Layers of crispy meringue, vanilla-scented whipped cream, and rhubarb purée create a light spring dessert. There is lots of whipping involved, but nothing difficult or unpleasant in pulling this lovely dessert together. Make one giant layered "cake," or individual servings.
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 3 hours
Yield: Makes 6 servings
- 4 egg whites
- Pinch of salt
- 1 cup powdered or confectioners' sugar
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 vanilla bean, slit lengthwise or 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 recipe rhubarb compote (time to make it included in the recipe below)
- Preheat oven to 200°F. Prepare two or three large baking sheets by lining them with either silicone baking sheets or parchment paper.
- Using a large balloon whisk or in a standing mixer with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites until they're frothy. Add the pinch of salt and continue beating the egg whites until they hold stiff peaks (you should be able to lift the beater or whisk out of the egg whites, turn it upside down, and the peak of egg white that clings to the beater or whisk should hold its position). Sift the powdered sugar onto the egg whites and use a flexible rubber or silicone spatula to gently fold the sugar into the egg whites. Deflate the egg whites as little as possible.
- Divide the mixture into three piles on the baking sheets and then used a spatula to form circles, each about 8 inches across. Or, divide it into 12-18 smaller, 4-inch circles. Bake the meringues for 2 hours without opening the door or bothering them in anyway. Turn off the oven and let them cool in the cooling-off oven (this helps keep the meringues from cracking as they cool).
- Meanwhile, make the rhubarb compote. While the compote cooks, prepare the cream. Put the cream, vanilla bean, and granulated sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stir to dissolve the sugar into the cream. Take the cream off the heat and let cool to room temperature. Use a small spoon to scrape the vanilla bean flesh into the cream and discard the pod or add the vanilla extract if you're using it instead of the bean. Transfer the cream to a medium bowl, cover, and chill thoroughly until ready to use.
- When ready to serve, whip the cream until soft peaks form so you can dollop and spread it easily (see How to Make Whipped Cream for more detailed tips). Remove the meringues from baking sheets. Place one meringue on a serving plate, spread with one-third of the rhubarb compote and layer on one-third of the whipped cream. Repeat with all three layers. Bring to the table and accept your oohs and ahhs. Then destroy your creation by cutting it into slices. If you made smaller circle for individual servings (as pictured), lay out 6 meringues on individual dessert plates and layer as for the larger pavlova in 2 or 3 layers depending on how many circles you made.