Drunken Strawberry Rhubarb Jelly Squares with Dark Chocolate

This is a bit of a long title, I admit.  I tend to go on and on (and on and on) and even I will be the first to admit that I’d probably be bored just reading the title, and snoring by the time the article appeared.  The thing is, this is such a sublime dessert, with intriguing and varied textures, flavours and nuance, that it would be sinful NOT to let the title come tumbling out in waves just as the taste presents itself on your tongue.

I should also mention that this is an adult dessert.  No, not just because it’s thick with liquor, but flavours like rhubarb, roses and dark chocolate are somewhat less suited to the PG-13 crowd.

Drunken Strawberry Rhubarb Jelly Squares with Dark Chocolate

Prep time: 25 minutes + 6 hours or overnight to chill and set

Serves: 12 squares

  • 4 cups rhubarb, or 6 good stalks
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1.5 cups Alize Rose 
  • 1/2 cup sparkling water
  • 1 cup water, divided
  • 1 box (4 sleeves) unflavored gelatin
  • 8 oz deep and delicious dark chocolate
  • strawberries to garnish
Start by cutting the rhubarb up into small chunks of roughly uniform size.  Medium rhubarb stalks will need to be cut vertically down the center, and thicker stalks will need to be cut into thirds before dicing them width-wise. They should each be about 1/4 inch thick and just a bit wider, and you want to aim to have about 4 cups.
Put these into a pot over medium high heat with the 3/4 cup sugar and 1/2 cup of water.
Put a lid on things, and let it start to cook. If it boils, that’s fine. Cook this down for about 10 minutes, or until the rhubarb is tender but not completely falling apart.  In the mean time, lightly oil a square baking container, about 8×8. Metal works really well, but you can use glass if you prefer. Try to find one that has crisp edges and 90 degree angles though, instead of one with curved sides. They gently sloped ones great for casseroles and nanaimo bars, but not so much for this.
While you’re at the stove anyway, heat up the other 1/2 cup of water and add in all 4 sleeves of gelatin, whisking this until it’s evenly incorporated and totally dissolved.
It’s been 10 minutes, and you’re totally almost done! Take the rhubarb off the heat, and let it cool as you do the final preparations….including measuring out a cup and a half of Alize Rose.  If you can’t find Alize Rose, feel free to substitute with a strawberry liquor. The thing about Alize Rose is, however, that it combines the taste of fresh, ripe strawberries with a delicate infusion of rose water, which truly raises this from a strawberry-rhubarb jelly to Something Fabulous and Divine.  Trust me.
Pour the gelatin mixture into your rhubarb as it cools. Follow this with the sparkling water and your liquor, and give it a good stir.
Poor the mixture into your oiled baking dish. Don’t worry if there are bubbles, which there will be.  
Cover it up with plastic wrap, and let the plastic wrap actually sit on the meniscus of your jelly, like a second skin. This will reduce SOME of those pesky bubbles, and also give it a nice seal while it sets. Into the fridge we go!! You want it to chill and set completely, so give it at least 4-6 hours, but overnight is really preferred.
This is what it looks like the next day, completely set!
To unmold this, it’s really easy and it should slink right out because of the oil, but just in case I always use this trick: Pour about an inch of warm water into your sink, and ease your baking dish down into it, being careful not to actually immerse the dessert – just the dish, please! Let it sit for 5 – 10 seconds, and you’re good to go.  I recommend putting a large, flat surface (I used a baking sheet covered with a silicon sheet, but you can use anything – even a big plate) on top and inverting it.  Give it a few raps if you don’t feel it thunk itself out immediately.
Cut this into 12 rectangles, and garnish with a strawberry and some shaved dark chocolate.  If you don’t like dark chocolate, you can eat it as is…….
But oh my god when you have the dark chocolate with it…..ooooh…….it’s luscious and divine.  The dark creamy bitterness of a quality chocolate brings everything into focus.  The rose is light and herbally sweet, the texture contrast, the sweetness of the strawberries……try it. This is an adult-only dinner party dessert, I promise.
Background tunes: Night and Day by Bebel Gilberto