Rhubarb Meringue Pie

Rhubarb meringue pie
Rhubarb meringue pie

Following on from last week’s post around making meringues using leftover egg whites, I decided to make a tart that combined a couple recent lessons – sweet shortcrust pastry and French meringue.

Immediately my mind jumped to a lemon meringue pie, but rhubarb is in season at the moment and a rare treat for Queenslanders.

I was inspired by a recipe from a personal favourite of mine, Bill Granger, but adapted it to suit the formulae I’d be learning.

So here’s my Rhubarb Meringue Pie comprising stewed rhubarb, sweet shortcrust pastry (aka pâte sucrée) and French meringue topping.

One word of advice, make sure you don’t add too much fruit syrup when you’re filling the tart because the rhubarb will continue to release its juices and make the base go soggy.

Rhubarb filling (courtesy of Bill Granger)
900g rhubarb, cut into 4cm pieces
100g caster sugar
2cm grated ginger
Grated zest 2 oranges
2 tbsp cornflour

Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas2. Place the rhubarb, caster sugar, ginger and orange zest in an ovenproof dish and bake for 20 minutes, until the rhubarb is tender but still holding its shape. Dust with the cornflour, stir and set aside.

French meringue topping
4 egg whites
100g caster sugar

Whisk the eggwhites in a clean bowl until soft peaks form. Still whisking, add the sugar until the mixture is smooth and shiny. Be sure to rub the mix between your fingertips to check that the sugar has completely incorporated.

Pâte sucrée base
1 quantity pâte sucrée

Blind bake the pastry dough for 15 minutes at 190 degrees. Remove the baking beans and bake for a further 5 minutes until golden.

Let the pastry cool before adding the stewed fruit and topping with the meringue.

Bake for 20 minutes or until golden.


Introduction to meringues

French meringue
French meringue

One of the inevitable results of practicing custards and crèmes is a load of leftover egg whites.

There are plenty of ways to use them – tortes, friands, macaroons – but I’m not quite at that stage in my learning so I’m going basic…meringues!

In simplest terms, a meringue is created by beating air into egg whites and stabilising with sugar.

There is a great deal of science behind it all, but in lay terms the whisking of the whites “denatures” the proteins in the egg white which means they unravel and secure pockets of air and water. This creates a foam.

Fat is the great enemy of meringue, so always make sure your egg whites are void of any yolk and also that your equipment is clean.

There are three main types of meringues and each creates a different structure.

Chocolate meringue
Chocolate meringue

Also known as common meringue, French meringue is made by adding sugar to egg whites while they whisk.

This yields a softer meringue ideal for topping pies and inclusion in mousses or soufflés.
It’s also a basis for the classic pavlova which is a regular dessert in my household.

One trick when making French meringue is to ensure the sugar has fully incorporated by rubbing the mixture between your fingers. You shouldn’t feel any grittiness from the sugar and should continue whisking until you get a smooth mixture.

This meringue is created by combining egg whites and hot sugar syrup.

Italian meringue is very versatile and the basis of many classic desserts including mousses, charlottes and bavarois.

It’s made by whisking egg whites before adding sugar syrup (made from sugar and water, or sugar and liquid glucose) which creates a sturdier meringue that won’t collapse as easily.

The sugar needs to be cooked to 120 degrees also known as firm ball stage. The egg whites should be half volume when syrup is added.

I’m not as familiar with Swiss meringue so needed to do some additional research!
Swiss meringues are midway between French and Italian in terms of denseness and consistency.

The mixture is cooked over the stove (at 120-160 degrees) before final whipping.

The early addition of the sugar prevents the egg whites from increasing as much in volume as they do in the other meringues, but adds to its fine texture.

Swiss meringue is particularly good for baking crisp meringue cake layers and for topping pies.

While making my crèmes I’m going to intersperse with meringue-based recipes and posts to make sure I’m not wasting any opportunities.

Apple and blueberry tarte Tatin with Chantilly cream

Apple and blueberry tarte Tatin with Chantilly cream
Apple and blueberry tarte Tatin with Chantilly cream

Tarte Tatin is one of my all-time favourite desserts, especially when you’re looking to finish a meal with something sweet but not too rich or chocolately.

Invented by accident by the Tatin sisters, Stephanie and Caroline, in the 1880s this classic dessert is made up of cooked apples in a toffee syrup served upside-down on a puff pastry base.

The risk when making a tarte Tatin is always ending up with soggy, uncooked base which you can’t check through the cooking process.

You also want to make sure the fruit is cooked through and the toffee is sticky.

There are plenty of fruit combinations you can use – the traditional apple, pear, fig, plum or even savoury twists like tomato, beetroot or red onion.

I’ve chosen to make a blueberry and apple tart Tatin and serve it with crème Chantilly which is basic whipping cream flavoured with sugar and vanilla.

Apple and blueberry tarte Tatin
Apple and blueberry tarte Tatin

Apple and blueberry tarte Tatin
5 granny smith apples, cut in half with seeds and stalks removed
125g blueberries
100g caster sugar
100ml water
1 vanilla pod, halved lengthways, seeds scraped out
50 g butter, cubed
1 quantity rough puff pastry

Pre-heat the oven at 180 degrees.

Place and ovenproof dish over the stovetop and heat the sugar, water and vanilla pod.

Cook over a medium heat until the sugar dissolves and the mixture becomes a light caramel.

Place the apple halves into the caramel and cook gently for a further five minutes.

Scatter the blueberries in between the apple pieces. Add the butter cubes.

Layer the rough puff pastry over the top, and push the edges down onto the fruit so it’s tucked in.

Cook for 20-25 minutes until the pastry has risen and cooked through.

Upturn it to serve (be very careful to not burn yourself!) and sprinkle with fresh blueberries.

Chantilly cream
300 ml whipping cream
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Whip together the cream, sugar and vanilla until it is light and fluffy.