Saturday, March 17, 2012

Life is a Trifle....

My British roots are showing. I love Trifle. I think more than anything it has to do with many happy childhood memories and watching my Mother make Trifle for special occasions such as Christmas, Easter and milestone birthdays. Essentially Trifle is very easy to make and is just pure and simple comfort dessert.

So here's the quick and dirty how you can make a simple, easy Trifle. All due respect to my Mother, I take a bit of different path.
Where she used canned fruit cocktail I prefer berries and I find the frozen berries are perfect. What I really love about using frozen berries is that as they defrost their juice is absorbed into the layers of that delicious white cake. The tartness of the berries becomes tempered by the custard/creme.

The other short cuts you can take is by using store bought pound cake, angel food cake, jelly roll or one of those quickie cake mixes. I much prefer to just make a basic white cake recipe. (see recipe below) This basic white cake recipe resonates with vanilla and its texture is a perfect compliment for the berries. It is such an easy and quick recipe and in my opinion worth the effort.

The only "cheat" for me is my fallback to Bird's Custard.
That is just pure love of my Mother as Bird's Custard was a staple in our home. You could make Creme Anglaise (see recipe below) if you are so inclined. It is a really easy custard to make but for me, my heart is with Bird's Custard.

Let's build a Trifle!
Trifle bowls come in all shapes and sizes. I prefer the ones with a straight side on them because when all is said and done you have this wonderful view to all the layers that makes Trifle so special. This bowl was a $9.99 special and comes with a snap on lid which is handy to keep the Trifle fresh while it is setting and chilling.

You start the bottom layer with cake. I baked two rounds and when they are cooled I slice them in half. You can chunk or cut up your cake but I like using the rounds as they make for a great layering effect.
Then layer with frozen berries. You can use any kind of berry....raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, blueberries, even frozen cherries. You can use a different berry on each layer giving you a rainbow of colour. When berries are in season I like to use fresh local fruit. Just remember you don't get as much juice running out of them when they are fresh and the consistency of the Trifle changes slightly but it is still a lovely, fresh, light dessert that your guests will be absolutely wowed by.
I push the berries firmly down on to the cake and get ready to pour on the hot custard. The heat of the custard starts the defrosting of the berries and all the juice & custard marry beautifully together.

This is also the point where you decide if you'd like to use the option of adding Sherry or Port to your Trifle. It is traditional to add a sweeter type of liquor (some even use spiced Rum). You just use a few light splashes directly on to the berries and let sit for a few minutes. In effect this is akin to macerating the fruit. You do this for each layer. This time around I'm keeping in mind who I'm making the Trifle for. If there are children around then I'll usually bypass the liquor and keep it family friendly.

Then you just keep repeating the process.

You keep layering until you literally come to the top of the bowl. Then you pour one thin layer of custard on top. Just enough to barely cover the berries. I place the bowl into the fridge, uncovered, as the custard is still warm and condensation will form in the bowl if you cover it too soon. The trifle will settle as the berries defrost and the weight of the custard sits on the cake, it will drop slightly in the bowl, leaving you with just enough space to pile up some final topping.

Ok, so this Trifle is a travelling Trifle for a friend's party. l'll just snap on the handy cover just before I leave the house. The final topping of my choice goes without saying.....its got to be the classic Whipped Cream. I suggest when whipping the cream you add a dash of Cream of Tartar (stabilizer), some freshly grated nutmeg and a splash of Vanilla. It just raised the bar! Slather the top of the Trifle just before serving and if you are so inclined you can trim with chocolate shavings or cocoa powder.

Recipe for Easy White Cake:
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup milk

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 9x9 inch pan or line a muffin pan with paper liners.
2. In a medium bowl, cream together the sugar and butter. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Combine flour and baking powder, add to the creamed mixture and mix well. Finally stir in the milk until batter is smooth. Pour or spoon batter into the prepared pan.
3. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes in the preheated oven. For cupcakes, bake 20 to 25 minutes. Cake is done when it springs back to the touch.
I carefully slice the white cake in half, creating slim discs of cake. I like to trim the cake so it fits snuggly in to the bowl creating a solid layer of cake.

Recipe for Creme Anglaise:
1 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 egg yolks
1/3 cup white sugar

1. In a small, heavy saucepan, heat cream and vanilla until bubbles form at edges.
2. While cream is heating, whisk together egg yolks and sugar until smooth. Slowly pour 1/2 cup of hot milk mixture into egg yolks, whisking constantly. Gradually add egg yolk mixture back to remaining milk mixture, whisking constantly. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture coats the back of a spoon.

Just a quick side note. Vanilla, in my opinion, is one of the most important ingredients in my kitchen. Since it gets used in the cake, creme & whipping cream I would encourage you to use a high quality Vanilla as not all Vanila's are created equal. I am fortunate enough to have a supply of Mayan Vanilla in my kitchen.

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