What I love about these meringues, is that they are so simple to make and unlike standard meringues which are normally made with refined caster sugar, these have a depth and complexity of flavour that goes so well with the slightly tart rhubarb.
Due to the fact that the recipe requires the use of light brown muscovado sugar, the finished meringues have a slightly chewy interior, but I like this contrasted against the crisp shell of the meringues and the crunch of the hazelnuts… not to mention the comforting feel of the softly whipped cream in the mouth. Absolutely delicious!
As with all meringues, the only watch-point is when you are separating the eggs – it is really important not to allow any yolk into the whites and also to make sure that you use a scrupulously clean bowl and whisks to whip them to the stiff peak stage. Other than that, the meringues are a cinch to make and the finished dessert looks so much more than the sum of its parts.
I have served the meringues with roasted rhubarb, but you can use poached plums or pears or any fruit that takes your fancy. Likewise, you don’t have to use chopped hazelnuts and can substitute them for other nuts of your choice, but personally, I think that they work wonderfully with the brown sugar in the meringues and the rhubarb.
Although, the rhubarb does need sweetening as it roasts, try not to over-sweeten it as the aim is to have it on the slightly tart side as the meringues are so full of almost toffee-like sweetness. I love roasting rhubarb because it retains its shape much more successfully and doesn’t collapse into a stewed mush, but also because it tends to retain its beautiful pink colour. For these reasons, I recommend that you roast it rather than stew it.
I like to serve the roasted rhubarb chilled but it tastes just as delicious served warm at room temperature – it’s up to you! The rhubarb and meringues can both be prepared well in advance and merely assembled just before you wish to serve them.Meringues:
3 large egg whites
175g light brown muscovado sugar
25g chopped skinned hazelnuts
200g rhubarb, chopped into 4-5cm lengths
50g caster sugar
1tblsp orange juice (or water)
250ml whipping cream, softly whipped
1. Preheat the oven to 150C/Fan Oven 130C/Gas Mark 2. Line a large baking tray with non-stick baking parchment and set aside.
2. Place the egg whites in a large mixing bowl and using a hand-held electric mixer whisk until they are standing in stiff peaks. Gradually add the muscovado sugar, a couple of tablespoons at a time, mixing well after each addition until all has been incorporated and the meringue is still holding its shape.
3. Spoon the meringue onto the prepared baking tray, making 6-8 individual meringue ‘mounds’ spaced a few centimetres apart as they will rise and expand a little as they bake. Sprinkle a few of the chopped hazelnuts over each of the meringues and place in the preheated oven.
4. Immediately reduce the heat to 130C/Fan Oven 110C/Gas Mark ¼ and bake for 60 minutes. After this time, turn off the oven but leave the meringues to cool completely in the oven. They can then be removed carefully and stored in an air-tight container for up to 5 days until you are ready to use them.
5. Preheat oven to 200C/Fan Oven 180C/Gas Mark 6.
6. Place the rhubarb in a single layer in a roasting dish and sprinkle over the sugar and the orange juice (or water). Bake in the preheated oven for 12-15 minutes until the rhubarb is tender and releasing its juices, but has not disintegrated. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool and then refrigerate until ready to assemble the dessert.
7. Place a meringue in the middle of your serving dish. Dollop some softly whipped cream on top and spoon on some of the roasted rhubarb and its juices.