One day I’ll achieve the “stiff peak” stage of meringue-whisking by hand. Until I acquire a shiny copper bowl and rock-solid forearms, though, I’ll keep borrowing electric blenders from my high-tech friends.
Ruby red rhubarb season is at an end, and given that first romantic encounter last spring, I couldn’t let a year pass without making another rhubarb dessert.
Inspired by the ubiquitous and ever-loved lemon meringue pie, this is a rustic (ahem, lazy) and picnicky summer tart version—oaty almond crust in place of shortbread pastry, honey-sweetened rhubarb reduction instead of heavy lemon curd, but the same dollop of meringue to top it all off.
Meringue is a bit fussy (and apparently high-tech) for my tastes, but it’s a fun and dramatic bit of kitchen science. The bundles of amino acids abundant in egg whites are uncoiled via physical agitation and chemical acidity (acidity also delays coagulation, increasing the amount of air that can be whipped in), effectively denaturing the proteins. The addition of sugar, in this case, isn’t just for taste—when the grains dissolve and bond with the protein, they increase elasticity to ward against meringue collapses. Similarly, a copper bowl isn’t just for the sake of whisking with style—copper molecules bind with a specific protein called conalbumin.
I cheekily tried to lower the sugar content with this one and hence my meringue lost it’s crackly crunch after a few hours, but still retained that malty sweetness that goes so well with tart fruit filling. When it comes to oven times, it’s more about dehydrating than cooking, so don’t be afraid to heat long and slow until the moisture is evaporated and protein structure to solidify.
Rhubarb Meringue Tart
- 75g (1 cup) rolled oats
- 50g (½ cup) almond flour
- 3 T honey
- 3 T coconut oil, melted
- ½ t vanilla
- ½ t salt
- 2 stalks rhubarb, chopped
- 2 ripe pears, chopped
- 2 T honey
- cornflour/starch (optional)
- 4 egg whites
- 150g (¾ cup) unrefined sugar
- spritz of lemon juice
Mix crust ingredients together into a ball, wrap loosely with a damp towel, and chill for about 30 minutes to make dough less crumbly.
Preheat oven to 160ºC/325ºF. Press the chilled crust dough into the bottom of a pie dish. Pre-bake until slightly toasted, about 10 minutes.
For the filling, stew rhubarb pieces in orange juice and honey, bringing to a boil and then lowering to a simmer until the reduction is slightly thickened. Add a pinch of cornflour/starch to thicken even more, if necessary.
To make the meringue, whisk (you can do this by hand, but an electric mixer will be much quicker) room temperature egg whites in a very clean bowl—any trace of grease will make the job a lot harder, so avoid plastic. Once the mixture starts to become foamy and airy, add the sugar a little bit at a time and just a small squeeze of lemon juice, continuing to whisk until soft or stiff peaks are formed, depending on your preference.
Spread the meringue evenly on top of the pie, starting at the edges and filling in towards the centre. Give it a final swirling flourish and return to the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes or until the meringue is crisp and turning golden. Let it dry out thoroughly after turning off the heat, letting it dehydrate with the oven door cracked as it cools. Serve within the same day.