Sweet rhubarb and tangy lemon pair up in these pretty gluten-free trifles. This recipe does require a fair number of steps, but they’re worth it when you serve the trifles to your family or a gathering of friends. Use any glasses or jars you like—just be sure you can see all the delicious layers.
Preheat oven to 225° F.
To make the mini meringues, line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
Rub the entire inside of a large metal mixing bowl with the lemon half to coat with lemon juice. Wipe down the bowl with a paper towel until no moisture remains. This helps to clean the bowl so the egg whites will properly form.
Add the egg whites to the bowl of a hand or stand mixer. On low to medium speed, whip the egg whites until soft peaks form.
Gradually add the sifted confectioners’ sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time, whisking between each new addition. Continue this process until all the sugar has been added and stiff, glossy peaks form. You should be able to flip the bowl over without anything falling out. It’s important to be patient when adding the sugar to avoid having the meringues get too soft to set up.
Transfer the meringue into a piping bag with a star nozzle or a large zippered plastic bag with a small tip cut off the corner.
Pipe mini circles onto the parchment-lined baking sheet as evenly as possible. This mixture should yield 16 to 18 mini meringues.
Let the meringue circles rest for 10 minutes, then bake for 45-50 minutes. (If your oven tends to be hotter, bake at 200° F for 1 hour to avoid browning the meringues.)
Turn off the oven and leave the meringues inside to cool completely and become crisp. They should be crisp and pale white.
To make the rhubarb filling, preheat oven to 350° F.
Remove the leaves from the rhubarb stalks and discard immediately. Rinse the stalks. Remove any blemishes with a vegetable peeler. If the stalks are stringy, peel away the strings as you would with celery.
Cut the rhubarb stalks into 2-inch chunks and place in a medium glass bowl.
Add the orange zest and juice and sugar, and stir well so the rhubarb is covered with the mixture.
Transfer to a large glass or ceramic baking dish. (Don’t use metal because the high acidity of the rhubarb will cause it to react. This will result in a discolored pan and brown rhubarb.)
Tightly cover the dish with aluminum foil, making sure it doesn’t touch the rhubarb. Bake for 30 minutes.
Remove the foil, stir and bake for about 10 minutes, until the rhubarb is tender. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.
To assemble the trifles, crush 3 mini meringues each in the bottom of four small jars or glasses. You can prepare the recipe to this point up to 6 hours ahead of time, then finish with the whipped cream when you are ready to serve.
With a slotted spoon, distribute the rhubarb mixture as evenly as possible among the glasses. Press this mixture down a bit into the crushed meringue layer.
In each glass, spoon 2 tablespoons of the lemon curd on top of the rhubarb layer, spreading it out gently with your finger as you go. Keep cool in the refrigerator.
To make the whipped cream, combine the heavy cream, confectioners’ sugar and vanilla extract in a large metal mixing bowl.
Using a handheld or stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whip on medium speed until soft to stiff peaks form, about 3-5 minutes.
Dollop a generous amount of the whipped cream on top of each trifle and garnish with a bit of the broken meringue.
Plain leftover meringues can be stored in an airtight container for one to two weeks.
Cook’s tips: Ready-made recipe ingredients can be very convenient, and with all the steps in this one, that’s true regarding the pre-made lemon curd. You can also substitute ready-made meringues and whipped cream for the topping.
You can make plain meringues ahead of time. They can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.