These rose water rhubarb Swiss meringue pavlova nests make the perfect spring dessert with their crisp shell and marshmallowy center, topped with lightly whipped rosewater cream and roasted rhubarb.
Rhubarb season is here! I get so excited whenever rhubarb starts appearing at the farmers markets. Although it’s known mainly as a vegetable, rhubarb makes its way into many desserts in our kitchen. I have a whole line up of rhubarb desserts coming your way--cake, blondies, crumble, pie, tart, French pastries, and pavlova. I have a weak spot for pavlova and these rose water rhubarb Swiss meringue pavlova nests are the perfect treat to welcome spring. Individual Swiss meringue pavlova nests with their crisp shell and marshmallowy center are topped with whipped rosewater cream and the loveliest roasted pink rhubarb.
The Science Behind Pavlova
To achieve the perfect texture of pavlova, crispy on the outside, but fluffy, soft and marshmallow-like on the inside, you’ll need a few essential ingredients.
- Sugar: sugar molecules support and stabilize the proteins in egg whites. Superfine sugar dissolves more readily than granulated and is preferable. Make your own by processing granulated sugar in a food processor until powdery for two minutes. I found that a sugar ratio of at least 1 ¾ ounces sugar to one egg white will result in a stable pavlova.
- Cream of tartar: is an acid to help stabilize and give more volume to the beaten egg whites.
- Vinegar: is an acid used in place of cream of tartar to stabilize and give more volume to the beaten egg whites. I use white wine or distilled white vinegar. You can also use lemon juice in equal amounts instead of vinegar.
- Cornstarch: stabilizes and keeps the meringue from shrinking when baked.
Essential Tips for Making Pavlova
- Humidity is pavlova’s nemesis. The sugar in the meringue attracts moisture from the air, preventing it from drying and crisping properly and resulting in a soggy, sticky meringue. For the best results, avoid making the meringue on a humid or rainy day.
- Fat is the other enemy of pavlova. Even a trace can prevent the egg whites from whipping to their maximum volume and cause the whipped meringue to fall or deflate. A tiny bit of egg yolk that got into the egg whites, grease in your bowl or whisk, and natural oils on your hands can affect the result of the pavlova. To counter this, I use lemon juice to clean the bowl and whisk to get rid of any grease. Make sure everything that the egg whites touch is unscrupulously clean and dry.
The Swiss Meringue Method
Pavlovas can be prepared using three different methods: French, Italian, and Swiss. The most common method is the French meringue where egg whites are whisked until soft peaks form and then caster sugar added slowly until peaks become thick and glossy. The Italian meringue involves whisking egg whites until soft peaks form and then a hot sugar syrup is slowly poured in and beaten until peaks become stiff and glossy.
My favorite method is the Swiss meringue where egg whites and sugar are whisked over a saucepan of simmering water (or double boiler) to warm them to 170 degrees F allowing the egg white proteins to coagulate despite the high concentration of sugar, creating a more stable meringue. Then the mixture is whipped with an electric mixer into stiff, glossy peaks.
How To Shape Pavlova Nests
The shape of these pavlova nests was inspired by my baker friend Thida’s IG post. I used a 4-inch tart ring to draw 6 circles on a parchment paper spacing them at least 2 inches apart leaving room for the meringue to expand during baking. Then I turned the paper over and used a piping bag fitted with an Ateco 869 French star tip to pipe meringue over the drawn circles. What I love about meringue made with the Swiss meringue method is their incredible stability. If you mess up during piping, use a spatula to scoop up the meringue and add it back in the bag.
If you don’t have a piping bag or the French tip at your disposal, go with a more natural shape. Take a metal spoon and scoop a mound of meringue in the center of each circle. Either use the back of your spoon or an offset spatula to create an indentation in the center of the mounds and swoop at the edges
What Temperature to Bake Pavlova
I like to bake the Swiss meringue pavlova nests the night before and leave them to cool completely in the oven overnight. After testing different temperatures and baking times, I found that baking them at 225 degrees F for 40 minutes results in the best texture with the perfect crisp shell and marshmallowy center. You need to let the pavlova nests cool down in the oven for a minimum of 2 hours.
- Deflated pavlova: most likely a trace of egg yolk got into the egg whites causing the pavlova to be unstable. Unfortunately, this situation is not salvageable.
- Weeping: when liquid seeps out of the pavlova and forms a puddle at the bottom. This could happen due to undissolved sugar not integrated in the egg white structure, absorbing water, and causing weeping. Overbeating the egg whites will also cause them to lose their structure and unable to hold onto the sugar resulting in weeping. Whisking the egg white on low speed introduces the air slowly, decreases risk of over-beating egg whites, and allows the sugar to dissolve completely resulting in a more stable structure.
- Beading: overcooking leads to beads of moisture or liquid forming on the pavlova’s surface. Try increasing the oven’s temperature and decreasing the baking time to prevent the internal temperature from becoming too hot.
- Cracking or collapsing: opening the oven door as soon as it’s done baking and letting all the heat out will cause cracks to form on the pavlova surface. The sudden change in temperature will cause the center to shrink rapidly resulting in the pavlova cracking and collapsing. Allowing the pavlova to cool down gradually in the oven after baking will prevent the change in temperature. It’s also important to NOT open the oven during baking. If the pavlova has collapsed slightly in the center or has cracks, you can still serve the pavlova as long as it’s not weeping. The whipped cream will cover all the cracks and no one will notice.
- Brown or burnt pavlova: when the oven temperature is too hot, the pavlova can caramelize and have an off-white color. Reduce your oven temperature by 25 degrees F next time you bake.
Tips For Buying Rhubarb
Rhubarb stalk resembles celery in appearance and is known for its tart flavor. To get the best tasting rhubarb, look for stalks that are dark red and thinner. They tend to be sweeter and more tender compared to the thicker stalks that are more fibrous. The leaves are toxic if consumed in large quantities so trim and discard them. Once in a while you might be lucky enough to find forced rhubarb. Forced rhubarb are grown in dark hothouses in areas with cooler climate. With no light for the leaves to photosynthesize, the leaves stay small and pale yellow while the stalks turn pale pink to bright magenta. I was lucky enough to grab a few pounds of these beautiful forced rhubarb from Specialty Produce.
Tips For Roasting Rhubarb
Roasting rhubarb with a generous amount of sugar will intensify its flavor and reduce the tartness. I roasted the rhubarb in a mixture of blood orange juice, zest, vanilla bean, rose water, sugar, and water. The vanilla bean and rose water added a beautiful scent and flavor to the rhubarb. A little bit of rosewater goes along way. You want just a hint of it, not for your rhubarb to smell like an English rose garden. Use a pan that will hold the rhubarb in a single layer or it might overcook and become stringy.
When To Assemble Pavlovas
I like to assemble the pavlova nests close to serving time so the moisture from the whipped cream and roasted rhubarb don’t affect the texture of the pavlovas. Once the pavlova nests are assembled, they will stay nice and crisp for a few hours. If you leave the assembled pavlova nests in the fridge overnight, they’ll absorb moisture from the surrounding and become soft. Unassembled pavlova nests can be stored in an airtight container for 72 hours.
These rose water rhubarb Swiss meringue pavlova nests are a visual feast as they are delightful to eat. Crack into their crisp shell and you’ll hit a sweet marshmallowy center topped with whipped cream with an exquisite hint of rose water and sweet tart roasted rhubarb. I can’t think of a more delicious dessert with a wonderful combination of flavor and texture!
For more rhubarb recipe inspiration, check these recipes: rhubarb crumble ice cream, rhubarb polenta cake, strawberry rhubarb mascarpone galette, strawberry rhubarb hand pies, orange blossom panna cotta with baked rhubarb, vanilla poached rhubarb.
Rose Water Rhubarb Swiss Meringue Pavlova Nests
- 4 egg whites (about 125 gm)
- 1 ¼ cups caster sugar (about 225 gm)
- 2 tsps cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon white vinegar (or lemon juice)
- 1 ½ cups rhubarb, cut it into 2-inch chunks
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped
- ¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
- 2 tbsps rose water
- 1 cup heavy cream
- ½ cup mascarpone cheese
- ½ cup powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon rose water
- Preheat the oven to 325°F.
- For the meringue, place egg whites in a bowl of a stand mixer (or a heatproof bowl) set over a saucepan of gently simmering water to make a double boiler making sure the water does not touch the bottom.
- Using a large balloon whisk, gradually whisk in the sugar. Whisking constantly, heat the egg and sugar mixture until it reads 170°F on a candy thermometer and the mixture starts to froth and sugar dissolves.
- Transfer the bowl to the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk the mix on high speed for about 5 minutes until stiff peaks form.
- Turn the mixer to low, add in the vinegar and corn starch, then whisk on high speed for another minute until well combined.
- Place a smidge of the meringue in each corner of the baking sheet to stick down the parchment paper so that it does not move when you are piping the pavlova.
- Transfer the meringue to a piping bag attached with the French star tip size 869.
- Pipe the meringue along the circumference of the drawn circles.
- Place the baking sheet in the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 225°F. Bake the pavlova nests for 40 minutes. When the pavlova nests are done baking, without opening the oven door, turn off the oven and allow the them to cool in the oven for a minimum of two hours or overnight.
Rose water roasted rhubarb
- Place chopped rhubarb in baking dish. Scatter sugar over and scrape in seeds from vanilla bean, toss in pod, orange juice, and add rose water. Let the mixture sit until rhubarb releases some juices, about 60 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Roast rhubarb, tossing once, until tender and juices are syrupy, about 15 minutes. Let it cool to room temperature.
Rose water whipped cream
- Whip the mascarpone, heavy cream, rose water, and powdered sugar together until thick and smooth and soft peaks form. Refrigerate until ready to use.
- To assemble, top each pavlova nest with a dollop of whipped cream and roasted rhubarb. Serve immediately.
Loved the rose water flavor in both the rhubarb and cream. It was subtle and delicious.