Clementine Pavlova with Rhubarb in Orange Flower Water

This is a gorgeous combination, you have clementine zest embedded throughout the pavlova, making what otherwise is a dull sweet shell taste strongly of citrus, it gives you a zing, topped with the cream and the sharp rhubarb mildly flavoured with orange flower water, giving the sweet meringue a necessary sharpness.

The forced rhubarb has been entering our shop shelves, a welcoming break to the now tiresome choice of winter fruits and vegetables.  I’ve been doing my best to keep the Yorkshire rhubarb farmers going.  I heard today on BBC 2 that there are only 11 rhubarb farmers left from hundreds who once made up the famous Rhubarb Triangle.  The wonderful thing about forced rhubarb is its glorious bright pink/red colour you simply don’t get with the summer rhubarb.

You can make a meringue instead of pavlova, I have a personal preference for the soft squidgy pavlovas.  There is a difference between the two in the making of them.   A meringue is egg whites and sugar, the pavlovas has vinegar and cornflour (cornstarch) added, or I’ve seen cream of tartar, this is what will give it the marshmellow interior.  I do get annoying when I see recipes for pavlovas but are in fact just meringue, it’s confusing.

I’ve never seen meringue with zest mixed in but felt it would work well and after quick conferring with my go-to-pastry-chef when I need guidance the lovely Gregoire Michaud, he and I were of the same minds that it would be a good addition to meringue.

I must say it was a cracking idea, one that’s rather delicious. I was picking at the shell and enjoying it, this is a big deal, normally it has to be served with lashing of raspberry sauce or passion fruit.

Even if you’re not using rhubarb I urge you to add some zest from any citrus fruit next time you’re making meringues or pavlovas, adds a lovely flavour.

I had a difficult time making pavlovas for this post and I’ll dedicate a whole post to it.  I can make pavlovas and have made many in the past successfully, it’s because I was posting here I started to look closely why there are so many variations on timings and oven temperatures in recipes.

Through making five pavlovas and baking them differently I discovered it changed the results in whether my meringues would rise, big or little cracks and even the look of the shell’s surface.  I experienced over-whisking and problems with using frozen egg whites.

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Clementine Pavlova with Rhubarb in Orange Flower Water

You’ll need a baking sheet and some baking paper.

For the Rhubarb Roasted in Orange Flower Water

  • 400 grms of rhubarb cut into small pieces
  • 230 grms / 1  cup of sugar
  • 500 ml / 2 cups of water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon of orange flower water – only add it after the syrup is made

For the Pavlova

  • 4 large egg whites
  • 230 grms /  1 cup  caster sugar (superfine) – can be done with granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of clementine or orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon of white wine vinegar or rice vinegar (colourless vinegar)
  • 1 teaspoon of cornflour (cornstarch)
  • 300 ml / 1 1/3 cup of whipping cream (or double)

Cooking the Rhubarb

Pre-heat the oven to 190C / fan 175C / 375F / gas 5.  In a pan add the sugar and water and bring it to a boil and boil it until all of the sugar has dissolved.  Take off the heat and add the orange flower water.  Pour over the rhubarb making sure all of the rhubarb gets some of the syrup.

Roast in the oven for 20-25 mins.  Leave it to cool in the syrup.  Separate the rhubarb from its syrup but keep the syrup to serve as a sauce on the side, it tastes wonderful.

For the Pavlova

Pre-heat the oven to 180C/ 160C fan / 356F / gas 4  Please Note: the oven temperature must be turned down as soon as pavlova goes in, temperatures given below.

Add the citrus zest to the sugar and mix it in.

In a very large bowl, making sure it’s grease-free, whisk the egg whites until they are in soft peak stage, really shouldn’t take more than a minute.  You don’t want to over-whisk at this stage.

Now add two large spoonfuls at a time to the egg white and whisk it in on a low-medium speed until it’s blended in, about 10 seconds.

Carry on adding the sugar, and you’ll see the meringue become thicker and glossier.

When all of the sugar in incorporated stop.  In a small bowl add the cornflower (cornstarch) and vinegar until smooth, then add it to the meringue mixture.  Using a large spoon fold it in.

I like to use a lid of a saucepan to make a pencil marking on the baking paper, this will give me a guide how far to spread the meringue, about 20-22cm (8-9″).  Turn the paper over so the pencil marking is on the underneath otherwise you get a pencil marking on the meringue.

To help fix the paper to the baking sheet, place four blobs of meringue and then stick the paper to it.

Spread your meringue mixture over the area you’ve marked.  Or if you’re feeling fancy pipe it.

When you think it’s good enough put it in the oven.  MUST  TURN  OVEN  TEMPERATURE  DOWN!  Really important now to turn the oven temperature down to 130C / fan 110C / 266F / gas 1.

Bake for 1 hour 20 minutes, turn the oven off, leave it in the oven until cool, do not leave the door ajar.

Hopefully you’ll find yourself with a pavlova with very minor hairline cracks.

I read the idea somewhere which seems like a good one to turn your pavlova upsidedown when topping with the cream because it’s the soft side and makes sense to add the cream to that side, keeping the crisp side away from the cream keeps it crisp for longer.

Whip your cream, I don’t add any sugar to the cream as I think the pavlova is sweet enough.

Top the meringue with the rhubarb slices.  Serve the sauce separately.

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