Though the last few months have been a meteorological roller coaster here in Colorado, the temperatures that now soar up near or above 90 every day indicate that summer has finally arrived in full. The air conditioner in our apartment can hardly keep up with the summer sun, blazing through our western-facing windows on its long descent toward the mountains. Fortunately, our freezer faces no such challenge and can house within it a treasure trove of icy treats perfect for combating the summer heat. And what better way to welcome the arrival of the season than with a dessert that features one of its most celebrated fruits?
Ahhh, rhubarb. Such pretty stalks. Such poisonous leaves. (Seriously, don’t eat the leaves.) And such a short growing season that it’s best to indulge heavily when it finally appears. I can hardly prevent myself from making into my favorite Rhubarb Crisp, but in an effort to broaden my horizons, I dug into a very, very vintage cookbook to find some new ideas. To my delight, I discovered marlow, a dessert that is now so out of the common psyche that when I poked around to learn more, I couldn’t even find it on Wikipedia.
From what I’ve pieced together, marlow is a marshmallow-based dessert that can either be frozen to mimic ice cream or chilled to mimic mousse. It can feature a variety of flavors as the marshmallow, sugar, and heavy cream act as a clean canvas onto which you can paint rhubarb, cherries, chocolate, butterscotch, or anything else you want to eat for dessert. After the fruit (in this case) is cooked down with sugar, the marshmallows and whipped cream are mixed in to create a frothy, fluffy mixture ready for freezing.
Making two wedding cakes in less than a year has involved many, many practice cakes. Almost every weekend since early September, I’ve tested at least one recipe to see if it was worthy of inclusion in one of these two celebration cakes. And though I do have a crowd of chipper undergrads more than happy to polish off any test cakes I bring to the office, you’d think I’d avoid baking so soon after completing the wedding cake was done, right?
False, at least, if I have a gift of gorgeous pink rhubarb falls in your lap.
One major perk of wedding cake-baking for a wedding in Madison, Wisconsin was the opportunity to stay with my aunt and uncle, who aside from allowing me to take over their kitchen for several days also have a beautiful stand of rhubarb. On my last morning in town, my uncle was kind enough to cut me a couple pounds of the prettiest, pinkest rhubarb I’ve ever seen.
But how to use this precious windfall? I’ve baked with rhubarb a few times before, as part of a cookie, in a fruity appetizer, and as a co-star in a classic pie, but I really wanted to try something where the rhubarb played the lead. Something simple but essential.
My local food quest suffers no greater challenge than it does in January and February. I love fresh fruit, and as I don’t live in a citrus-producing state, the options are pretty sparse for local fruit.
The earliest harbinger of spring, however, earlier even than the asparagus and strawberries that declare the season’s coming with certainty, is rhubarb.
Rhubarb, which grows in varieties ranging in color from pale green to deep red, is technically a vegetable. However, it has been classified as a fruit in the United States since the late 1940s since it is primarily used as a fruit. Naturally quite tart, it is typically paired with sugar and other sweet fruits to create tangy, flavorful desserts.