Here’s a bumper-fun QUADRUPLE post for your delectation!
OK, so maybe that’s stretching things a bit, but what it WILL do is provide you with a selection of (up to) four separate desserts to enjoy.
- Sublime poached rhubarb, done to perfection, with the simplest and quickest method of poaching I’ve ever come across.
- Crystal-clear rhubarb jelly with pieces of the aforementioned sublime poached rhubarb suspended in it.
- Creamy and unctuous custard cheesecake – which isn’t really a cheesecake but is very LIKE a cheesecake, but with fewer calories
- Rhubarb jelly + custard cheesecake + more poached rhubarb on the side.
This can be scaled up or scaled down according to the quantity of rhubarb you have.
1kg spring rhubarb
500g caster sugar
- Wash and dry your rhubarb stalks.
- Trim the root ends and then slice into batons. You can make them any length you please, but for ease of eating, it’s best not to have them longer than the length of a dessert spoon bowl, so about 4cm is best. You don’t want to be trying to eat your delicious poached rhubarb and have it hanging over the sides of your spoon. Of course, you could just use a bigger spoon, but then that just brings its own problems. Best to just cut the rhubarb. The pieces will also fit into the poaching pan much easier if they are short.
- Put the sugar and water into a pan. Ensure your pan has a lid that fits snugly. I use a frying pan, so the rhubarb can spread out, and for this quantity, I initially cooked only half the rhubarb. More on this below.
- Stir over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved, then bring to a boil.
- Add the rhubarb, cover and switch off the heat. And that’s it. So easy. Set the pan aside until the contents are cold. The rhubarb is poached perfectly and holds its shape. I divide the rhubarb in half and cook in two batches, using the same syrup for the both batches. This improves both the colour and the flavour of the syrup (which is going to be the base for the jelly). With this approach, drain the first batch of rhubarb from the syrup when cold and set aside in a suitable container, Heat the syrup, add the remaining rhubarb, and proceed as above.
- When the second batch has cooled, combined with the first batch and chill in the fridge until required.
Now you could stop here and you’d have a lot of delicious poached rhubarb to enjoy. I like to eat my rhubarb chilled, with either a little cream or, when in the mood for food from my childhood, (unsweetened) evaporated milk – it’s heavenly.
If you fancy taking things to the next level, however, we can proceed to making rhubarb jelly. If you would like to set your jelly into domes, you will need a hemisphere silicon mould sheet.
There are two ways to make rhubarb jelly from your syrup, the simple way and the more challenging, crystal-clear way.
Simple Rhubarb Jelly
300ml rhubarb poaching syrup
2.5 sheets gelatine
- Strain off the required amount of syrup from your batch of poached rhubarb, e.g. 300ml.
- Using a coffee filter, or double layer of scalded muslin, strain the syrup to remove any floating debris.
- Soften some gelatine sheets (or vegegel) in water. For 300ml of liquid, usually 2 sheets of gelatine are needed. HOWEVER, rhubarb is acidic, even when sweetened, and using just the regular quantity of gelatine might compromise the set, so when setting acidic liquids, use a little extra. I added 1 half-sheet. If I was making lemon jelly, for example, I’d probably add a whole extra sheet, on account of the stronger acidity.
- Pour the rhubarb syrup into a small pan and heat gently – it only needs to be warm enough to melt the softened gelatine. Do not allow it to boil, or you might lose the glorious colour/flavour or both!
- Add the softened gelatine and stir gently until it is dissolved.
- Set aside to cool a little while you prepare the mould(s).
- Rinse your mould(s) with cold water.
- MORE CHOICES – Do you want to have rhubarb in your jelly? If so, proceed. Otherwise, just pour in your syrup and put your moulds aside to set.
- Pick out the most brightly coloured pieces of rhubarb from you batch and slice them into smaller pieces (1-2cm).
- Add as much or as little chopped rhubarb to your mould(s) and set them on a baking sheet with edges. Make sure the silicone mould (if using) is sitting level. I half-filled my moulds with rhubarb pieces, and when I added the jelly, the pieces of rhubarb floated, so when set and turned out, you get a lovely effect of a dome of clear jelly, and underneath a layer of rhubarb pieces.
- Slowly pour your rhubarb jelly over the pieces of rhubarb until the moulds are full.
- Jiggle the baking sheet slightly to free up any air bubbles that might be trapped.
- Cover your mould with cling film and set aside until solid, or chill in the fridge.
- To free your set jellies, pour warm water into the baking tray as high as it will go. Leave until the edges of the jellies have melted – due to the silicone being a poor transmitter of heat, this may take as long as 3-4 minutes.
- Carefully tilt the baking sheet, pour off the warm water and turn out your jellies. I find it best to leave the silicone as is, and use a ‘scooping’ motion with three fingers my hand. The jelly is then easy to transfer to a palette knife for precision placing. Upturning the moulds and then chasing the jellies around a baking sheet runs the risk of spoiling the clean edges of the jellies.
Top Tip: Later in the year, when the rhubarb stalks are giant and green and tough as old boots, you can still make rhubarb jelly – just chop them up small and simmer them in water until you think all the flavour has been extracted. Strain well, sweeten to taste, then proceed as above. The jelly will have an almost pearlescent sheen to it (see below).
Crystal Clear Rhubarb Jelly
This is a little more involved, but not difficult by any stretch of the imagination. In this method, we clarify the rhubarb syrup using egg-whites. A certain amount of syrup will be lost in the process, so start with a little more than you need.
- Put (for example) 400ml syrup into a pan.
- Whisk two egg-whites and add to the syrup. Whisk the two together.
- Put the pan on a low heat. Don’t boil – a slight simmer is enough. As the liquid heats up, the egg will start to cook and trap any debris. The cooked egg will end up sitting on top of the syrup like a raft (This same method can be used to clarify stock, or any other liquid. I’ve seen accounts of maple syrup ‘farmers’ using it on their product).
- When the eggwhite appears to be solid. set up a sieve lined with damp muslin over a bowl or jug. Kitchen paper towels will also serve, if you have no muslin.
- Pour the syrup through the muslin. Use a strainer spoon to hold back most of the solid egg-white in the pan, although it’s no drama if some get through – the muslin will catch it.
- Once all the syrup has passed through the muslin/sieve, use the now crystal-clear syrup to make your jelly and set it as above. NB If you want to have domed ‘toppers’ for your cheesecakes, select a silicone mould the same diameter as your cheesecake tins/moulds.
I made individual cheesecakes for the photo at the top, but you may decide, after making your crystal-clear jellies that this is all too much Faff™ (understandable). If this is the case, just make a large cheesecake in one tin/mould, and use your rhubarb domes around the edge as portion ‘markers’. I deliberately used ready-made custard for that real custardy taste – but if you want to make your own, or use a creme patissière, have at it.
200g custard cream biscuits (1 packet)
3 leaves/sheets of gelatine
200ml double cream
200ml low fat creme fraiche
200g cream cheese
1tbs vanilla paste
2-3tbs icing sugar – or more to taste
300ml ready-made custard – divided
- Put the leaves of gelatine into water to soak.
- Line the sides of your cheesecake mould(s) with acetate or parchment. Not compulsory, but it does help when unmoulding. If making a large cheeesecake, a springform tin is best.
- Put the custard creams into a food processor and blitz until they resemble breadcrumbs.
- Melt the butter and pour into the biscuit crumbs.
- Blitz the mixture a few times to mix in. You might think this quantity of butter is too little. You can certainly add more if you like, but I assure you it is sufficient to make a compact biscuit base that will hold together well and still be a contrast against the rich and creamy cheesecake.
- Add the mixture to your cheesecake mould(s) and press down firmly using a flat-bottomed glass or similar. If you’re making a large cheesecake, just tip the whole mixture into your pan. For smaller cheesecakes, use 2-3 tablespoons of buttered crumbs per mould.
- In a small pan, warm 150ml custard. Drain the water from the gelatine and shake off any excess.
- Melt the gelatine in the warmed custard.
- Pour the warmed custard into the rest of the custard and stir well. This will cool down the custard, so you’re not adding a warm liquid to your creams. Set aside for the moment.
- Put the double cream, creme fraiche, cream cheese and vanilla paste into a bowl and whisk together until thickened.
- Add the custard mixture and stir to combine thoroughly.
- Taste the cheesecake mixture and add icing sugar to your taste. The sweetness from the custard might actually be enough, though.
- Pour the mixture onto your crumb base(s) and smooth over.
- Cover with clingfilm and put into the fridge to set. Overnight is easiest.
- Serve with your rhubarb jelly and/or poached rhubarb. The combination of the sharp rhubarb and the creamy, custardy cheesecake is delightful.
 Unless you eat the entire batch, in which case, that’s
damn impressive! Bad, I mean. Yes. Very, very bad. Don’t do that.
 This photo is from a book project I was working on for afternoon tea using historic recipes. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anyone to be enthusiastic about it, so it is now languishing in a folder on my laptop. If you’d like to publish it, drop me a line! 😉