Monday, June 6, 2011

Diner Party Part 5: Hazelnut Pavlova tart with Rhubarb strawberry sauce

This year I created a list of must try recipes, some challenging, others that were just things that I like to order when I eat out, but that I have never tried to make before. One of the items on my list was to make a Pavlova. I've been wanting to make that since I tried it for the first time at our wedding rehearsal dinner last summer. So when I saw this recipe I thought this was the perfect time to try.

The original recipe did not call for strawberries, but I decided that they would be a nice addition so I just added them. One of the reasons why I was also attracted to this recipe was because it used a vanilla bean. If you have never used a vanilla bean, you'll notice that it adds a complexity to the already rich flavour of the sugary strawberry and rhubarb.

Here is a quick how to cut a vanilla bean:

1) Using a sharp pairing knife, cut the vanilla bean in half

2) Using the back side of your knife, scrape the seeds of the bean

3) The empty vanilla bean can be used in your recipe to give extra flavour or you can place it in a small mason jar full of sugar for 2 weeks to create vanilla flavoured sugar

Hazelnut Pavlova tart with Rhubarb strawberry sauce
(adapted from Food and drinks)

Hazelnut Pavlova

½ cup ground hazelnut
1 cup sugar
1 ½ tablespoon cornstarch
4 large egg whites at room temperature
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
1½ teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Vanilla Rhubarb and Strawberries

3 cups rhubarb, chopped (can be fresh or frozen, if frozen defrost first and remove excess juice)
2 cups strawberries, diced (can be fresh or frozen, if frozen defrost first and remove excess juice)
1 vanilla bean
1 tablespoon cornstarch

Chantilly Cream

1 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 275°F. Lightly grease a 9-inch springform pan and line both the bottom and sides with parchment paper

If using whole hazelnut, using a food processor ground them.

Stir the ground hazelnuts with 1/3 cup of the sugar and the cornstarch and set aside

Whip the egg whites and cream of tartar until foamy, then slowly pour in the remaining 2/3 cup of the sugar while beating and continue to whip the whites until they hold a stiff peak when the beaters are lifted (the whites will be thick and glossy).

Fold the hazelnut mixture into the whipped whites, the fold in the vinegar and vanilla.

Spoon the meringue into the prepared pan, and use your spatula to spread it into a tart shape, spreading the meringue fully up the sides of the pan and an inch in thickness (it will shift around a little when it bakes but ultimately holds its shape).

Bake for 90 to 120 minutes, until the meringue just starts to turn light brown and feels firm to the touch. Cool the meringue for 15 minutes, then gently pop the latch and carefully peel away the parchment paper. If the paper does not peel away easily, return the meringue to the oven (without the springform ring) for 10-15 minutes just to dry a little more.

Prepare the strawberries and the rhubarb by stirring the fruits with the sugar and the scarped seeds from the vanilla bean in a saucepot (I always drop the bean itself in the pot to give the mixture extra vanilla flavour, just don’t forget to remove it before serving!), and simmer on low heat, stirring occasionally until the fruits are tender, about 15 minutes.

In a small bowl, stir the cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of cold water and then pour this in the fruit mixture. Return the mixture to a simmer, stirring gently until thickened. Then remove from the heat and chill until ready to assemble.

In a medium size bowl, whip the cream until it holds a soft peak, then stir in the sugar and vanilla and chill until ready to assemble.

The pavlova should be assembled immediately before serving (otherwise it will get soggy). Carefully place the meringue onto a platter, then dollop the Chantilly cream in the centre and spread gently. Spoon the rhubarb and strawberry mixture over the cream.

Slice and serve as you would a cake or a tart. Serves 8.

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