Growing up, it was well-known among my friends that I loved to bake. It’s actually in my blood (but I’m saving that story for another post). Two of my best friends in high school, Julie and Vanessa, used to request meringues from me on almost a daily basis. I’ve even shipped them (although I wouldn’t recommend this, given their delicate nature.) Meringue is just egg whites and sugar whipped until desired, but it has many iterations. It can appear as the fluffy topping on a lemon pie or banana pudding, or baked into a crackly cookie with a chewy, marshmallowy interior, studded with mini chocolate chips (Vanessa and Julie’s favorite). While whipping egg whites can be intimidating, (Firm? Glossy? Stiff? Soft?) it just takes a bit of practice. I’ve got some tips below to help. When I spied some very late-season rhubarb in the store the other day, I knew exactly the dessert I wanted to make.
Ubiquitous in Australia (it’s the national dessert), Pavlova is actually named after Anna Pavlova, the Russian ballerina. It has three components: a wide, plate-sized base of meringue, topped with sweetened whipped cream, and fruit of some sort. Peaches, lemon curd, berries, you name it. I thought rhubarb might be a little tart on its own, so I picked up some strawberries, too. I already had eggs, so heavy cream was the only other ingredient I needed (with just cornstarch and sugar, it’s surprisingly pantry-friendly).
I needed a good, time-tested meringue base recipe, so I turned to one of my personal favorites: Ina Garten. Her food is elegant without being fussy, and always delicious.
When the rhubarb and strawberries simmer, the fruit releases quite a bit of liquid. If we poured that all over the meringue, it would disintegrate! Therefore, the straining of the fruit is imperative, as is the making of a cocktail (which I’ve dubbed the Rhub and Dub Dub, for lack of a better name) with the leftover syrup. It’s tart, but the sweetness of the St. Germain or Orgeat (I made them both) tempers the bite.