert, for detailed instructions, tips and a Q&A where I cover questions such as:

(1) What to consider when deciding what size of a pavlova to make
(2) What if the meringue is not perfect?
(3) Why is my meringue not perfect?
(4) Apprehensive about making a white meringue?
(5) What to do with all the egg yolks?

To prepare and cook the rhubarb
1. Prepare it as you would celery. Trim, string and cut into cubes ~ 4 and 1/2 cups.
2. In a wide non stick pan, add cubed rhubarb to cover the entire bottom of the pan. Then, sprinkle the sugar over it. Do not stir sugar in. Cover the pan. Set on stove and bring to boil covered over medium-high heat for 10 – 15 minutes.
3. Reduce heat to medium, uncover and continue cooking for 10 minutes or until most of the syrup has been evaporated. I do not stir but shake the pan if I have to as I do not want to break up the rhubarb too much.

4. Turn off the heat. Remove pan from the burner to cool completely. Once cooled, it will look more attractive, redder and glossy.

5. The recipe above makes 4.5 cups and you use as much as you like with the cream.  You will have leftovers which is great as a savoury too. Try it as a spread with cheese! Chill in the refrigerator before use.

To assemble
1. Thinly slice the candied winter melon and set them aside.
2. Place the completely cooled meringue on your serving vessel. Flat side down.
3. Ensure that the whipping cream and rhubarb are completely chilled. Cold cream whips much better. I also chill my whipping bowl and whisk.
4. Whip the cream until they are firm but still soft, do not whip beyond the ‘stiff peak’ stage or you might end up with globs of butter instead. Nothing you can do about it other than to start over with a new bottle of cream.
5. With a spatula, loosen the chilled rhubarb gently and then, fold in as much of the rhubarb as you want into the whipping cream. Fold in just enough as you want to keep the lovely swirls.
6. Mound it on the meringue.
7. Dapple with the thinly sliced candied winter melon strips or the fruits. Serve immediately.

Tips

Candied Winter Melon Strips
These are really sugar frosted. The winter melon is cut into ~ 1″ (2.5cm) strips, boiled, drained, coated in soft sugar and then dried. The process gives these strips a nice crust of soft sugar crystals. It can be eaten on its own but more often than not it is used for sweetening. Easily available locally or you can buy this from an Asian grocery store. They provide a textural contrast to an otherwise creamy smooth topping. The Chinese used it often in their desserts or as a sweetener in place of sugar. Try my Ginger Tea sweetened with winter melon strips.

WHAT’S COMING UP NEXT?

Moscato D’Asti Poached Pears With Yuzu Mascarpone. I love the floral scent and taste of the Japanese lemon, yuzu. I will have it in salad dressings, cakes, sauces, ice cream, cordials, biscuits, etcetera.

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