Strawberry-Rhubarb Chiffon Torte

Serves

A purée of fresh strawberries and rhubarb folded into a light meringue creates a light dessert that's as delicious as it is pretty.

The texture of the torte suggests lavish quantities of whipped cream, but there's actually no dairy in this recipe! An Italian meringue does the work of lightening and sweetening the fruit purée.  Crushed ginger snaps form a thin crust, although you could substitute shortbread cookies or graham crackers instead.

This torte needs to firm in the freezer for at least 8 hours before serving, so plan ahead.


Ingredients

3/4 cup water
1/2 pound trimmed rhubarb (8 ounces, thinly sliced and coarsely pureéd in a food processor)
1/2 pound ripe strawberries (8 ounces, thinly sliced and pureéd in a food processor)
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup ginger snap crumbs (from 5 ounces of cookies)
2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1 cup Sugar
5 tablespoons water
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon salt
    Fresh mint sprigs, as garnish (optional)
8   ripe strawberries, as garnish (optional)
1/4 cup Sugar


Directions

Place the sugar and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to melt the sugar. Add the rhubarb and cook over medium heat until the rhubarb is soft and the mixture has thickened slightly. Let cool, then purée until smooth in a food processor.

Place the strawberry purée in a large bowl, add the rhubarb purée and the lemon juice, and stir to blend. Refrigerate, covered with plastic wrap, while you continue with the recipe.

Combine the ginger snap crumbs and the melted butter in a small bowl. Press the crumb mixture into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan, pressing firmly with a spoon to even out the crumb layer. Set aside.

Place the egg whites and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer and mix on medium speed until the eggs are frothy.

Meanwhile, combine the 1 cup of sugar and the 5 tablespoons of water in a small pan and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook without stirring until a candy thermometer registers 250 degrees F. Gradually add the hot sugar syrup to the egg whites in a steady, thin stream, beating on high speed. Continue beating until the meringue is thick and glossy and will stand in stiff peaks when the beater is lifted, about 4 minutes.

Gently fold the meringue into the strawberry-rhubarb purée. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan. Cover with a piece of plastic wrap and freeze the torte for at least 8 hours, or overnight.

To serve, remove the torte from the freezer and let stand for 5 minutes before slicing. Garnish each serving with a sprig of mint and a sliced strawberry, if desired.

Special equipment needed: 9-inch springform pan, candy thermometer

Chef's note: The strawberry flavor is more pronounced than the rhubarb in this recipe. If you like, you can make the torte with all rhubarb. Increase the rhubarb to 1 pound and double the sugar to 1/2 cup in the first step. Choose stalks of rhubarb with the deepest ruby red color you can find, so that the finished torte will be a pretty pink hue.

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