My family and I just returned from spending two weeks in our native South Dakota, were we got to see many family and friends. We were able to help Jason’s cousin Stacy and new husband Aaron celebrate their wedding, and catch up with family members that we don’t usually get to see but once a year.
We were both very blessed to be brought up in small communities in South Dakota where friends and family are the cornerstone of the community itself. Communities like the one I grew up in (Burke, SD) are made up of some truly phenomenal people. Today I am honoring the life of one of these amazing people; Ardelle Davis.
Ardelle was one of those people who you see walking down the street…she see’s you, and she would immediately speed up to come greet you with a hug. Ardelle was known for her beautiful smile. I can’t remember a time when she wasn’t wearing it. She was the type of person that put you at ease just by her presence.
I first remember Ardelle when I was a child – she worked at the Lucas country school as the Lunchlady. She later moved into the Burke school as one of the lunch ladies after the Lucas school closed. Every kid in the school LOVED Ardelle, not just for her amazing cooking, but for her infectious smile and her genuine love for every single child and staff member that walked through the doors of the school.
Even in her later years, Ardelle was very active. She played league golf with my mom and many other ladies in the community. Ardelle always had delicious treats to share – her infamous popcorn balls were always a hit with the kids – and this Rhubarb Delight dessert was something that many people of Burke absolutely treasure. She would bring this dessert to share with the ladies on Wednesday night league golf, and it was always gone as quick as it was put out.
Ardelle’s Rhubarb Delight is truly delightful! Its made with a pecan shortbread crust, and the filling is a rich, creamy rhubarb custard. Its then topped with a light, fluffy meringue in what seems to be the most perfect combination of flavors and texture. The sweetness of the custard is complimented by the slightly tart rhubarb, and the crunch of the pecans in the crust complete this dessert beautifully!
This is the type of dessert that in one bite, takes you back to your home town. The flavors remind me of summer and sitting out on my mom and dad’s porch drinking iced tea as the sun sets, and watching the kids run through the sprinkler. (By the way, this totally happened!)
Here is how Ardelle’s Rhubarb Delight comes together:
- 1 c. flour
- 2 Tbsp. sugar
- 1/4 c. pecans
- 1/2 c. butter, softened (NOT melted)
- 2 1/2 c. rhubarb, peeled and chopped into small pieces
- 3 egg yolks
- 1/2 c. heavy cream
- 1 1/4 c. sugar
- 2 Tbsp. flour
- 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
- 3 egg whites, at room temperature
- 1/4 c. sugar
- 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a 9x9 square pan, lightly spray with non-stick baking spray. Set aside. In a mixing bowl, combine the crust ingredients (flour, sugar, pecans and butter) with a fork. Mix until crumbly. Press the mixture into the bottom of the 9x9 pan, and bake for 20 minutes.
- In a sauce pan, add the rhubarb, sugar, flour and nutmeg. Whisk together the cream and egg yolks (reserving the egg whites in a separate bowl for the meringue), and pour into the sauce pan with the other filling ingredients. Stir to combine, and heat on medium low stirring continually. The custard will come to a low simmer and will thicken and the rhubarb will be firm but tender. (You'll cook for about 12-14 minutes.) With a small spoon, carefully taste a small amount of rhubarb mixture - it will no longer be crunchy and the custard will be thick.) Pour the custard over the baked crust.
- With a hand or stand mixer, add the egg whites to a dry, clean mixing bowl. Begin to beat on medium high until frothy. Add the cream of tartar and continue to beat until you have soft peaks. (Soft peaks = a frothy mixture that will slightly hold its form). While still on medium high speed, gradually add the sugar a spoonful at a time. The peaks will begin to stiffen, and become much more firm. (You'll mix for 3-5 minutes to obtain stiff peaks.) You'll know its done when you remove the beater and the stiff peaks stand on its own. Spread the meringue over the custard, and add some decorative waves to the meringue if you prefer. I don't do little peaks/tips as they tend to burn before the rest of the meringue browns. Bake for 10 minutes or until meringue is golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours to let the custard set up and firm before serving. (The meringue may shrink slightly and pull away from the edges of the pan.) Enjoy!
- Note: when doubling the recipe, utilize a 9x13 pan.
Sadly, our Ardelle Davis passed away this past December. (Read about Ardelle’s beautiful life in her obituary here.) She is tremendously missed by the entire Burke community and surrounding area. However, she left behind a legacy of greatness. Not only did Ardelle wear that beautiful trademark smile, she showed everyone around her love and kindness. She taught us that now matter who you are, or where you come from that you are worthy of love, dignity and respect. Even though she is no longer walking down the sidewalk waiting to greet you with a hug, her spirit remains in the community of Burke.
People like Ardelle make a town a community. God bless you, Ardelle! We loved you just as much as you loved us!