Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Tale of 2 Trifles

We were invited to 2 parties on Saturday. Each one of course wanted us to bring something. We always bring something meatless to these affairs because the vegetarians get rather short shrift. This year, however, we decided on desserts and not to vegetarian meat courses. That was because a good friend said, "you are English, you must know how to make trifle. It is one of my favorite desserts." Since she was co-hosting a party, it seemed wise to go with the flow.
Trifle is deceptively simple. You can do it the easy way – or the Chris way. I, of course chose the Chris way. That involves making custard (the easy way would have you buy it – or horror of horrors, use vanilla pudding. Also I decided to use crème de cassis instead of sherry. Not traditional, but goes so well with raspberries. We always have crème de cassis on hand for kirs and kir royales, but that's a different posting.
This isn't really about 2 trifles – it is one giant recipe placed into 2 bowls. The recipe below is the recipe I started with before doubling (well kind of because it doesn't double exactly – the cornstarch for example is less than you might think).

32 fl oz whipping cream (1 US Quart) divided use
4 egg yolks
1 vanilla pod
1 ½ oz sugar
1t cornstarch
1 packet lady fingers (trifle sponges)
3T Raspberry jam, warmed so it is spreadable.
12 oz frozen raspberries
3 oz crème de cassis
2 large bananas, peeled and thinly sliced (30 slices per banana)
A few drops pure almond essence
A few slivered almonds toasted lightly for decoration

Place half of the cream into a saucepan. Preferably a pan with a rounded edge between the base and the sides. Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds and add to the cream. Also add the pod. When sieved the seeds will stay in the custard, but the pod will be extracted and thrown away. (I used one pod for the double sized recipe and it was fine. You don't really need to double that).
Turn the heat under the cream on to a medium temperature. Stir the cream occasionally until it is close to boiling point. You will see an occasional bubble rising and lots of steam coming off it.

While the cream is heating, break the egg yolks into a bowl. Whisk gently to break them up. Add the cornstarch and sugar and whisk until light and foamy.

Now add the hot cream a little at a time at first to the egg mixture. As you can see in the photograph below, I am using a small bowl to do the transfer. A ladle would work fine, of course. Whisk all the while you are doing this addition.

Once you have added all the hot cream to the egg mixture, return the combined mixture to the pan, and start to heat slowly. The custard will be quite foamy at first, and quite thin. You must stir it pretty constantly at this stage otherwise the eggs will set without the cream. You will have very expensive, vanilla flavored scrambled eggs. The picture below shows the foamy egg/cream mixture.

Keep heating and stirring and the mixture will start to thicken. For those that care about such things, the mixture needs to come to about 172F (77 or 78 C). At that point it should be nice and thick.

In fact so thick that it does this (see picture below). The custard coats the spoon, and when you draw your finger across it, it is rather like Moses parting the red sea.

There will be some egg bits, and of course the vanilla pod to get rid of, so strain the custard through a fine mesh strainer.

Immediately transfer the custard to an ice bath to chill it before refrigerating. Need to make sure it gets cold quickly to eliminate chances of food-borne bugs. Using a larger bowl filled with ice water does the trick nicely.

Before refrigerating the custard, cover with cling wrap. To make sure a skin doesn't form, press the cling wrap right on to the surface.

Cool the custard in the fridge as long as you want. In my case it was about 4 hours while I ran errands. When you are ready to assemble the trifle, melt the raspberry jam in a small pan. It just needs to soften enough to be spreadable on the rather delicate lady fingers

Spread the lady fingers out on a cutting board….

And spread the warmed jam on them. Much easier to this way than trying to do them individually.

Now, cut the lady fingers up into your serving bowl. Add the raspberries, mix well by hand. Pour the crème de cassis over them and let them sit for a few minutes. Layer the sliced bananas on top of the cake/raspberry/cassis mixture.

Layer the custard on top of the bananas. It will be a fairly thin layer. It is so rich that you don't want it to overpower the fruit. Whip the remainder of the cream with the almond essence. It needs to be slightly soft and floppy. Certainly you don't want to overwhip it (and end up with something resembling butter). The cream should not be sweetened. Then ad the whipped cream on top pf the custard, spread it out to the edges and make it flat. Dot with the toasted almonds.
The trifle should now be refrigerated for at least 3 hours before serving.

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