Mention rhubarb and meringue in the same sentence and you just know it’s gonna be good! After all, who doesn’t love the contrast between tart and sweet?!
It’s rhubarb season here in New Zealand and I’m making the most of it. You might remember the Rhubarb Creams I made a few weeks ago. This time, the rhubarb has been roasted and made into a curd, piled into a coconut crust and topped with a billowing cloud of coconut-ty meringue.
I went with a recipe from Delicious Magazine.co.uk which I converted to gluten-free, simply by using a gluten-free flour blend.
There were a few issues with the recipe though. The various components worked well enough – the short crust was very ‘short’ and quite difficult to work with when rolling it out, but it did hold together well once baked. The rhubarb filling was yummy, but I warn you, pushing it through a sieve was pretty laborious and I actually wondered whether it was really necessary. The resulting puree is nice and smooth but, if like me, you actually quite like the texture of soft, roasted rhubarb (which is further processed), you might save yourself the trouble.
The main issue I had was actually in the baking process itself. In this recipe, you bake the curd filling in the crust to set it firmly, and then put the whole pie back into the oven to bake off the French meringue. I found that, after this second bake, the rhubarb filling became a little unstable and the juices leaked during the couple of hours prior to serving. However, I’ve got a couple of suggestions around this…
- If you like the idea of a firm, set filling and want to bake the filling as per the recipe, I’d suggest making a Swiss or Italian meringue (which cooks the egg whites), and then torch it on top rather than bake it. That way you avoid the issues associated with baking the filling twice over, and you get a denser more marshmallow-like meringue (which personally I think would work better for this recipe).
- If you’re happy for the curd to not be baked and set firmly, just add the cooled curd into the baked crust and then pile the French meringue on top, and bake it in the oven as suggested. The curd obviously remains a little oozy when you cut it, but UK chef Andy Bates uses this process with his rhubarb meringue pie as do many others.
Oh, and by the way, while I generally don’t like colouring food unless necessary, I did need to on this occasion. The rhubarb puree was actually fine colour-wise, right up until the time I added the egg yolks to it. As our NZ organic eggs verge on being orange, you can imagine the resulting colour wasn’t particularly attractive! So I added a few drops of rose pink colouring just to brighten it back up again.
So, to summarise, a truly delicious dessert, but one with a few issues. Next time, I won’t bother sieving the rhubarb, nor cooking the curd in the crust, and I’ll probably pair it with a Swiss or Italian meringue rather than a French one. Other than that, definitely worth mastering!
- 700g (24.6 oz) trimmed rhubarb, cut into 3cm pieces
- 160g (5.6 oz) golden caster sugar (superfine), plus 1 tbsp extra to taste
- Grated zest and juice of an orange
- 4 tbsp cornflour (cornstarch)
- 4 large free-range egg yolks (you'll use the whites in the meringue)
- 50g (1.7 oz) unsalted butter, melted
- 50g (1.7 oz) desiccated coconut
- 200g (7 oz) plain flour, plus extra for dusting (I used a gluten-free blend)
- 1 tbsp caster sugar (superfine sugar), to taste (it's not a sweet pastry, so you might add another tbsp of sugar)
- 110g (3.8 oz) unsalted cold butter, cubed
- About 2 tbsp iced water
- 3 large free-range egg whites (or 4 smaller egg whites)
- 175g (6.1 oz) caster sugar
- 40g (1.4 oz) desiccated coconut
- Mix the rhubarb with 70g (2.4 oz) of the sugar, and the orange zest and juice. Scatter in a roasting tray and roast for 20 minutes until soft.
- Purée the rhubarb and its juices in a food processor, then pass through a sieve, pushing the rhubarb through with a wooden spoon into a pan to extract as much as possible*.
- In a small bowl, mix the remaining sugar with the cornflour and enough of the rhubarb purée to make a paste. Return to the pan containing the rest of the rhubarb. Bring to the boil, bubble for a minute (this activates the cornflour), then remove from the heat. Taste and, if it’s too tart, add 1 tbsp more sugar.
- Mix the egg yolks with the butter, then stir into the rhubarb mixture to make a curd. Scrape into a bowl, cover, cool and chill.
- Put the coconut into a food processor with 1 tbsp of the flour. Pulse to a fine mixture. Mix with the rest of the flour in a large bowl and stir in the sugar. Add the cubed butter and, using your fingertips (or a pastry cutter), rub into the flour until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add just enough iced water to bind. Knead briefly until smooth, wrap in cling film, then chill for 20 minutes (or if making ahead store in fridge).
- Preheat oven to 200°C (400°F).
- Take the pastry out of the fridge. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface - the dough is a bit tricky to work with and easily sticks to the rolling pin - either ensure your rolling pin is lightly floured, or lay a piece of baking paper over top of the dough and then roll it out. Use the pastry to line a 20cm x 3.5cm (8 inch x 1.3 inch) fluted loose-bottomed tart tin.** If the pastry cracks or tears, simply patch it up using extra bits of dough. Chill for 30 minutes in the fridge. (NB: I allowed the dough to drap over the sides of the tin and baked it that way. Once fully baked, and while still warm, I trimmed the edges with a sharp paring knife).
- Line the pastry case with baking paper and baking beans or rice and blind-bake for 12 minutes on the baking sheet, then remove the paper and beans/rice and bake for 5 minutes or until crisp and golden. Set aside.
- Turn the oven down to 190°C (375°F).
- Pour the rhubarb curd into the pastry case and bake for 30 minutes until set. Cool completely, then chill***.
- Preheat oven to 190°C (375°F). Bring the chilled tart out of the fridge and bring to room temperature.
- Whisk the egg whites until stiff, add 1 tbsp of the sugar, then whisk until stiff again. Add the remaining sugar in this way. Fold through the coconut and spoon the meringue over the rhubarb curd to form pretty peaks.
- Bake in the oven for 15 minutes until the meringue is golden and crisp on the outside. Remove, cool and serve.
**I found that this size tin too small to hold the filling. If it is a 20cm (8 inch) tin, I think it should have higher sides. As I didn't have a deep sided tin, I used a 23cm (9 inch) tin instead.
***You can chill the pie minus the meringue overnight - simply cover lightly with plastic wrap.
Food Photography Info: Canon 550D (EOS Rebel T2i); Sigma 30mm 1.4 DC ‘Art’ lens / Natural lighting