I hope it’s been long enough since rhubarb week that you won’t mind if I post another rhubarb recipe – because this one is really, really good. It’s from the SPQR cookbook, in which everything is fancy and inspiring and makes me want to go back to Italy, stat.
I’m going to be up front here – this is one of those recipes that you should only attempt if you really enjoy cooking. It’s complicated. It has about a billion parts. Nothing is particularly difficult (perhaps with the exception of frothing an egg over a double boiler, I mess that one up sometimes), but you’ll need patience, and someone to help with the dishes. All of the components can be made a few days in advance, so if you do one part at a time it might not seem so bad. But regardless of how you choose to make it (if you choose to make it), the result is so, so worth it. Unmolding the frozen bavarese, spooning the brilliantly colored red and orange fruits over the top, and crumbling the addictively nutty biscotti crisp over the whole thing, you’ll be impressed with yourself. And when you take a bite, you’ll be even more impressed. The flavors work wonderfully together, it’s all sweet and juicy and creamy and crumbly and completely worthy of your finest company. Those folks over at SPQR really know what they’re doing.
A few notes: one, the butter, brown sugar, and biscotti crisp is so good that you will not be able to stop eating the leftovers. Consider yourself warned. Two, I actually prefer the bavarese at fridge temperature as opposed to freezer temperature, but experiment with the degree of frozenness that you like. Three, the red wine poached rhubarb, which in the original recipe was verjus poached rhubarb, is amazing as is, and would be good on other creamy things, like your morning yogurt (I won’t judge). Four, this whole thing was supposed to have powdered olive oil on top. I tried to make it. I even ordered the special tapioca maltodextrin powder online. But it didn’t work. Honestly, I don’t think this dessert needs any more elements. It’s ready to go.
Ricotta Bavarese with Red-Wine Poached Rhubarb
Recipe adapted slightly from SPQR: Modern Italian Food and Wine. Serves 6-8.
For the bavarese:
- 2 c. drained ricotta
- 3/4 c. sour cream
- 1 sheet gelatin
- 1/4 c. orange juice
- 1 lemon (juice and zest)
- 1 c. heavy cream
- 6 TBS sugar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 egg
- Bring a large pot of water to a simmer over medium-low heat. In a large, heatproof bowl (big enough to place over the simmering water without touching the water itself), whisk together the ricotta and the sour cream. Place the bowl over the water and whisk until the ricotta curds are broken up and the mixture is smooth. Remove the bowl and set aside.
- Soak the gelatin in ice water until softened. Place a new bowl over the simmering water and add the orange juice and 1 TBS of the lemon juice. Squeeze out the excess water from the gelatin sheet and add it to the juices. Stir over the simmering water until dissolved, then remove from heat and set aside.
- In a large bowl, beat the heavy cream and 4 TBS of the sugar until the cream holds medium peaks. Stir in the vanilla extract. Stir the orange juice mixture into the ricotta, then fold the ricotta into the whipped cream. Set aside.
- In a third heatproof bowl, whisk together the egg and remaining 2 TBS of sugar. Place over the simmering water and whisk vigorously until the egg is pale yellow and frothy. Remove from the heat and turn the pot of water off.
- Immediately fold the whipped egg into the ricotta-cream mixture. Grate lemon zest directly over the bowl and stir to combine. Pour the ricotta-cream into 8 4-oz ramekins or 8 large silicone muffin cups, cover tightly, and freeze until ready to serve.
For the rhubarb:
- 1/4 c. red wine
- 1/2 c. water
- 3/4 c. sugar
- 1 TBS lemon juice
- 7 oz. rhubarb, trimmed and cut on an angle into 1/4 inch pieces (about 2 cups total)
- In a medium saucepan, stir together red wine, water, sugar, and lemon juice. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Once dissolved, lower heat and add the rhubarb. Poach the rhubarb for 3 minutes, just until rhubarb starts to soften. Remove the rhubarb with a slotted spoon and set aside. Return the syrup left in the pot to a boil and boil until syrupy about 7-10 minutes. Pour the syrup over the rhubarb and refrigerate until needed.
For the biscotti crumble:
- 1 c. crushed biscotti (150 grams)
- 1/4 c. brown sugar
- 1/2 c. melted salted butter (1 stick)
- Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Pulse the biscotti and the brown sugar in a food processor until mixture is finely ground. Drizzle in butter and pulse to combine. Spread thinly on the lined baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes, until mixture is firm and beginning to crisp around the edges. Let cool completely then break into chunks.
For the orange confitura:
- 1 orange
- 1/2 c. sugar
- 1/4 c. water
- Bring a small pot of water to a boil over medium heat. Use a vegetable peeler to cut the peel away from the orange in long strips. Slice into thin lengths, then add to the boiling water. Blanch for two minutes, then drain and run under cold water until cool. Pat dry.
- Bring the sugar and the water to a simmer over medium heat in a small saucepan. Add the blanched orange peel and simmer until lightly candied, about 6-8 minutes. Cool the peel in the syrup and refrigerate until needed.
- Cut the orange away from the pith into supremes, and set aside.
- Unmold the bavarese into bowls (you may need to soften them for 15 seconds in the microwave for them to pop out of their bowls, a hot knife run around the edges can help too). Spoon the chilled rhubarb over the top. Place a few slices of candied orange zest, some crumbled biscotti, and a few segments of fresh orange on top. Serve immediately. You may also serve the bavarese slightly defrosted – they will still taste wonderful but won’t look as smooth.