Rhubarb & Sour Cream Torte with Meringue

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I’m willing to bet there are loads of Midwesterners whose early-childhood memories—like writer Kim Ode’s– include at least one rhubarb trauma. Probably at a summer family reunion, and probably involving sniggering cousins, the prank centered on  getting some young & trusting initiate to take a big fat bite of a juicy, just –picked stalk of pink-striped rhubarb.  Youch! The sour shock of that first rhubarb moment has kept generations of kids safely on the other side of the rhubarb fence.

Until they grow up, anyway.

Like a lot of us who cautiously step back to rhubarb camp, writer Kim Ode’s ode to the vegetable that everybody thinks of as a fruit, Rhubarb Renaissance, is all about revisiting and rethinking. Rhubarb is not just the “pie plant” but a fresh ingredient for savory uses as well: Rhubarb chutney on goat-cheese toasts, confetti salad with rhubarb and kale, pickled rhubarb featured in a shrimp salad. And on the sweet side? Rhubarb crisp & cobbler,  Rhubarb-Peach Pavlovas, and, the long-time Ode family favorite: meringue-topped Sour Cream-Rhubarb Torte.  In all, more than 50 recipes to restart your rhubarb engines.

Makes 9 servings

Crust Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour
  • 8 Tbsp (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter, cut in small pieces
  • 2 Tbsp sugar

Filling Ingredients

  • 4 egg yolks (save the whites for the meringue
  • 1 cup sour cream (non-fat is fine)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp fresh-squeezed orange juice
  • 3 cups rhubarb, cut in 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch

Meringue Ingredients

  • 8 Tbsp sugar, divided
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • pinch salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Instructions

  1. Make crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Work butter pieces into flour and sugar until the texture of cornmeal and press into a 9- or 10-inch springform pan (or 9 x 9 square pan.) Bake 7 minutes. Cool on wire rack. Leave oven on.
  2. Make filling: In a medium bowl, whisk together egg yolks, sour cream, sugar and orange juice. Toss rhubarb with cornstarch, then stir into sour cream mixture. Pour into the pre-baked crust and bake for 50 to 60 minutes until filling appears firm. Set on wire rack. NOTE: During the last 15 minutes of baking, make the meringue.
  3. Make meringue: (NOTE: I have not yet experimented with using less sugar in this recipe–it’s Kim Ode’s old family recipe, works well with this much sugar. You are welcome to try it with less sugar.) Make a slurry of the cornstarch and water, stirring until smooth. In a small saucepan, combine 2 Tbsp sugar and cornstarch slurry. Heat to boiling. Cook until mixture thickens and becomes clear. Remove from heat and set aside. Using a stand mixer, beat egg whites, cream of tartar and salt until frothy. Add remaining 6 Tbsp sugar, one spoonful at a time and then beat in vanilla. Mixture should not yet hold stiff peaks. Slowly add the warm corn starch mixture and continue mixing until the meringue holds a stiff peak when the beater is lifted. Spread the meringue on the warm torte and return to the oven for about 10 minutes, or until the meringue begins to color. Cool completely. Refrigerate until serving.
  4. I chose to make this cake in a springform pan so that it would make for a nicer display. If you choose this route: After allowing cake to cool, use a sharp knife to help loosen from sides of pan. Release springform. (It may take a little push to remove from the ring.)

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