There's a certain amount of finesse required to keep the blush pink batons in shape when poaching rhubarb, but the result is certainly worth it - the key is not to overcook the batons and turn them to a pulp. The result should be blush pink batons which hold their shape and make a delicious dessert in their own right or a beautiful garnish to perch atop a panna cotta or meringue.
Grenadine syrup can be added to the sugar syrup as a colouring to make forced rhubarb even pinker.
It's easy to infuse sugar syrup with whole spices or even herbs. Whole cardamom, cloves, vanilla and star anise all make good flavour pairings with rhubarb. Simply add the chosen spice or herb to the sugar syrup as it comes to the boil.
Different flavours can also be introduced by tweaking the type of sugar used in the syrup, or by substituting water for other flavoured liquid. For example, Anna Hansen poaches rhubarb in 250ml orange juice with 80g Demerara sugar. Bear in mind, though, that substituting water for orange juice will change the sugar level in the syrup which is why ratios may need to be tweaked.
Rhubarb can also be made in a sous vide machine. Seal the sugar, water and rhubarb in a vacuum bag and cook the rhubarb at 60°C for 20 minutes.
James Mackenzie strikes a halfway house between poaching and roasting with the poached rhubarb in his liquorice panna cotta recipe with Yorkshire rhubarb. He arranges small batons in a deep, ovenproof tray, flooding it with water and sugar, and then baking.
Leftover rhubarb-flavoured syrup works well in cocktails. Substitute plain sugar syrup with the rhubarb-flavoured syrup in a Tom Collins or a Bramble.
The sugar syrup can be substituted for a pickling-style liquid to poach rhubarb as a savoury garnish. See James Ramsden's recipe which poaches rhubarb in white wine, sugar, star anise and orange zest to go with his pork chops and crispy kale.
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