Hardy and dependable, rhubarb is one of the first gifts to emerge from the springtime garden. Following winter it’s a welcome sight, and eagerly put to use in our kitchen. Simply prepared with sugar, it makes a lovely compote that, if not closely guarded, is quickly gobbled up before it can be put to further use. However, with some advance planning and self discipline, rhubarb compote can be dressed up even further, making a lovely addition to a trifle. Trifles are fun to assemble and showcase beautiful layers of fruit and cream when presented in a glass. In this case chunky pink rhubarb is layered between ripples of vanilla infused cream and whipped cream. Almond macarons replace the traditional sponge, adding a chewy nutty texture to this luxurious dessert.
Rhubarb Trifle with Almond Macarons and Vanilla Cream
For the almond macarons:
2 egg whites
1/2 cup superfine sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (or almond extract)
1 cup whole almonds
Preheat oven to 350 F. (180 C.) Beat the egg whites in a bowl of an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Slowly add 1/2 cup sugar, 1-2 tablespoons at a time, beating until peaks are stiff and glossy. Mix in vanilla extract. Grind almonds in bowl of a food processor with 2 tablespoons sugar until almonds are very finely ground. Fold into egg whites. Drop heaping spoonfuls of the egg mixture onto a baking sheet lined with parchment. Bake in oven until golden brown, 15 minutes. Remove and cool. Makes about 2 dozen.
For the rhubarb:
2 pounds rhubarb, ends trimmed, cut in 1/2″ pieces
3/4 cup sugar
Toss rhubarb and sugar together in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring, until sugar dissolves. Cover and cook rhubarb until very tender, about 20 minutes. Cool completely.
For the vanilla cream:
4 tablespoons sugar, divided
2 large egg yolks
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
6 strawberries, hulled and quartered
Whisk egg yolks and 2 tablespoons sugar together in a medium saucepan. Heat milk and vanilla bean in another saucepan until milk begins to boil. Stir 2 tablespoons milk into eggs. Slowly add remaining milk, stirring constantly. Heat the milk and eggs until nearly boiling, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon over medium heat. The milk will thicken to heavy cream consistency and thickly coat the wooden spoon. Do not let boil. Remove from heat and strain through a fine meshed sieve into a bowl. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the custard. Cool completely.
Before assembly, whip 1 1/2 cups heavy cream in a bowl of mixer until beginning to thicken. Add 2 tablespoons sugar to cream and continue to beat until peaks form. Remove 1/2 of whipped cream and set aside. Gently fold the vanilla cream into the remaining whipped cream.
Spoon a thin layer of the rhubarb into the bottom of a glass serving bowl or individual glasses. Crumble 1/3 of the macaroons over the rhubarb. Cover with a layer of the vanilla whipped cream. Top with 1/2 of the remaining rhubarb. Crumble 1/3 of the macaroons over the rhubarb. Cover with a layer of the vanilla whipped cream. Top with remaining rhubarb. Crumble remaining macaroons over rhubarb. Spoon the reserved whipped cream over the top of the trifle. Dot the top of the trifle with fresh strawberries. Serve immediately or refrigerate until serving. The trifle may be assembled up to 4 hours before serving. The longer it sits, the softer it will become.