with Ginger Rhubarb
& Dark Chocolate Ganache
My good friend gifted me with a big bunch of Rhubarb harvested from his Mother’s garden and I found myself contemplating the ways in which to put it to use. I am a huge Rhubarb fan, so I really try to make sure every year that its’ short season is well lived.
I thought about roasting a handful of stalks, but then I changed my mind and decided to poach them with ginger and orange zest and I slowly started building around those flavors and soon enough, dark chocolate ganache came to mind. I thought about rhubarb being tart and dark chocolate being bitter, so meringue came to mind. Since I don’t like chalky meringue, I decided for Pavlovas.
I don’t have nearly enough time as I would like to for coming up with new dessert ideas, nor do I have a lot of experience. But I do have a lot of experience with tasting desserts and this thing where I think up in my head at first, imagining every ingredient bouncing off my palate is the stuff I love most about what I do; that and eating the stuff I imagine in my mind and then create.
While this dessert looks fancy and really boasts some deep and wonderful flavors, it really isn’t that hard to make. And don’t be put off by the Pavlovas; again, not that hard to make. And you don’t have to make special shaped ones, any type of basket-like shape will do. As for the ganache and the poached Rhubarb, they both come together super quick.
What is also great about this dessert is that you can make it beforehand and just assemble it before serving. The ganache can be refrigerated and needs to be heated up in a bowl set over a pan with simmering water right before using. The Pavlovas can be stored covered in a dry place, out of the sunlight, at room temperature. And the poached rhubarb can be refrigerated and ideally brought to room temperature before serving.
For the Pavlova:
3 large free-range egg whites
150gr/3⁄4 cup superfine caster sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract or seeds scraped from one vanilla pod
1 tsp white vinegar
1/2 Tblsp cornstarch
Preheat the oven to 130C/250F. Line your oven tray with parchment paper and draw 6 8cm/3in circles on the paper. Turn the paper over, this is where you will spread your meringue. In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or with the aid of a handheld mixer, set on medium speed, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. With mixer running, add the sugar one tablespoon at a time and whip until the meringue holds very stiff peaks and becomes shiny. Beat in the vanilla extract or seeds. Sprinkle the vinegar and the cornstarch on top and incorporate with a spatula, using light movements. Either pipe meringue by making a disc and then pipe 2-3 circles on top of the outer edge to create a nest, or drop small mounds of meringue on your circle outline and using a spoon, create a border so that the edges are slightly higher than the center. Pop in the oven and bake for anywhere around 50 to 75 minutes, depending on your oven. Test to see if it’s done by inserting a toothpick: the surface should be crisp and the interior should be marshmallow-like, but not too soft. Turn the heat off, leave the oven door slightly open and allow the meringue to cool completely in the oven for 4 hours or preferably, overnight. Once cool, they can be stored in an airtight container for 3-5 days at room temperature.
For the Poached Rhubarb
500g/1 lb. rhubarb, washed, trimmed and chopped into 5cm/1 in. pieces
250ml/1 cup water
2,5cm/1 in ginger, sliced
2 tsp grated orange zest
Put the water, sugar, ginger and orange zest in a saucepan and dissolve the sugar over a low heat then bring it up to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Transfer the poaching liquid into a wide pan large enough to poach the rhubarb in one even layer and poach the rhubarb for 15 to 20 minutes until it starts to soften a bit. Allow to cool before using or refrigerate (up to 3 days) and bring to room temperature before using.
For the ganache:
150ml/3⁄4 cup heavy cream
125gr/4.5 oz. chocolate, min 70% cocoa solids, finely chopped
1 Tbsp sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, combine cream and sugar. Bring to a boil, then remove from hob. Stir in sugar and ½ tsp vanilla extract. Add the chocolate to the saucepan and let sit for 5 minutes until it melts completely, then whisk slowly until the mixture turns into a smooth and glossy ganache. If you’re not using it right away, you can refrigerate it and heat it up in a bowl set over a pan with simmering water right before using.
Divide ganache between 6 bowls, place a Pavlova nest in each bowl and fill each nest with poached rhubarb. Serve at once!