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Rhubarb and hazelnut mini pavlovas

21 January 2018

January in London is a funny thing. It's cold, yes - but no longer endearingly so, as it was before Christmas. Any dustings of snow are now singularly annoying, rather than festive and exciting. People are struggling along with Dry January (I'm all for heath, but forgive me for saying there is no month where I need a glass of wine in the evening more so than January), and this year, Veganuary - as someone who works in Restaurant PR, I can safely say if I never hear that word again, it will be too soon.

If I sound a little scornful, forgive me. Four years of writing a baking blog has certainly put me off this time of restraint and abstinence. Is it just me who finds this circus of resolution a little gloomy? In the throws of winter and without the holidays to look forward to, I'd prefer it if we were all a little less tough on ourselves at this time of year.

And with that, I bring you a recipe which uses sugar, dairy and majestic forced rhubarb, which is just starting to come to market ahead of its February season. Rhubarb's brightness and light is a welcome and comforting sight to this sun-lover, and the sweetness of meringue the perfect end to January resolutions.

I've written before about my struggle with winter - I come from a family of sun-lovers, and we all feel genuinely happier from May-September (it's a thing!). That being said, I find that with age the return of winter brings with it an underlying comfort and reassurance. The cosiness of nestling in for a weekend in the kitchen becomes increasingly enticing - especially on rainy days such as this. It's funny how things shift as the years go by.

What are you all baking this weekend? I'd love to hear what's going on in your kitchens. This recipe makes 4 or 5 mini pavlovas, but is easily doubled.




THE INGREDIENTS
Rhubarb
300g forced rhubarb
50g caster sugar
1 orange
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
Meringues
150g caster sugar
100g egg whites (2 large/3medium eggs)
150g double cream
1 tsp icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
50g toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped

THE RECIPE
Heat the oven to 160°C / 140°C fan. Line an ovenproof dish with foil. Slice the rhubarb into 4-5cm batons, trimming off the ends. Arrange in the lined dish, then sprinkle with the caster sugar, the vanilla and the juice and zest of the orange. Cover with a second sheet of foil, and roast in the oven for 20-30 minutes until the rhubarb is soft. Don't overcook it, or it will fall apart and loose its shape.


Lower the oven to 100°C / 80°C fan. Line a large baking tray with baking paper. Whisk the eggs whites to stiff peaks in a stand mixer or with an electric whisk. Add the caster sugar, one tbsp at a time, whisking after each addition before adding any more sugar. The sugar should be completely dissolved, and a little meringue rubbed between your fingers should not feel grainy.

Spoon the meringue into mini pavlovas on the baking tray. Try not to squash it, as the height is what will make them so pretty. Place on the bottom shelf of the oven. Bake for 1 hour 30 minutes - 2 hours. The meringue is done when it can be lifted off the baking paper at the edges. Turn the oven off, leaving the meringue inside to cool completely. This will allow the meringue to cool down gradually, and for the centre to become soft and mallowy.

When you are ready to assemble the pavlovas, place the cream in a large bowl. Add the icing sugar and vanilla, and whip until the cream is thick and pillowy. Spoon the cream over the pavlova, then top with the roasted rhubarb. Top with the toasted hazelnuts.

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