I have partnered up with the wonderful women of The Kingston Social, in the east end of Toronto, to host a monthly supper club to bring a little of that west end fun to our neck of the woods and I am happy to report that the response has been wonderful. For our May dinner, I knew that I was going to put both of my Anova sous vide machines to work on some sirloin cap, my favourite cut of steak and serve it with chimichurri but after that, I wasn't sure. This has been a weird spring and I couldn't be sure about what would even been in the market by the end of May. I assumed that I would find lots of seasonal produce like fiddleheads, ramps, colourful radishes and everyone's favourite weed, rhubarb.
|dinner was a cornucopia of spring market produce|
As the month wore on and these things were nowhere to be found, I started to panic a bit and we chose to NOT decide on any of the side dishes or dessert until closer to the day. For safety, we scored a big bag of frozen rhubarb but, without fresh, my dreams of making this pavlova looked liked they were going to die a slow, painful death. I went out of town for the week preceding the dinner so it was with all possible, crossible body parts crossed that I hit my favourite produce stand, straight from the highway before we even dropped off our bags at home.
Not only was there a small bucket full of fresh rhubarb sitting out front, but it was only $2.99/lb (last year it was almost $6 a lb joining the ranks of $7 heads of cauliflower).
Rhubarb Hibiscus Pavlovas were back on the menu.
My only word of caution - I had hoped that the hibiscus would turn the curd a lovely pink when, in fact, it's kind of an ugly greyish purple but the flavour is amazing. Both hibiscus and rhubarb have slightly sour, bitter edges to them and I find it the perfect foil for the sweet meringues. You can also feel free to add whipped cream to these as well if you like, just to put it right over the top but I don't feel like it needs it.
Rhubarb Hibiscus Pavlovas
I got about 18 3" meringues but it will all depend on the size you make
rhubarb hibiscus curd
roasted orange rhubarb
6 large egg whites, room temp
pinch cream of tartar
1 1/2 cups super fine sugar (I whiz granulated sugar in my bullet first and then measure)
1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp white wine vinegar (i used white balsamic)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
about 1/4 cup dried hibiscus flowers
Preheat the oven to 250F
whiz up the dried hibiscus flowers in a food processor or coffee grinder until its as ground up as you can manage and set aside.
Before I do any kind of meringue, I wipe my bowl and my beater with white vinegar and then rinse and dry well just to make sure there is no grease on anything because I have had whites not whip to stiff peaks and I will be forever paranoid. You do what you have to do.
Beat the whites with cream of tartar still soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the sugar, 1 tbls at at time on medium high speed. When the sugar is all added in , throw in the cornstarch and salt and beat until stiff peaks form. Turn off the mixer and fold in the vanilla and vinegar. Finally, put the ground up hibiscus into a small, fine mesh strainer and tap out the fine powder over the bowl of meringue, discarding all the solids that remain in the strainer when you can't get any more powder out. Gently fold the hibiscus powder into the meringue, letting it remain streaky.
You can now do three things:
You can totally wing it and just free form discs of meringue that are, more or less the same size on your parchment lined baking trays.
You can draw circles on the parchment using a glass or a cup as a guide, flip the parchment over and then use those circles as your guide to make more uniform meringues.
You can also fill a piping bag with the meringue and pipe them out using a number of fancy techniques that you can easily google but I have no time for such fussiness.
So, if you just spoon out meringue without a piping bag, use the back of a spoon or a small ladle to form indents that will hold your curd.
Bake it for about 1 hour (check after an hour and if they don't look totally cooked, you can leave the oven on for another 5 minutes) turn off the heat at that point and leave it to sit in the oven, with the door slightly open, for another 2 hours, until it's completely cooled to room temperature.
*if you decide to make this is one large pavlova, bake for about 1/5 hrs
rhubarb hibiscus curd:
250 (9oz) grams fresh or frozen rhubarb (if fresh, throw out the leaves and any rough bits)
15 gram (.5 oz) dried hibiscus flowers (approx 1/2 cup)
2/3 cup of sugar
4 large eggs
4 tbls cold butter, cut up
chop the rhubarb up into 2" pieces and put it in a pot with the hibiscus flowers, just barely cover with water, bring to a boil and simmer lightly for about 15 minutes. Let it cool a bit, throw it all in a food processor and puree. Using a fine mesh strainer, extract as much juice as possible as you can, pushing on the solids with a spatula and let it cool completely. You only need 2/3 of a cup of this for the curd but you can make simple syrup out of the remainder by boiling it with an equal amount of sugar until it's thick and syrupy. Your future cocktails with love you for it.
Now, whisk the rhubarb hibiscus juice with the sugar and eggs in a bowl and pour that into your small pot. Cook it over medium low heat, stirring the whole time until it reaches 170F, using a thermometer. If you don't have one, just keep going until it's thick enough to cook the back of a spoon.
Take it off the heat and whisk in the butter, strain through your fine mesh strainer, let it cool before putting it in the fridge for at least a couple of hours.
orange roasted rhubarb:
Preheat the oven to 400F
680 g (1.5 lbs) rhubarb (discard leaves and any rough bits)
1/2 cup sugar
zest from one large orange
Cut up the rhubarb up into 2" pieces and toss with the sugar and the zest in a large bowl. Pour out on to a parchment lined baking tray and roast for about 15 minutes. When it's done, scrape up all of the fruit and syrup and put into a bowl to let cool (try not to lose any of the tasty syrup). If you are not using within a couple of hours, put in the fridge until serving time.
For each meringue, spoon in just enough curd to fill the little well you made in them, top with a small spoonful of baked rhubarb and top with a sprig of mint