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Rhubarb and White Chocolate Cream Trifles should be made ahead of time so they can be refrigerated overnight before serving. Photo by Sue Doeden

I'm all aflutter for rhubarb

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Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

I've baked and cooked my way through more rhubarb seasons than I'd like to admit. But I can't stop grinning when I think of how many there should be ahead for me to enjoy.

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You see, I love rhubarb. And every year my heart goes all aflutter over a new favorite way to prepare and eat this "fruit." Oh, fickle me.

This year I have a new love. It came to me at a restaurant in Portland, Ore. I was making a meal of a salad of roasted beets, yogurt, salsa verde, watercress and pine nuts on a cool and soggy spring evening at Clyde Common restaurant in Portland. I had planned for my meal to end with the final bite of beet. But then my server told me about the seasonal dessert special featuring rhubarb. My meal continued.

Clyde Common's Rhubarb and White Chocolate Cream Trifle was served in a large clear glass with layers of cake, tart rhubarb sauce and billowy white chocolate cream all topped with a large scoop of vanilla bean ice cream sprinkled with crushed pecan praline. I swooned as it was placed before me. Each divine bite nearly took my breath away. Yes, I was in love. I jotted down a few notes and tucked them into my purse. I was determined to refer back to those words that would help me recreate the dessert when I returned home.

First, I was lucky to score some fresh rhubarb from a colleague. It didn't take me long to prepare a simple sauce with chopped rhubarb and a little bit of sugar. Once cooked, rhubarb certainly won't win any beauty contests. But this time, the sauce does not have to stand alone.

Rather than using cake to form layers in the dessert, I decided on my favorite chewy, brown sugary oatmeal cookies. My standard topping for rhubarb crisp has lots of oats and brown sugar, so it made good sense to use those same ingredients in this trifle. Once the cookies were baked, I used round cookie cutters to make them just the right size to fit into the dessert glasses. Eat the scraps as you go, or save them for sprinkling on ice cream later. Make your own chewy oatmeal cookies or pick some up at the bakery.

White chocolate cream filling could be what puts this dessert right over the top. White chocolate is heated with some heavy whipping cream. Once the mixture is smooth and has a chance to cool, whipped cream is folded into the white chocolate mixture.

Purchase white chocolate that has cocoa butter included in the list of ingredients. As you read labels, you'll discover some white baking bars do not contain cocoa butter.

The sauce can be made a couple of days before assembling the trifles. Plan ahead so that the assembled trifles can be refrigerated overnight before serving.

Rhubarb and White Chocolate Cream Trifle oozes with flavor. Tart rhubarb sauce balances nicely with the seductively smooth and creamy white chocolate cream that is just slightly sweet. Soft cookies of oats, brown sugar and cinnamon hide at the bottom of each trifle, soaking up the rhubarb sauce. Another cookie crowns the top of each dessert, creating a perfect spot to hold a scoop of premium vanilla ice cream.

Oh, delectable Rhubarb and White Chocolate Cream Trifle, I'll love you forever. Well, until next year, anyway.

Rhubarb and White Chocolate Cream Trifle

3 cups chopped rhubarb

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup water

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream, divided

1 (3.5-ounce) bar white chocolate, finely chopped

8 chewy oatmeal cookies, homemade or from the bakery

Vanilla ice cream, for serving

In a saucepan, mix rhubarb with sugar, stirring until all the rhubarb is coated with sugar. Let the mixture stand for 10 minutes. Place the saucepan on the stove. Add water. Bring mixture to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for about 10 minutes. There should be no chunks of rhubarb remaining. As it cooks it breaks down. The mixture will resemble apple sauce. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla and allow sauce to cool. At this point, rhubarb sauce can be stored in a tightly sealed jar or container for up to a few days.

Prepare white chocolate cream by putting chopped white chocolate in a small, heavy saucepan. Add 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream. Over low heat, stir the mixture constantly until white chocolate is completely melted and mixture is smooth. Transfer cream mixture to a large glass bowl and allow to cool to room temperature.

Use an electric hand mixer to beat the remaining 1 cup of heavy whipping cream until soft peaks form. Gently fold the whipped cream, 1/3 of it at a time, into the melted and cooled white chocolate in bowl.

In four (8-ounce) glasses, assemble trifles by spooning about 1 tablespoon of rhubarb sauce in the bottom of each. Follow with a cookie that has been cut to fit the bottom of the glass.

Remove 4 tablespoons of sauce from container and set aside. Divide the remaining sauce evenly among the four glasses. Spoon a generous amount of white chocolate cream in each glass, covering the rhubarb sauce. Press a cookie over the white chocolate cream. Spoon 1 tablespoon of the reserved sauce over each cookie. Cover each trifle with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

At serving time, scoop vanilla ice cream over each dessert. Makes 4 individual trifles.

Tips from the cook

--I like to use a premium white chocolate bar for this dessert, such as Lindt or Perugina. These can be found in some grocery stores in the candy section. Whichever brand you choose, be sure cocoa butter is listed with the ingredients.

--You may have some white chocolate cream remaining after assembling four trifles. Use it as a dip with any kind of cookies, top it with any kind of fresh berries in a small dessert bowl or sandwich the cream between two chewy oatmeal cookies.

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